On the timeline of nail art, denim has been a source of inspiration for only a blip of it—but, oh, does that hardy fabric open up the floodgates for creativity on our tiny canvases! The fades, the washes, the rivets, the stitching—denim’s a mighty boon for distinctive manicures. You know what else should be getting your nail art brush moving? Embroidered patches. Don’t believe us? Look at the intense artistry manicurist Fariha Ali created for our January/February 2016 cover! A patch enthusiast herself, she had been researching them for her own personal interest before we asked her to reimagine these graphic works of art for nails.
Why are patches so enticing? They have a rich history—and are pretty fun to look at. First used as a type of identification tool for military personnel thousands of years ago, patches have evolved to provide rank and file for today’s military as well as display achievements for youth groups like the Boy Scouts or represent a company or organization, such as forestry, firefighters or space agencies like NASA. Some of the most interesting and cryptic patches come from secret military and space operations (think: alien patches!).
The History of Patches
Naturally, it was only a matter of time before fashion found patches a fit for personalizing a look and making a statement—especially on denim. Hippies in the ’60s covered their bellbottoms in flower patches—a true calling card of the flower child aesthetic. As a way to protest the Vietnam War, these same bohemians emblazoned jean jackets with all types of patches promoting worldwide love, such as yin-yang symbols and circular and two-finger peace signs. Also popular with the free-spirited crowd: magical mushroom patches that promoted a different kind of “peace.”
As hippies pushed counterculture forward so too did various music movements—namely punk and rock-n-roll. With the rise of the Beatles and The Rolling Stones came visual band branding via logos; who doesn’t recognize the iconic “Hot Lips” logo that is now synonymous with The Rolling Stones? These band logos made for perfect embroidered patches, and music fans seized upon the idea of not only wearing their musical allegiance on their denim, but also proudly displaying the anti-authority sentiments that came along with these patches.
Though some patches were born to stick it to the man, it was not so for the smiley face patch. In 1963 commercial artist Harvey Ross Ball was commissioned by an insurance company to create a logo that would boost morale amongst employees; the summery smile became an instant hit and was turned into buttons that wearers pinned on their clothing as a sign of cheer. It was only a matter of time before someone made it into an iconic patch … and bumper sticker!
Postmodern takes on patches play off of old motifs while bringing something new to the previous design; experimentation is a major draw for today’s wearers. And who might today’s patch aficionados be? They range from motorcycle riders to punk rockers to street-style fashionistas, and they may wear their patches to signify their beliefs, loves and lifestyles—or, they simply enjoy a pretty patch, no matter its meaning. And now, in their continuing evolution, patches are finding a way onto nails—albeit, in painted form. Show us what your favorite patches are and what they mean to you by painting them on your nails and tagging us on Instagram with the hashtag #nailitpatches. You just may find your designs published in a future issue!
—Karie L. Frost
Credit: Armando Sanchez
Sources: 1960sfashionstyle.com; adweek.com; businessinsider.com; artpractical.com; smithsonianmag.com