The Battle jacket. Has a piece of clothing ever said so much about a person than the trusted Metalhead Battle jacket? A piece of art with personality, the Battle jacket is an extension of the person wearing it. Some are themed with a certain genre, some are colour coded, some have symmetry. The designs, shapes and personalities are as limitless in number as the people that have created them.
Seldom bought complete, Battle jackets often take many years to build. Some people will never really see theirs as truly finished even when they have run out of space. The patches which are sewn on to the jacket are as easily removed so the wearer can redesign or remould at any time.
In underground music culture, patches are badges of honour. They can represent so many things. Some people seek and try and collect the rarest patches they can find; others will only wear the patches of bands that they have seen. The beauty of the Metalhead Battle Jacket is that there are no rules and there does not have to be a running theme or particular design because you wear what you want and what makes you feel good. All battle jacket patches have a story behind them.
The History of the Battle Jacket can be traced all the way back to WW2 and like the jackets themselves; which undergo an evolution throughout their lifetime, the history of the battle jacket itself has evolved over many years.
The origins of the Heavy Metal Battle Jacket can be traced back to American pilots during World War 2. American pilots would decorate the back of their flight jackets with symbols of their life and culture back home. At war these symbols gave the American pilots a family in a place that there were none. The Battle Jackets gave the pilots a way to recognise each other in a world a million miles away from the comforts they were used to; and like the jackets of today, the ones that returned from war had so many stories to tell.
The end of the war and subsequently the pilots returning home saw the next stage in evolution of this iconic piece of clothing.
With no more wars to fight and pilots being grounded, those still seeking the thrill of man v machine took to riding motorcycles. The pilots created social clubs that subsequently became the first bikers and the biker culture was born. It wasn’t long before the sleeves were removed and the artwork on the back of the jackets came to represent the affiliation one had to a certain club.
As the biker culture itself evolved, so did the battle jacket and battle jacket patches were born. Biker patches can have many meanings; some of them known only to the wearer. Motorcycle clubs now have a long history which is heavily linked to their jackets and their patches. There are many rules associated with biker “colours” but we will not go into those as we are here to look at the evolution of the Metalhead battle jacket.
In the UK in the early 60’s a youth culture had evolved with 2 distinct and often opposing styles; The Mods & The Rockers.
The Mods (modernists) named after their musical preference for modern jazz, were a group of youths also known for their obsession with fashion and riding scooters.
The Rockers; like the Mods, the Rockers name came about due to the musical taste at the time with the Rockers listening to 50’s rock and roll. The Rockers were also known for riding motorcycles and therefore they wore leather jackets.
In a similar way to the biker sub-culture that had evolved; the Mods and the Rockers would decorate their clothing with pictures and patches. The Mods would decorate their parka jacket with patches and the Rockers added studs and designs to their leathers. As this period began to fade, another sub-culture was on the horizon – Punkz!
Punks and Punk music was as anti establishment as any movement could be at the time. The characteristics of the look, the style and the music were all a big “Fuck You” to popular culture. The “in your face” look was often completed by the leather jacket with safety pins and studs as the decor. Like metalhead Battle Jackets of today, the punk jacket could not be purchased in the shops and was completely DIY.
Although we cannot pinpoint the exact moment that the modern battle vest was born; it began creeping into heavy metal via the likes of Judas Priest and Motorhead; and then it was made even more popular by Thrash bands of the 80’s.
It was also during the early 80’s that metalheads began to use denim for their Battle Jackets. Denim “cut-offs” named due to the jacket having the sleeves and collars cut off was another thing borrowed from biker culture. Denim is easier to paint and sew than tough leathers so bikers would wear denim over the top. When worn over the top of leather, the sleeves and the collar were removed as they were too restrictive and also caused rubbing.
These days battle jackets come in all sorts of prints and materials as it is up to the wearer on what they choose. Many people still wear denim although many people will opt for something a little different. I have seen camo vests, trench coats, sleeveless shirts all-sorts. It is up to you!
Next we will look at some stories that have been sent in by creators and proud wearers of Battle Jackets but keep reading as below we have instructions of how you too can make your own.
Hello, My name is Aleksandar. I am 30 years old and i live in Montenegro on the South East Balkan, Europe. Thank you for this opportunity to share my history with the battle vests that I own. So… I got my first one some 18 years ago from my brother. It was a blue denim jacket with removable sleeves (you can guess what happened to sleeves hehe). First thing I did to it; I painted a Harley Davidson motor engine and printed a Manowar logo on it. A couple of days later I got my first patch which was a rubber warpig and Motorhead logo on a piece of cloth. At the time I had a belt with studs which I took apart and placed the studs on the shoulders of my jacket.
My first gig was Judas Priest concert in Belgrade 2006 which was unfortunately cancelled due to Glen Tipton health problems.
Boy I got bullied by older metal dudes because of my vest. In the country I live there are no shops where you can by any band merch, patches and pins etc. We had to improvise, trade like patch for cd or cassette or demo of some band. You would take a cassette and record a compilation of mainstream metal songs from radio and later trade it for t-shirt or patch.
