Embroidered patches: A bold new trend

By Gwen Barrows

There is a bold new trend: applique and embroidered patches are on the rise and are appearing head to toe on hats, jackets, backpacks and jeans. The trend has also been spotted on campus and in the Makerspace in Rohrbach library where new embroidery machine has been installed.

Sporting everything from cats to pop culture to original artwork to feminist mantras, this patch trend has roots largely in the indie fashion scene, generated by independent crafters who hand sew and sell their products on websites such as; this trend has also been picked up by major outlets like Gucci.

Photo by Gwen Barrows

“I started making them because I could not find many which matched some of my interests, along with that there is sense of authenticity I’ve always admired about making something oneself,” said patch-making KU student Levi Walbert. “I wear them more so as a reminder to myself about the things that are important to me, presenting my inside on my outside you could say.”

“They show off bits of my personality without being permanent- I sew mine on, not iron them,” said KU alumna Sarah Roeske. “I had a Hunger Games one for a while, but when I stopped being super into the Hunger Games, I took the patch off and replaced it”.

Roeske happily shows off her patched backpack. She has “The illuminati symbol, Avatar the last Airbender, NASA and an Attack on Titan” patch sewn onto her bag.

“I know sometimes patches can be funny, in support of a band or brand, represent some sort of political ideology they may have or simply be fashionable for the time,” Walbert said.

The upsurge is thanks to patches being a quick, cheap and flexible way to personalize clothing. This allows consumers to stand out and express their individuality in an era of fast fashion and mass produced clothing.

Patches are not a new concept in American culture. Mass produced patches had their debut in the 19th century to distinguish military divisions. Soon after, they appeared in police and fire departments, as well as on the uniforms of industrial workers.

While it was originally an icon of the working class, patches were eventually picked up by the counterculture. Patches were then seen during the rise of biker culture in the ’60s, the hippie movement of the ’70s and the birth of punk rock in the ’80s.

Ball & Chain Co. of Salisbury, NC is a perfect example of patch popularity. The company started off as a small, part time seller of patches, only sold a single kind of patch featuring a rose and the words “f*** forever”. They have since been featured several times in Vogue Magazine.

Today’s patches are as diverse as the people who sport them. Celebrities like A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Margot Robbie, Gigi Hadid, Demi Lovato and Rihanna have all been spotted wearing the embroidered statement on their jeans, bags, leather coats and army jackets.

So what makes them worth wearing?

“They’re a good way to start a conversation,” Roeske said. “You wouldn’t even know me if it wasn’t for my NASA patch. I’m always complimenting people on their accessories.”

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