For organizations in which team playing is more than just a suggestion, tactical and morale patches have been used as an identifier for hundreds of years. From alma maters to military clothing, these patches have served as ways to show your brotherhood and association with a particular group around the world.
Morale and tactical patches are used as a spirit builder amongst members of teams and are usually worn on clothing or gear belonging to those members. They are most commonly found in military groups and law enforcement but can be designed to create a bond between members of any group.
Sometimes they are referred to as tactical patches, and sometimes as morale patches. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference in each type of patch.
A Bit of a History Lesson
Morale patches have been in use for over one hundred years, since before World War I. They were used by the British Army before they even hit the United States but quickly gained popularity as a way to easily differentiate between ally and enemy.
Back in World War I, the US Army’s 81st Division Wildcats created the first Morale patched used in America. It was used to help the troops in the 81st Division build morale and had a domino effect of quickly spreading to other divisions. Before long, it was a requirement that each division has their own moral patch consisting of something created by and unique to them.
Morale patches, being used to “build morale,” tend to have an ironic or humorous bent to them. They may have an image or an expression that lends itself to an inside joke amongst a particular unit or division that only those members understand. Morale patches aren’t authorized by the military as part of the official uniform, but you can still find them on military clothing and gear quite often.
Once considered to be a morale booster for the military, these patches caught on quickly in the public sector. In the 1920s, patches began being used as collector’s items, with military patches identifying different divisions to be traded and collected by the public. But soon, civilians caught on to the benefits of using morale patches and they began being used throughout the world in companies and groups to boost employee and member morale outside of the military.
Whereas when they were first initiated for use, patches had to be painstakingly embroidered and then added on to the clothing or gear they were intended for, the Industrial Revolution quickly changed that process.
Morale patches were only worn by the wealthy who could afford to have them custom-made but after the Industrial Revolution brought about mechanical sewing and embroidery machines, they could be produced on a wide-scale for much less cost. Suddenly, morale patches were everywhere.
So What’s a Tactical Patch Then?
By definition, the word tactical means, “relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.” In other words, tactical patches can only be military related, but morale patches, on the other hand, apply to any patch worn with the intent of creating an identifying insignia to a specific group.
Ironically, for something to be tactical, it has to be characterized by a purposeful manoeuvre. It is skilful, logical reasoning behind the movement that has a specific plan of action intended to gain an advantage or take the group to the intended final conclusion. Tactical patches fit that description quite clearly: The patch itself is skillfully designed to create a plan of action that brings the members of the team together as a whole unit.
The first tactical patch is credited, once again, to the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry Division during World War I. They created the first shoulder sleeve insignia or a tactical patch worn on the shoulder. The design contained a silhouette of a wildcat against the olive Army colour’s background. The wildcat supposedly represented the creek that meandered through the 81st’s training post in South Carolina, beginning the history of unique symbolic references required for each future tactical patch.
Tactical patches slowly turned into morale patches over the next decades, and as microprocessors became more affordable and widespread, custom patches were easily produced and replicated. What used to have to be hand-embroidered became simply attached by Velcro. Morale patches were now known and used worldwide for an abundance of different reasons, but all with the same basic purpose of uniting people with the same cause.
You can read more about the history of tactical patches here.
Using Morale Patches
Morale patches don’t have to be regulated since they are not officially sanctioned anyway. However, there are some basic rules that most developers of these patches suggest when you are creating a custom morale patch.
First, be sure you use velcro. Sure, you can take the time to stitch the patch onto your clothing or your gear, but using velcro gives you the benefit of removing the patch in a hurry, being able to change the location where you wear it, and keeps it from the wear and tear of constant washing or regular daily use.
Next, choose the branch, unit, or group that you are creating the patch for and the design that you want to use to symbolize this individual network of people. Again, the idea behind morale patches is that the design is something that is unique to your group.
After you come up with the symbol, create a motto or catchphrase that you want to include. Morale patches are generally humorous, but this is not an absolute requirement. However, the point is to increase morale, so humour tends to be a great, universal way to do this.
Finally, decide whether you want to use a stitched or PVC patch. Stitched patches are mostly durable but show signs of age and use. They’re also susceptible to water damage. PVC patches are also durable, but last longer and are water-resistant. The choice ends up coming down to your preference in the overall aesthetics and how long you want your patch to last.
Morale and Tactical Patches for Team Players
Whatever your group identifies with, a morale patch is always a great way to show mutual association and build morale in one easy step.