While it’s by no means new, embroidered patches on jackets has once again caught steam as a trend with the fashion and streetwear set of late. More and more guys are taking to the loud-and-out look of trucker jackets and flight jackets full of pins, patches, and eccentric embellishments, to the extent that it’s become one of the defining menswear trends of 2016, and one to look forward to as we go into 2017.
For this, we may have Gucci’s maximalist menswear movement to thank. The label’s 2016 collections put embroideries, animal prints, and loud colors front-and-center, which eventually lead streetwear brands to take cues. Since then, we’ve seen patched jackets from Levi’s, in their “Mixed Emotions” collection with Parisian boutique colette, and from streetwear giant ALIFE in their collaboration with Alpha Industries.
And then a bunch of famous people started wearing embroidered jackets, so inevitably, their legions of disciples followed suit.
Thankfully, this is a dish you can cook at home. Instead of shopping all the latest (and not-yet-on-sale) collections from high-street brands like H&M or Topman, save yourself some cash by doing it yourself. It isn’t difficult to take a plain denim jacket or bomber jacket, and patch it up on your own. Plus, not only is it cheaper: it’s also a lot more personal—and, you know, that makes it so much cooler and more meaningful and some bullshit like that. So get on-trend and deck yourself out in some DIY threads with this straightforward guide to decorating your own jackets.
First, pick a jacket.
The two most popular types of jackets to use for this are the classic denim trucker jacket and the MA-1 bomber jacket. Both can look great with patches—the former yields a vintage, 1970s Americana type of look, and the latter leans more on the popular military aesthetic. Alternatively, an M-65 coat would work too. Uniqlo carries affordable jacket options, but since you’re going to work within a budget, a little digging at your local ukay should be enough to supply you with a suitable one.
Next, get some patches.
After you’ve settled on a jacket to use, shop around for the patches you’d like to apply. This part is half the fun, as you’re going to have to look for decorations that are unique and personal. A few cheeky ones from Fine Time Studios (@finetimestudios) can be found in Satchmi at SM Megamall, Craft Central at Greenbelt 5, Wander Space at Maginhawa, and Epic Cafe at Kapitolyo. There are also a ton of excellent options by local brands like KWAN (@kwanangdalaw), which can also be found at Wander Space, and Couch (@cooouch). Then, if you’re feeling extra creative (and since you’re probably a millennial, you definitely are), you can try designing your own patches and having them made by a local printer.
Then get started by arranging the patches on your jacket.
Before anything else, start by placing the patches on your jacket using masking tape or a pin. This will help you rehearse the layout and the overall look of your jacket before you make any commitments. Remember: one of the keys to pulling off a good patched jacket is to make it look a little messy and haphazard, so don’t think too much about alignment, and feel free to patch over seams. Just go with what looks good. Also, if you’re planning to go all out with multiple patches, it helps to take photos while testing your layouts, so it’s easy to compare.
Start the application.
Once you’ve settled on a layout you like, pull the trigger and start sticking. This is the tricky part, as there are different methods of application for jackets of different fabrics. Mainly, these are:
Sewing. This means taking a needle and thread (or a sewing machine) and stitching your patches onto the jacket directly. If you can do it right, this is the most effective means of application, and it works for both cotton fabrics (as in denim jackets) and nylon (as in bomber jackets). But you also run the risk of fucking it up if you aren’t a skilled sastre.
Iron-on. Some patches come with iron-on sides, which means all you have to do is to place the patch on your jacket, lay a towel or fabric over it, and press down with a hot plantsa. But remember: heat can damage polyester and nylon fabric, so avoid using this method for anything that isn’t 100% cotton. Otherwise, you run the risk of melting the threads and deforming your jacket.
Fabric glue. If your patch doesn’t have the iron-on adhesive backing, you could opt to use fabric glue. Your local hardware store should carry fabric glue like Bostik Sew No More. However, as with iron-on application, this only works for cotton fabrics like denim, and is not to be tried with nylon. Lastly, using fabric glue often leaves out the edges of your patch, so it’s good to have it stitched on after.
This is also the longest part of the process, so feel free to do this gradually. Keep your patches taped or pinned to the jacket while applying them one by one.
Finish it off by adding more embellishments
Once you’re done applying all your patches, take the maximalist approach by adding more patches. Or anything else for that matter, like pins or brooches. Clutter is key in creating a look that works. Remember also to keep it personal. One of the best things about owning and wearing a patched jacket is that it’s a unique, custom style statement. It could be a thematic design, with patches that refer to specific things like music or film or superheroes; or it could be a hodge-podge of your different interests—it’s all completely up to you. Treat this as an exercise in collecting—as with trading cards or sneakers, it can be fun to rack up a collection of patches and pins over time.
Now that you have the information to get started, we’ll leave you with a little inspiration for your DIY project.