When you hear the word “eye-patch,” pirates are probably the first thing that pops into your mind. But do you know the real reason that these swashbuckling seamen wore eye-patches? I’ll give you a hint — it’s not because they were missing their eyes!

The epic era of eye-patches

If you or your kid has ever dressed as a pirate for Halloween, you know that the staple of any good pirate costume is the eye-patch. Nearly all the best dastardly pirates in films, books, and television sport one. However, the reason why these swordsmen of the sea wore them wasn’t usually due to a gaping hole where their eye should be.

The first notable eye-patch was worn for the sake of covering the eye socket of a Persian pirate who lost his eye in battle. Still, randomly losing an eye in a duel or a “join the crew” hazing incident wasn’t an everyday occurrence for pirates. And yet so many pirates seemingly wore the odd fashion accessory like it was glued to their faces. So what were the darn things for?

No, pirates don’t just go around losing their eyes

There are plenty of theories to accompany the widespread popularity of the eye-patch. While most general audiences tend to believe that eye-patches are worn in the event of a missing eyeball, that was a rather abnormal reason to wear one. Instead, they were likely used as one of a pirate’s most important weapons.

What’s the best part of being a pirate? How about the epic duels, defending your ship, swinging a sword, looting others’ booty, and noble fights to the death? These may not float everyone’s boat, but they are integral parts of living the pirate life. And knowing how to quickly navigate your ship to retrieve your weapons can be the difference between life and death. That’s where eye-patches come in!

How did no one think of this before?

At the end of the day, one conclusion about eye-patches seems to make the most sense: they were used to help a pirate’s eyes adapt to both darkness and light. This meant they could duck below deck into the dark to snatch their swords and cannons without completely going blind. This may sound a bit far-fetched, but even if you’re a skeptic, it’s hard to deny what history has to show as proof.

When World War II rolled around, soldiers in the Navy explored a concept not far from a pirate’s eye-patch to try to give themselves natural night vision. Pilots from different eras also adapted the eye-patch so they could read important flight instructions, patterns, and maps in the darkness when necessary. Do you need any more convincing? (Also, the Mythbusters team decided it was plausible…so it has to be true, right?)