Poppies through the ages

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How the Royal British Legion’s poppy has evolved over more than 100 years of Remembrance.

Since emerging as a symbol of Remembrance after the First World War, poppies worn during the Poppy Appeal have come in a range of shapes and sizes.  

From handmade silk and cotton poppies to the new plastic-free poppy made entirely from paper, discover how the poppy has evolved over the last century.  

A poppy from the 1920s featuring petals made from red silk and a wire steam

The first poppies

The first poppies used silk for the petals, wire for the stem, and bitumen – a semi-hard petroleum - for the centre.

There were four different poppies designed to suit different budgets, from a large poppy made from silk, a smaller one, one made from lawn or cotton and a cardboard poppy for children.

A 1930s poppy made from two layers of different fabric. The design features a green fabric leaf, faux stamens and a metal centre.

Silk and lawn cloth design evolves

In the 1930s poppies made from two layers of different fabric were introduced. The under layer was made from lawn cloth, with an upper layer of silk. There was also a green fabric leaf, faux stamens and a metal centre. 

A wartime poppy made using a cardboard steam and red material for the petals.

Wartime poppies

During the Second World War, shortages in materials meant the number of designs dropped from four to two. Silk poppies were made in much smaller numbers, and a second poppy made entirely from card was introduced.  

A red poppy from the 1950s featuring a black centre and a wire stem.

Wire stem returns

Wire stems were reintroduced in the 1950s to replace the cardboard used as a result of wartime shortages, with red felt used to create the poppy petals. 

A new look design from 1967 with a plastic stem and one-piece petal.

A new look

A new look design emerged in 1967 with bitumen centre and wire stem replaced by plastic, along with the introduction of a one-piece petal. 

The existing red poppy with petals made from specialist red paper and a green plastic stem.

Green leaf returns

In 1987 the poppy regained its leaf after it emerged that the public preferred the feature. 

A new plastic-free poppy being pinned onto the left side of a persons chest Number plastic-free poppies laid down on a surface and overlapping A new plastic-free poppy being held by the stem in two hands

The new plastic-free poppy

2023 sees the biggest change in the poppy’s design for a generation.  

After more than three years in development, the Royal British Legion has produced a plastic-free poppy, made entirely from paper that is completely recyclable at home.  

With paper created from renewable fibres from renewable sources including offcuts from coffee cups, the innovative new poppy design features a traditional poppy shape, with a black centre embossed with ‘Poppy Appeal’, and a leaf with a crease.  

It can be fastened with a pin in the stem or worn in a buttonhole.

Order your plastic-free poppy

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