Vintage Patches With a Retro Feel

Explore pop culture and social change in a new way using vintage patches.

Published February 16, 2023
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A blank jean or leather jacket is begging for some colorful and witty patches. Popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, vintage patches were used to bare a bit of your soul to anyone walking down the street. These vintage patches encouraged you to be loud and proud of the groups you belonged to, the stuff you were a fan of, and the change you wanted to see. Some were homemade, and others were iconic symbols you still know today. Vintage patches like these are some of the coolest ways to personalize your clothes.

Queen International Fan Club Patch

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This International Queen Fan Club patch showcases an important aspect of being a music fan. Queen, a legendary band lead by front man Freddie Mercury, dominated the airwaves in the 1970s and made an almost unheard-of comeback in the 1980s. You'd get one of these patches if you were a member of their fan club - a super common thing back in the day. It's how you'd get specialty merchandise, information about upcoming tours, and maybe even personalized letters sent back to you.

These pieces of band history are delightful, and since their music resonates as much today as it did decades ago, a patch like this can be perfect for you. Because it's a music collectible, it's a bit pricier than most vintage patches at about $35.

Rolling Stones Hot Lips Patch

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The Rolling Stones' Hot Lips logo is one of the most recognizable brand images from any band in history. Jon Pasche designed the logo for Mick Jagger, who was looking to expand their brand with an image that could stand on its own. This rebellious and in-your-face image perfectly represented their controversial art, and it was copied onto just about everything you can imagine, including patches. You can get one of your own vintage patches from Etsy for just over $25.

Disco Sucks Patch

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This hilarious 70s Disco Sucks patch harkens back to a rivalry between the high-pop art that was disco and the gritty anti-establishment culture that was punk. Although these patches were made to be worn because of a serious distaste for disco, wearing it ironically if you love disco is an even more fun move. Irony is huge with art and expression today, and there's no better way to embrace the now than with a patch like this. Since it's not particularly collectible, you can grab it for under $10.

60s Environmental Patches

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With nuclear power on the brain, environmental activists in the 1960s banded together to push for greater environmental restrictions and protections. You didn't have to be 'hippy' to want the keep the world healthy, and those sentiments have carried on into the most environmentally conscious generation yet. Because of this deep global connection to Mother Nature, old patches related to those fights are poignant and more relevant than ever.

Take these two '60s patches, for example. One calls to "fight smog, ride a horse" and the other tells you in a gallows humor type of way to "keep your city clean" by eating a pigeon. The technicolor patches in their off-color humor are perfect for people's funny bones today, and you can grab them for $20 a pop.

Chicano Power Patch

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During the 1960s, there was a huge stirring among various social groups to rise up and fight for their rights against an American government and society that didn't acknowledge or prioritize them. We all know about the Black Power movement, but not nearly as many of us know about the Chicano Movement that started around the same time.

Mexican-Americans were a completely disregarded group in American society, and were called Chicano as a racial slur. But much like the Queer community has done with the word queer (and many others), the group reclaimed the word for their own use. This patch, and others like it, showed your support in the fight for human rights and dissolution of discriminatory systems affecting Mexican-Americans. Although you can get these kinds of patches for under $10 because a ton of them were made, they represent a highly important piece of history.

Anti-War Patch

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The Vietnam war was a hotspot war in the global conflict between western and eastern ideologies, aka the Cold War. The Vietnam War was so controversial and divisive in America that musicians were writing anthems about pulling out of the war. No matter which side you fall on the spectrum, when the dust settles, everyone can acknowledge that war - which comes at the cost of human lives - is best avoided when possible.

Patches like this popular flower patch with the saying "war is not healthy for children and other living things" was just one piece of the media-driven rallying cry that the anti-war movement used in the 60s and early 70s. It's an important part of the Vietnam story in the United States and is immortalized in something as quaint as an under $10 patch.

What Can You Do With Vintage Patches?

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There are two things you can do with vintage patches. Either, you can choose to collect them and keep them for research purposes, personal enjoyment, or to pass down to someone else one day, or you can attach them to an article of clothing, such as a jacket, pair of jeans, or a ball cap, to bring some character and color to your clothes. Just because it's old doesn't mean you can't still use it like it was meant to be used.

How to Stick Vintage Patches to Your Clothes

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There are a few different ways that patches are made to be attached to your clothes:

  • Thermal transfers are also called iron-on patches because they used the head of an iron to activate the adhesive on the back that sticks to your clothes.
  • Stick-on patches are really easy to apply because you peel off the backing and just stick them where you want them to be.
  • Sew-on patches are a bit harder for people to adhere since they require some sewing experience, but they're one of the most secure patches of the bunch.

If you find vintage stick-on patches, you can try to use the original adhesive, but there's no guarantee that it's going to last. Instead, the best way to go is to sew them on. If you have a sewing machine, that's a super easy way to attach them. If not, you can hand sew them using a simple whip stitch.

Adding Character to Your Clothes One Patch at a Time

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Having a tangible relationship with the past is what connects so many people to their shared heritage. Collecting vintage goods for the sake of collecting can be fun, but more people enjoy getting to interact with these blasts from the past. Vintage patches are one of the old accessories that we get the chance to personalize our outfits with today, and at the same time, realize that our parents and grandparents weren't all that different from us.

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Vintage Patches With a Retro Feel