• ‘A Grand Old Flag’ •
“She’s a grand old flag. She’s a high flying flag. And forever in peace may she wave.” Even when paraphrased as done here, George M. Cohan ever so gloriously celebrates America’s paramount symbol of all that the nation stands for in the eyes of the world. That standing, for the most part, has been for freedom, but rare instances of oppression have been woven into the rubric of a philosophy steeped in morphing definitions of independence and democracy.
The Stars and Stripes may be one of the most readily recognizable symbols of any kind anywhere. The flag is flown at nearly every public location imaginable—not just post offices, government buildings and schools, but all of the other places where Americans gather. It is the visual manifestation of the collective identity of a population that is more diverse than most of the other nationalities in the world.
The American flag is also one of the most successful marketing icons in history. It graces back pockets of blue jeans, front pockets of T-shirts, tennis shoes, scarves, hats, swimwear and other attire; as well as jewelry, watches, dinnerware, throw pillows, linens and an unlimited list of home decor items.
Most Americans have the colors red, white and blue so ingrained in their subconsciousness that they don’t think of them as a design element. Although some sources attribute moral values to the colors, the consensus is they were not perceived that way when the flag was designed. The committee in charge of designing the first flag in 1777 was likely adhering to British tradition in the use of color and striping.
Despite the look of the flag changing more than two dozen times, using different colors has never been considered. From a graphics perspective, the tri-color combination is an attention-getter. It is not surprising that Old Glory is a preferred backdrop in so much advertising, from automotive ads (back when auto companies still had budgets that included advertising) to real estate open house promotions.
Technically, all uses of the flag are regulated by Congressional Acts and Presidential Decrees in the U.S. Flag Code. The Code outlines the requirements for the display and use of the Stars and Stripes. Setting aside the issue of the use of the flag in political statements, which for the most part involves First Amendment rights, what some people might consider disrespectful use of the flag design, such as for nude body art, toilet seat covers, underwear and other uses best left out of a family newspaper, is not generally restricted.
On the Fourth of July, unfurl Old Glory proudly. Plan an impromptu salute, not just to the symbol that was created by sewing together pieces of fabric, but to the fabric of the nation for which it stands.