Why do pirates wear an eye patch? The one 'clever' reason revealed (and kids might be shocked)

Prepare for your mind to be blown

Pirate wearing an eye patch
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your kids ever ask why pirates wear an eye patch, it's likely you feel confident in the answer. But be prepared - everything you know about pirates could be turned upside down...

Kids are naturally inquisitive, and love to disarm us with questions ranging from why do birds sing in the morning to needing the reason we say 'white rabbits' on the first of every month. To answer their questions and really astound them with your superior knowledge, you might end up tracking down the best facts for kids to really blow their curious minds.

But what if your child asks you why a pirate wears an eye patch - that's an easy one, right? It's surely because they had so many fights they gruesomely lost an eye in battle and need the patch to cover up the damage. That's what most people think and prepare to question everything you think you know, because that's possibly incorrect.

Online creator Chelsey Edwards is a mum-of-three who shares family moments on TikTok. She found out the fascinating reason pirates really wear eye patches and decided to set the record straight. She addresses her followers with "You want to know what I found out today? The reason pirates wear eye patches isn't because they've lost it in battle or it's been prodded out by someone's hook."

She continues "Because I don't know about you but growing up I always thought they had a patch because they were missing an eye. But no, apparently the reason is super clever. So, they have an eye patch over one eye so all they can see is dark. So when they're up above the ship they're seeing with their eye in the light. And when they go below deck they switch it over, so their eye is immediately adjusted to the dark." What did we tell you? Our minds cannot comprehend this information.     


♬ original sound - Chelsey.E

Heading to the comments, it appears most people were equally taken aback by this news. One person shared they always struggle to get others to believe this information, saying "I learned this fact about 20 years ago and in the intervening two decades, not a single person I have told has believed me. Not a single one..."

Others add "Do I love or hate you for this information?" and "So I've been squinting all these years going in and out the house in summer when I could of just worn an eye patch?"

However, we decided to fact check this piece of information and there might be more confusion ahead. On one hand, the theory has been checked on a 2007 episode of a show named Mythbusters. It was found to indeed work, when those who wore an eye patch and moved between light and dark spaces found it worked perfectly.

On the other hand, pirate historian Dr Rebecca Simon, asserts this isn't the reason pirates wore eye patches, suggesting they might not even have worn them at all - they could be part of myth and legend. Speaking to IFLScience, she says "There is no evidence that pirates wore eyepatches. There are no images, woodcuts, or any mentions of them in any primary sources from the 17th and 18th centuries."

She adds "The more likely explanation is that the eye patch, like the accents, are the result of popular fiction, rather than historical fact. These myths largely came from the novel, Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. His antagonist, Long John Silver, has served as the model for many other pop culture pirates, such as Jack Sparrow. 

These fictional depictions were shaped by real-life pirates, but not your typical run-of-the-mill sea-farers. Popular depictions of flamboyantly-dressed pirates today have their roots in these early descriptions, but the reality was much more drab." It was certainly a fun theory while it lasted, and we might still choose to believe it has everything to do with needing to see better in the dark... 

For more facts, we have amazing facts about the Queen, and facts you never knew about Prince George. If your child is a nail-biter, we share facts that should put them off.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.