“Growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, clothes with patches were some of the coolest things you could own. They were in the DNA of certain brands, like TOMMY HILFIGER and POLO, that I wore back then, in the 90s.
My fascination began by going to record stores; you’d always find impulse items, like stickers and patches, for sale at the checkout. The amazing thing about a patch is that it’s almost eternal — often, it has a longer life than any piece of clothing does.
When something is cool, it cements its place in history, and will go on to have a second, third, and fourth life in the future.”
“TOMMY HILFIGER is kind of having a revival right now, so patches like these are difficult to find.
Some I’ve removed from anoraks or button-down shirts; others from jeans. The PUFF DADDY patch is circa 1997, when TOMMY was everywhere in pop culture. Naturally, DIDDY was referencing whatever was popular at the time.”
“These BURBERRY patches came from bootleg pieces of clothing. Because no one knows what the editions are, or how to acquire them, they might as well be a one-of-a-kind.”
“I will thrift conventionally: I found the ‘bitch’ patch at a flea market, and ‘brown pride’ is from a head shop in Los Angeles.
But sometimes I have to do Indiana Jones-level shit, like scour abandoned warehouses. It’s almost like being a detective.”
“TOM SACHS is one of my favorite contemporary artists; this patch is newer, from 2012.
The other two are by PETER SUTHERLAND; he combined the logos for the GRATEFUL DEAD’s Steal Your Face album and DEATH ROW RECORDS to make the one [on the left].”
“I took the Nike patch from a tattered tee shirt; I love how it’s almost like a gradient.
40 ACRES AND A MULE FILMWORKS is SPIKE LEE’s production company. In the early 90s, he made clothes under that label; I salvaged this from one of the shirts.
PATAGONIA doesn’t sell patches, so this one, which I grabbed from a tee, is cool. The brand has an interesting street credibility: a lot of 90s graffiti artists wore it exclusively, because they worked in heavy snow.”
“I picked these up at The Rose Bowl Flea Market, in California. They were meant to go on varsity jackets for the Stüssy staff, but the garments were never produced.”
“By the time POLO celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1987, it had become the ultimate status symbol.
One of the first POLO gangs in Brooklyn back then, called ‘RALPHIE’S KIDS,’ went on to influence the early ‘90s street mobs that were obsessed with the brand.
The patch [on the lower left] is referred to as the ‘SUICIDE SKIER.’ If you wore it in a neighborhood like EAST NEW YORK, it was as if you were committing suicide — people were going to use physical violence to get it from you.”
“I used to wear a lot of hip hop patches — Onyx, NWA, Wu Tang Clan, Naughty by Nature. Today, this Public Enemy style [at right] would sell for around $80; the Beastie Boys [at left], around $30.”
Photography byBramble Trionfo
As told toAnthony Rotunno
Brian Procell is a consultant and the owner of Procell, a vintage clothing and accessories boutique in New York City.