I learnt a new word – scutelliphily

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I learnt a new word – scutelliphily

I was poking around the net and discovered Scutelliphily is the collection of badges or patches. These fabric patches are a bit like the ephemera of the textile world and I have decided really quite interesting as textile objects but puzzled that there is not more information about them online.

I did a search on the term but only turned up this entry in wikipedia and then dozens of sites scraping the same information from it. As this list reveals there seems to be a considerable amount of collectors interested in scout and guide patches, police, fire department, space race and military memorabilia but there seems to be little on the net about collecting souvenir patches.

They are quite common and I am sure many people collect them and I know in the 70’s many travellers covered their jackets and backpacks with them. I myself had jeans that I covered with embroidery but never souvenir patches yet I always meant to start a jacket. I even have a small collection of patches tucked away somewhere.

Yesterday we were at the airport early because Eve’s break is over and she flew out for Brisbane then on to New Zealand where she is studying circus this year. The night before there was a bit of a crisis as she has nearly filled her jacket with patches collected in her travels with Will O’ the Wisp. There was a long family discussion on her options which boiled down to starting another jacket or finding a longer jacket/coat and transferring all the patches over to the new one. It was during this discussion that I realised how much meaning this type of textile memorabilia holds particularly for anyone who travels around quite a bit and has to travel light. They form a patchwork of memories.

This denim jacket is literally covered in a patchwork of memories which when she shares the stories are somehow better than the photographs she brings back. It is the physicality of the patches and bits and pieces she stitches on the jacket that make it so interesting.

I am sure there are many more jackets and coats like this floating around the globe but as garments I can’t find any documentation on them. Although it is often the case that common or folk practices are overlooked by academics I can’t quite believe however that no one has thought to study these as part of costume history or collect the stories around them.

As garments they house a collection and as such I feel sure someone somewhere has looked at them as cultural artefacts. Each is unique and the patches themselves reflect their time. For instance on Eve’s jacket she has braid she collected when she stayed a short while in Christiania and alternative community in Copenhagen which of course has been pulled down now. Also on the jacket are small pieces of Belgium lace, lucky charms from China, coins and all sorts of travel memorabilia.

I would love to hear of anyone who has made a garment like this, is in the process of making one or knows of any articles, books on the subject of souvenir patches. Not scout, guide, police, fire department, space race and military patches but souvenir travel patches. If you have any stories, photos or more information, can find any interesting links please leave a comment or drop me line.

Here is Eve off into the big wide world again and yes her mandolin case is covered with travel stickers!


  1. Sharon, I was the person who originally added the ‘scutelliphily’ entry to Wikipedia; I got the word from several French sites which list different collecting hobbies. Among them was ‘scutelliphilie/ scutelliphiliste’. I’ve been collecting souvenir patches and travel stickers for 40 years now, and like you I have found very little info out there about the history or design of these little artistic gems, so I adapted the term for the nameless hobby I’d been pursuing in my travels, and cut and pasted the text from my old web site http://www.pewsey.net. As far as I can see, web info on collecting patches is dominated by law enforcement patch and scout patch collecting, which are highly commercial enterprises. Luckily, souvenir patch collecting can’t really be commercial like that – what would be the point of owning a bunch of badges of places you haven’t been to? – and consists in the pleasurable recollection of places visited when looking through your collection, whether it’s sewn onto the back of a jacket, stuffed into a shoebox or filed neatly in albums.

    I think I have the largest collection of non-traded souvenir patches in the world, that is, patches I have collected myself from the places they are from. I have over 1200 patches, from every continent, and have gathered a lot of information about the early history of souvenir patches and the companies that produce them. I’m preparing to put this info (and pics of all my patches) onto my web site http://www.planet-patch.org but don’t hold your breath as I probably won’t have time to do it properly until late 2008 or early 2009.

    Best wishes and happy travels

    Steve Pewsey

    Stephen Pewsey
  2. Sharon – what an interesting text! Thank you. I’ve been picking us those things from time to time, here and there, for decades and usually losing track of them or finding them years later in my sock drawer. Now I have a tin box full.

    I don’t do much with them, but I still find myself wandering into gift shops; I kind of wonder how different places present themselves on their patches.

    Anyway, thanks for the essay. Jon

  3. Sharon, I have been hand-embroidering on commercially-produced merit badges since graduate school. “Female Merit Badges” were my MFA thesis, and although I do other kinds of embellishment and embroidery they’re what I’m best known for. Please visit my site some time, http://www.maryyaeger.com. I recently started blogging; see stabbed.wordpress.com. I’ll be adding you to my bloglist. Thanks for the interesting content.

  4. Sharon, I don’t even want to think about the number of patches I have moved from one jacket to the next as the jackets are outgrown. First it was scout patches and then when living in Europe for 2 years and traveling a lot, place patches were added. The up side was that there was not a lot of bargaining over which kitch to buy, because there was always the decision of which patch. And ever town, village and by-way had their own.

    Now that my boys are adults, the jackets are among their percious possessions.


  5. to see Sharon I have histories are 8:50 I go to the airport ahoraasi that sere cortita I use them in the 80 ayyy which old I am, and tapeworm a similar jacket, but a purse done of old trousers, where you opened to the legs of the trousers and hacias a purse, and was filled with them and took rivets, and shining crystals… in addition placed plates to him or pins, I adored it when cradled changing to me marries to me gives… cost of taking off to me to me of her, Name sapnish “parches”

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