So anyway it was at Belgrade 2006 morning after intense drinking and partying that I visited my first metal merch store ‘Felix’. I bought Immortal, Dark Funeral, Darkthrone, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer patches along with a Bathory t-shirt and that’s where the journey begins. I started trading patches with other people from my country and my town and by the time of 2008 I had somewhat 10 patches in total which were; Motorhead; Metallica; Primal fear; Celtic Frost; Iron Maiden; Darkthrone; Dark Funeral; Belphegor; small Bathory logo; Baphomet; Cannibal Corpse; Six Feet Under and Overkill.
In 2010 I travelled to Germany to the Wacken open air and I bought a couple more patches there. Sadly i had to change my back patch…..So… I was in a mosh-pit on Unleashed and I was wearing my Bathory blood on ice t-shirt and it got badly torn but luckily the print remained whole. After the gig and couple of whiskey’s with some gay Asian chicks I decided that I will borrow their sewing kit and make a blood on ice backpatch (I was beat down about tearing my t-shirt which was hard earned in a trade with a friend). So where it was sewn it still remains today.
To celebrate in the morning I went to the merch tents and bought Bathory Bathory small patch that is on my vest today. I also bought Overkill, At The Gates and Unleashed (that I later gave away to some kid I met at the Soulfly gig that had vest in making. He had like two or three patches and was wearing Unleashed Hammer Battalion t-shirt). Now that I am finally able to buy merch from internet! This was unavailable for a very long time because this is a small conservative country cut off from the rest of the world. I am now able to put on a lot of other bands that I previously couldn’t; and now I have replaced the home made patches that I used to make with acrylic on black denim.
For me, my battle vest is not just statement. When I put it on I really feel like a part of my soul is reunited with me that I cannot show to everyone like at work etc. It feels like wearing a plated armour and awaiting metal command hahaha
I went through a lot of bad times in my life (who hasn’t eh?) but the music was always there. Metal was always my plated armour, it got me through. Metal is my friend that never betrays and it influenced my art. I finished art academy and had over 20 exhibitions worldwide. I currently work as a culture and art history professor in school near the place I live. Metal is irreplaceable in my life, all the bands that i love and that were my ‘caring parents’ and ‘best friends’ are on my vest now. The only way that I would separate from it is if I get killed for it and it gets taken off my dead body.
Here’s a little bit drama for your gallery, thank you very much for contacting me and choosing my vest for your gallery, I am honoured!
Thank You Alex for sharing this with us!
I’m Miguel, a 25 year old born and raised in Los Angeles. I’m a History major who plays trombone and bass. As much as I love metal and punk, I had spent about 10 years playing in the reggae and ska scene of LA.
With this vest, I wanted to express me as a person, tiger print included. I wanted to show the bands that had most prolific effect on me, chief among them being Bolt Thrower, Venom, Razor, and Repulsion. I wanted a vest that laid out my taste explicitly, not just in the bands and patches, but in attitude as well. Metalpunk, nothing more, nothing less.
The Venom patch on this vest is also one of the patches I have had for the longest in my collection, having gotten it around the time it was released, so about 9 years ago at this point.
Thanks Miguel, that was great.
There are a number of unwritten rules in the world of the Battle Jacket.
Rule number one seems pretty obvious to most people, who would want bands on their jacket that they have not seen? Cutting off the collar is really personal choice but in my opinion, the jacket looks better with the classic collar-off look. Buying a second-hand jacket is a given really, you wouldn’t want to buy a brand new jacket and then tear it up to make it the way you want. Sewing the patches on by hand is a little contentious, some people will use a sewing machine but be aware of elitist battle jacket wearers as they may have some snarky comments about it. Keeping the jacket genre specific is another elitist mentality, really you should put on there whatever you want! Don’t wash it – Simple.
Sell it! Why? That is something that should never even be considered. Anyway, who would buy it? If someone offers to buy your jacket, punch them in the face whilst shouting “Poser”!
Many metalheads like to source their garment from a thrift store because we like the worn, lived in feel of the material. Once you have your garment though, it is seriously up to you. Get it home, remove the sleeves and collar (if you want to) and then get sewing. If you need to learn how to sew your patches, we have a sewing page right here.
Although the rules above seem pretty strict, they are not set in stone, the choice of patch is really up to you. You can theme your jacket with WWE or you could theme it with all of the worst artists you can think of. This is the beauty of the Metalhead battle jacket….. There are NO RULES!
Now we’re talking… Heavy Metal Battle Jacket Patches! Now this is what you use to make your Battle Jacket your own. The patches are what you use to show your journey and where you have been. The patches show your taste, your personality and where you want to go.
Like Aleksandar above, you can make your own with acrylic and denim or make them from old t-shirts. You can use studs and pins and dental floss or string. The options are truly unlimited and even more so today with the advent of the internet and the connectivity of the world. These days, you can even have your battle jacket patches custom made.
Tell your Metalhead friends about us!
Patches are best added to denim or leather although patches can be added to any type of jacket, however we do not recommend silk or anything too soft as they will not last very long.
How a battle jacket fits is personal preference but I usually wear my battle jacket with a hoodie so I ensure that I have a size that will fit with a hoodie underneath.
A battle jacket is the name of a jacket that is adorned with patches, studs and other decoration. The choice of material is usually denim or leather although it can be whatever you choose.
A metal battle jacket is not made of metal. It is however a garment worn by heavy metal fans that is usually adorned with studs, patches and other images. The garment is usually made of leather or denim but can be made of whatever you are happy wearing.
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