Is It Really Illegal To Wear Clothes With American Flags On Them?
I cannot tell you how many times someone has said to me that it's illegal to wear clothing with the American flag on it. But is that really true? The answer is ... no.
It's 4th of July weekend. We spend a lot of time out celebrating our nation's independence and the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy as United States citizens. Some celebrate with flags in their yards, some celebrate with flags on their clothing. And when they do someone is going to call them out for it but depending on exactly how it's done it's actually not illegal.
Think about it. The summer Olympics are coming up and we're going to see a lot of American flags depicted at the various events, if it wasn't legal do you think the United States Olympic Committee would authorize that as the official uniform for the our team? That was a point made by Star Spangled Flags, one of the leading flag manufacturers in the United States.
They point out that there is a huge difference between wearing clothing that depicts the American flag and the American flag itself.
Here's how things break down. The United States Flag Code states that the flag should never be worn as apparel, bedding, or drapery. It also prohibits using the flag as part of a costume or athletic uniform. So all of those patriotic T-Shirts, hats, jackets, and bikinis are illegal, right? Wrong. The code says that THE FLAG shall not be used for these purposes. That's right. You can't take a flag, cut it up and sew it together again as a costume. But you CAN make an article of clothing that depicts the flag because you're not using an actual flag.
I know, the difference is subtle and some still probably won't like it but there it is.
The American Legion even backs this up when they state:
Unless an article of clothing is made from an actual United States flag, there is NO breach of flag etiquette whatsoever. People are simply expressing their patriotism and love of country by wearing an article of clothing that happens to be red, white, and blue with stars and stripes. There is nothing illegal about the wearing or use of these items.
And the American Legion is one of the places we go to learn how to properly display or dispose of United States flags, so they should know.
While we're at it, here's another bit of American flag etiquette from the Military.com and United States Flag Code. When saying the Pledge of Allegiance or when the National Anthem is playing you should face the flag and, unless you're in uniform, place your right hand over your heart and remove any non-religious head covering.
So go ahead and rock that red, white, and blue clothing this Independence Day weekend, or any weekend. There's no time limit on patriotism.