Why Do Pirates Wear Eye Patches? Some Interesting Fun Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Oct 12, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Nov 16, 2021
Pirate and nautical theme grunge background.

Eye patches are not just worn as a cosplay or Halloween costume when you dress like a pirate.

Pirates are never seen without an eye patch and all depictions and illustrations of pirates in movies and comics include this accessory. Some people believe that the eye patch gives the pirate character.

Pirates are people who commit acts of privacy which include treasure robbery or violence using ships and boats. They usually attack and rob treasures from coastal areas and other ships out at sea.

They are able to come close to other ships and coasts due to their high level of stealth.

Pirate ships usually have large back sails, are fitted with smaller rowboats, and are dark above deck.

Initially, people believed that pirates wear eye patches to hide the missing eye or any scarring on the eye due to war or fight. This belief is now disputed by theories that consider that the reason for pirates to wear eye patches is to condition their eyes to see better in the dark or night vision.

Since they attack other ships and coasts at night they need to be adept at fighting in the dark. At times where they are fighting in the daylight, they need to switch to having a perfect vision in the dark very fast.

An average human needs 20-25 minutes for their eyes to adjust their eyes from bright daylight to night light or the dark, but during a fight, pirates cannot take that long.

By wearing an eye patch one eye would always be dark.

They could fight or work on the deck freely and when they have to move into their pirate ship, below the deck, they could simply switch the eye patch to the other eye. The eye which was under the eye patch all this time is already adjusted to the dark and helps them see better in the dark.

Although there is no historical evidence supporting this reasoning, the theory is logical enough to be a plausible answer to an otherwise tactical problem. According to historical evidence, the eyepatch was usually made with cloth or leather.

It was secured around the head using a string, or leather strap.

It usually consisted of a circular or semicircular piece that was placed directly on the eye and secured in position using the strings.

While dark-adapted eyes are a major advantage for pirates, one of the drawbacks over the purpose of eyepatch is that the wearer loses depth perception. Initially, it can be very hard, but we can assume the pirates were able to overcome the disadvantage to some extent.

If you found this article interesting also check out other similar articles like why do pipes burst and why do your ears pop.

Why do pirates wear eye patches?

According to history, it was initially believed that pirates wore eye patches to hide their faces after they lose an eye.

The eye patches of a pirate were supposed to hide a missing eye in battle or misformed scarring from a fight. However, a new theory emerged a few years ago; people believed that the patch over one eye helped in the dark adaptation of their eye and was able to see clearly in low light.

Most people need 20-25 minutes to adjust their vision from bright light to low light, this time period is too long for a pirate who has to work and fight on a ship on the deck and below deck, during both night and day.

When a pirate moves from daylight to darkness, all they will do is change the position of the eye patch to cover the other eye. A pirate will be able to comfortably see in the dark using the eye which was already accustomed to those conditions.

Eyepatches were functional accessories for pirates that covered one eye to make their life easier.

When they attack another ship or coast they often do so at night. Their ships are built and fitted with features to make them very stealthy, low light on deck, large dark-colored sails, etc.

In such cases, pirates got the added advantage and could see and fight in the darkness of the night.

Why are eye patches considered such an iconic accessory for pirates?

Fun fact of pirates and eye patches - there are no historical accounts mentioning the use of eye patches by pirates. There is no archaeological proof supporting the argument either given how difficult it would be to prove the theory with archaeological evidence in the first place.

One of the first and only mentions of eye patches in relation to pirates is found in the classic novel 'Treasure Island' by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The character Captain Blackbeard wears an eye patch in the novel.

The concept of pirates wearing eye patches caught on like wildfire in mainstream media because of the wide social impact Stevenson’s book had on the general public. Since then the eye patch became a plausible accessory among pirate characters in stories, movies, or books.

What is an eye patch and what does it do to the eye?

An eyepatch is a piece of cloth or leather, usually in the shape of a semicircle or circle, which covers one eye and is secured in place using strings.

While the pirates might have used it to make their eyes adjust, there are more uses of eye patches and other similar accessories. Like the pirates of history, pilots often use this concept of dark adaptation to make sure the night vision capabilities of their eyes get adapted to see in the dark or low light.

People who undergo eye surgery often have to wear cotton eye pads that protect their eyes from bright light and let them heal.

Dark-adapted eyes can adjust their vision between bright light and low light environments. The rods are the photoreceptors of the eye and are responsible for the sensitivity of the eye towards light and brightness.

For rods, chemical processes occur in the retina that regenerate a compound known as rhodopsin. The chemical helps increase the increased sensitivity of rods which enables the eye to adapt and see in low light areas like under decks.

In light adaptation, the eyes would adapt from dark to bright environments. The retina decreases the amount of rhodopsin and increases the sensitivity of cones.

Eye patches could also treat lazy eyes. The brain stops sending signals to the lazy eye and the vision in that eye deteriorates.

It is believed that covering the healthy eye will force the brain to send signals to the lazy eye and eventually regain vision and the ability to see. Eyepatches are also recommended for people with double vision.

It helps relieve them from other symptoms like vertigo and dizziness. Wearing an eye patch can also serve as a cover for people with scarring on their eye from a surgery, permanent blindness due to an accident in an eye, or if they have lost vision in one eye due to something else.

Can everyone use eyepatches?

In the modern-day, you should not wear an eye patch for too long unnecessarily. Pirates wore eye patches to attain a tactical advantage in their fights on the deck of a pirate ship.

If you are recommended an eye pad by a doctor or are a marine or pilot training their night vision in the darkness, using the eye patch is not a bad idea. If you don't have a particular reason to wear it, you should preserve your eyesight and avoid it.

Wearing an eyepatch to cover a healthy eye will affect your depth perception.

Binocular vision and depth vision needs both eyes to function properly. In everyday life depth perception is essential, and it can get hard to get used to the adjusted depth perception when you are only able to see an image from one eye.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do pirates wear eye patches then why not take a look at why do boats float, or why do people dance.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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