How to make a Battle Jacket : DIY ideas for your own version of this punk staple.

A guide to create your own unique battle jacket, a prominent symbol in punk culture, including tips for customizing these jackets with patches, pins, and other elements .
Updated on:

Make your own battle jacket

Once you have seen a Battle Jacket, you will want to make one. I assume you like clothes and DIY; otherwise, this statement may not count.

A unique, personalized battle jacket can make you stand out amongst the crowd, and that is one reason why you may want to make one. If you are a die-hard follower of the Punk music genre or not, you can still make your own version of a battle jacket (or the battle vest or the cutte or cut off, as it is also called) in your style to suit your taste and personality. 

What do you need to make the battle jacket

  • A jacket
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Iron on transfer patches
  • Fabric paint
  • Patches
  • Metal Studs and spikes, chains, safety pins.

Buy the base jacket that is to be transformed

You need an inexpensive denim jacket or military camo jacket in any color whatsoever. Get one from a thrift store, a disposals store, or a cheap one from a department store.

denim jacket

I got my lame, evenly-blue jackets from a store at such a low price that I couldn’t but take them home (the same excuse I give countless times for similar purchases). My husband insists that it is cheaper ‘not’ to buy it. Sounds reasonable, which is why I hate ‘reasonable’.

So I assume you have your jacket in whatever color and shape. (fitting you, of course. In fact, if you are making your own vest by cutting off the sleeves, it is better for it to be in a smaller size. When you cut off sleeves, there is a chance of it looking loose on you than it was earlier.)

If you have a leather jacket, you have the best. But it is a tradeoff of whether you want to rip off its sleeves and change its look. Because a battle jacket is basically a sleeveless vest with the sleeves ripped or cut off ruthlessly and destroyed to a look that is quite different from what it was before. It should embody the Punks’ “don’t care attitude.” And this should translate into the jacket making too.

For a leather jacket you may just need to attach some studs and patches – no distressing

Steps to make the battle jacket

Design your jacket

A layout or plan is essential for the final effect to be as per your taste and preference. This can be done on paper or Photoshop or some such online editing app.

Take a photo of your jacket, take it on an editing app, and put images of patches on it. Decide on how many patches you plan to affix on the garment and the color combinations. Study other battle jackets to learn how to place your patches and decorations. 

After buying the patches, and you have splurged on a lot of them, lay them out on top of the jacket to see how the layout should be. Draw this on paper to remember the layout.

Usually, these jackets have one big back patch – this is a very important element. Then several small patches in the front and other parts of the back.

You can decide on other decorations like studs – all of them should go well together (or maybe not).

Punks do not insist on anything, let alone what happens on top of the cut-off vests – the colors used and the decorations’ style can all be individualistic and personal. It can reflect your music taste and aesthetic taste, not anyone else’s. Decorate your jacket to reflect who you are as a person.

Making the Battle-jacket

Step 1- Distress the jacket

For me, this involves changing the color of the jacket.

This involves dyeing, and before this, you have to prewash the clothing because the sizing on new jackets can interfere with dyeing properly. So, prewash and squeeze out all water – a spin in the dryer for a minute or two will remove dripping water and make it more receptive to color.

Dyeing different types of fabrics involves different types of dyes. You cannot dye polyester fabric with dye for cotton. So you will have to investigate the fiber content of your clothing before buying the dye. 

You can dye a light colored jacket to a darker shade or black color. Mix dye ( the process depends on the fabric dye you have) and dip the jacket in the dye solution. Dyeing can involve boiling the dye solution, wearing gloves, etc.

I used black acrylic paint dissolved in water to change the color of one of the jackets to a light blue color. I used a sponge to apply this black paint solution to the dampened material.  And then used a sponge to spread it all over in a lighter overlay.

First, thick swatches were made, and then diluted the paint again and swept over the fabric with the sponge again to give the fabric an aged and dirty look. After applying it in streaks, I dragged the sponge across the whole surface of the jacket to give it a muddy look.

When it is dry, the color will fade and the light denim will look destroyed.

Another option is to bleach it.

Concentrated Bleach can be very harsh on fabrics and may even destroy the fabric. Denim is a strong material, but even that can go bad under strong and prolonged bleach exposure. So do not keep bleach on the material for long and thoroughly rinse it off.

On a dark-colored jacket, bleach can create a different distressed texture.

After applying bleach with a spray bottle all over, I dyed it to look distressed and destroyed. Dye for a short period so that the white portions just darkens a little. 

dye the denim jacket to get it darker in color.

Step 2 – Cut off the sleeves

Cut off the sleeves of the denim jacket

To make the battle jacket, ensure that the sleeves are coming off the arm line and nothing else. Cut off the jacket sleeves or rip it off, whatever is your thing. You want the rest of the jacket intact.

battle jacket

If you are cutting with scissors, leave some extra from the arm line seam (1/4 inch or 1 or 2 cm is enough) as the fabric there will fray nicely as you wash it and create a rugged look, which is what the battle jacket is all about.

Step 4 – Back decoration

You can either make a cut-out or affix an iron-on transfer sticker with a punk-related picture.

Usually, the back of the vest is cut out, and large pieces of printed fabric are attached there.

cut out the back of the battlejacket

You can add a big backpatch in the middle of the back or affix a lot of small patches all over the kutte vest.

To make this, Cut out a darker piece of fabric a little bigger than the fabric piece you have cut out.


Use your fabric painting skills to paint images that match your punk sensibilities.

Keep the fabric piece under the cut out and sew in place.

battle jacket

You can also affix iron-on transfer sheets on the back. I have scrubbed the print to give the fabric a more distressed look.

iron on transfer sheet affixed on a battle jacket

Step 5. Attach patches.

Patches can be woven or printed, glue-backed, or sewn. It can be shaped logo patches or geometrical embroidered ones. Then there are leather ones. Enough to say, there are many types. And, It is your choice.

sew battle jacket

Woven patches are better looking than printed patches. They also last longer.

Some iron-on patches may not be of good quality – the glue may come off. You can stitch the patches on your jacket to make it very secure.

When selecting patches, if you do not have a strong favorite punk-band, you can mix genres and select whatever you fancy. If you like certain punk fashion bands, use their logos. You can also totally not wear any band patches. You maybe be an admirer of metal and non-metal bands, an ardent follower of anarcho-punk, deathrock, black metal, death metal, hardcore – you can use band patches of all these genres of punk and make the battle jacket really shine.

Usually, punk subculture use words and images that are not favored in traditional society. These words can be found everywhere online. You can search for flash sheets for images used in tattoos – they are all good for making your own patches.

Use a black t-shirt material to make super simple patches. Paint it with fabric paint. And then sew it on your jacket.

Sewing the patches

There are many ways to attach patches on clothes, but on battle jackets, these patches can be attached with simple whip stitches.

battle jacket diy with punk patches

Sewing with a contrasting, thick thread gives a rough look suitable for punk aesthetics.

Battle jacket

Another resource on making the battle-vest :

Did you like this post?

Click on the stars to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. 1

Subscribe to get weekly notifications of posts in your email

Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
Your opinion is important here. Leave a comment