Embroidered patches—an important identification tool for military and other uniformed personnel—trace their roots thousands of years ago to ancient cultures of the Mediterranean, Mideast, China, India and South America, where the art of decorating fabric with thread stitching originated. Elaborate hand-stitched designs and patterns were used to embellish the robes of royalty and for religious artifacts.
Today, embroidered patches are used by government organisations (including uniforms of military forces, emergency services and other specialised workers), sports teams and companies in the private sector to denote rank, job, specific position or specialised unit. Youth groups, including sports teams, scouting organizations and specialized clubs, often wear clothing emblazoned with embroidered patches. They are also used by space agencies on the uniforms of astronauts to denote the mission. Patches are collected by enthusiasts as well.