Fashion trends are constantly changing, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has even a remote interest in the field. No matter the number of notable trends we have, there’s been an equal number of questionable ones as well. One such trend revolves around something that citizens around the world can relate to, no matter where they are from.
Flags are something for which everyone holds respect. The most well-known belong to countries and states, but there are flags for other establishments and groups as well. Colleges have flags with their emblem, there’s a colorful array of flags for specific LGBTQA+ communities and there are flags for sports teams, too. No matter what they represent, flags everywhere are typically regarded with pride and respect.
That is, nearly everywhere except in fashion. What is different about flags in fashion? Is it acceptable to use these symbols of pride to accessorize, or is it disrespecting the flag and what it stands for? It seems like there’s an extremely fine balance. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear a shirt with your country or organization’s flag on it and it’s even encouraged to drape the actual flag around your shoulders at an event that supports it. In this day and age, it’s increasingly common to wear your flag in one way or another because it shows your support for the country or organization.
According to the American flag code, created June 14, 1923 and adopted as law in 1942, however, wearing the United States flag as apparel is forbidden. The code states, “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.” According to this law, all flag-themed items of clothing from swimsuits to t-shirts are actually illegal.
Realistically speaking, this notion hasn’t stopped anyone from wearing what they wear. It does, however, pose an interesting question: what counts as disrespectful? Ultimately, this is a subjective question. Pride and respect are universal, but their representation varies all across the world. To someone who is younger, an American flag-themed swimsuit or crop top may not be disrespectful. To a decorated war veteran, it might.
How can we best combat the risk of offending someone through our fashion choices? You should be able to show pride in supporting your country or cause through fashion, sharing it with everyone. Camouflage is a great example of respectful wear. Ever since its rise in popularity in 1918, it has been a design and fabric that many people own and wear often. Another piece of advice to keep in mind is to know the origin of the flag you are wearing and what the flag represents.
In a world where representation best comes in the form of art — whether it’s paintings, clothing, music or dance — mindfulness is key. Representing a country or organization through wearing a flag is a great chance to think mindfully.