Are you a soccer fan? If you're like millions of kids around the world, you might play soccer at recess or even on a competitive team throughout the year. Millions more people watch live soccer matches in stadiums around the world and on television throughout the week.
Soccer is arguably the most popular sport worldwide. Every four years, the World Cup final match is watched by over a billion people. Whether it's a league match-up or a championship game, soccer supporters love to don the jersey of their favorite team and cheer them on to victory.
If you have a soccer jersey from your favorite team, you've probably noticed a special insignia or design emblazoned on the chest. Each team has a unique crest that identifies it on the pitch and on fan merchandise sold at games, in stores, and online.
These crests create a team identity and sense of unity as the players take the pitch in battle against their rivals. They're based upon a similar tradition that's hundreds of years old: the coat of arms.
If you've ever seen a picture of a medieval knight's shield with an intricate logo on it, then you're already familiar with the coat of arms. Developed 800 years or more ago in Europe, the coat of arms is sometimes referred to by several other terms, including armorial bearings, armorial devices, and heraldic devices.
Although the exact origin of the coat of arms is unclear, historians believe they developed in medieval times as hereditary symbols to establish identity in battle. Medieval knights would also develop them as part of their gear worn for jousting tournaments.
The coat of arms helped heralds to identify the dead and wounded on the battlefield. However, historians also note that the evolution of the coat of arms was not entirely practical but also a matter of vanity, as they reflected the personalities of knights and royal families.
A coat of arms can consist of a variety of different elements, not all of which is a part of every coat of arms. Some of the most popular elements include the shield, the helmet, the mantling, the wreath, and the crest. Other optional elements could include badges, mottos, and crowns.
Each element of a coat of arms is chosen and designed with important symbolism in mind. The finished product was intended to represent an individual or a family with particular elements representing family lineage, property ownership, important alliances, and professions.
As the Middle Ages gave way to more modern times, the coat of arms evolved to become less of a military symbol and more of a representation of a particular family or institution. Rather than a full coat of arms, individuals, families, and even institutions, such as cities, towns, universities, and colleges, began to develop similar designs as crests and insignias.
Like the coat of arms of old, these newer insignias and crests were created with similar themes and symbolism in mind. They came to represent a unique identity that the wearer wanted to promote to others, whether it was a city, college, team, or family.