Understanding American Flag Etiquette, Rules, and Guidelines

February 10, 2021 2 min read

The American flag is a ubiquitous presence in everyday life. Rarely does a day go by that you don’t see a flag flying high. What you may not know as you pass by the flag is that a set of rules governs conduct around and concerning it. By understanding American flag etiquette, rules, and guidelines and putting that understanding into action, you’ll show the American flag its proper respect while also modeling positive behaviors and attitudes for others.

What Is the Flag Code?

Chapter 1, Title 4 of the United States Code explains the official specifications of the Flag of the United States and how to use, display, and observe it. The Flag Code outlines when and how the flag should be raised, flown, and lowered each day. It also proscribes many actions that could involve the flag. For instance, the American flag itself is not to be used in advertising or promotional contexts, nor should companies incorporate the American flag into apparel or other consumer goods. When the elements eventually take their toll, and a flag reaches the end of its service, the Flag Code lays out how one should properly retire a tattered or faded flag.

Why Follow the Flag Code?

Though codified in law, the Flag Code is customary rather than legally binding. In other words, you won’t go to prison for dragging an American flag through the dirt or for wearing it as a cape. You may, however, earn some looks of shock, disdain, and general ire from the people around you who do choose to observe the tenets of the Flag Code. Respect for the flag is especially important in the presence of our military veterans who have made tremendous sacrifices and often witnessed ultimate sacrifices in the name of the values our flag represents. Not only is public respect for the flag important in avoiding a dreadful social faux pas, but it’s simply the best way to do right by your fellow Americans.

Observing the Flag Code

Once you understand American flag etiquette, rules, and guidelines, you can put these concepts into action for yourself. At summer cookouts, avoid misrepresenting the flag by hanging red, white, and blue bunting instead. Dispose of a worn-out flag by taking it to your local American Legion post or a dedicated receptacle for retired flags. When it comes time for a replacement, consider Federal Flags as your resource to buy American flags and flag-related accessories so you may continue to uphold the Flag Code each day.


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