FAQs ~ U.S. Flag Etiquette


Q1: What U.S. Code governs the National Flag?

Chapter 1, Title 4, United States Code governs the use/display of the National Flag for federal agencies and provides guidance for others. It should be noted that each state Attorney General has the responsibility to set flag policy, including the National flag, for their respective states.


Q2: What is the proper manner for display of the flag after sundown?

Section 6(a), Chapter 1, Title 4, United States Code states that the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.


Q3: How do you dispose of a torn, soiled or damaged flag?

Section 8(k), Chapter 1, Title 4, United States Code states the flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.


Q4: What is an Interment Flag?

Interment flags are provided by the United States Government and used to cover the caskets of deceased military personnel. They are identical in color and pattern to all other National flags and are 5' hoist by 9'6" fly.


Q5: What is the Gold Star Mother's Flag?

This is an unofficial term referring to the gold star version of the Service Flag.


Q6: How should the American Flag patch be worn?
Flag Patch
  • The U.S. Code states "no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica should be worn on the left lapel near the heart."
  • The U.S. Code does not address the positioning of the flag patch. It is appropriate to wear an American flag patch on the left or right sleeve. When worn on the left sleeve, the union would appear towards the front and the stripes would run horizontally toward the back. When worn on the right sleeve, it is considered proper to reverse the design so that the union is at the observer's right to suggest that the flag is flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.
  • Since the law does not specifically address the positioning of the patch, a decision is left to the discretion of the organization prescribing the wear. As many states and cities have ordinances pertaining to the use of the flag, you may wish to contact the Attorney General of your state or the City Attorney's office regarding this matter.


Q7: How should the American Flag patch be worn on Army uniforms?

Per Army Regulation 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, all Soldiers will wear the full-color U.S. flag embroidered insignia on utility and organizational uniforms, unless deployed or in a field environment. Soldiers will wear the subdued tactical flag insignia while deployed or in a field environment. The U.S. flag insignia (full color or subdued) is 2" X 3" in size and is worn on the right shoulder pocket flap of utility uniforms and cold-weather jackets. The flag insignia is placed directly on top of the hook-and-loop-faced pad already provided on the uniforms' shoulder pocket flap. The subdued U.S. flag insignia is worn as directed by the commander under tactical field conditions. The U.S. flag embroidered insignia is worn so that the star field faces forward, or to the flag's own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer's right and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward. The appropriate replica for the right shoulder sleeve is identified as the reverse side flag.


Q8: What is the order for precedence for display of state flags?

State flags are normally displayed in the order of admittance to the State of the Union. However, they may be displayed in alphabetical order.

Q9: What is the background information about fringe on the U.S. Flag?

Gold fringe is used on the National flag as an honorable enrichment only. It is not regarded as an integral part of the flag and its use does not constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statutes.

Records of the Department of the Army indicate that fringe was used on the National flag as early as 1835 and its official use by the Army dates from 1895. There is no record of an Act of Congress or Executive Order which either prescribes or prohibits the addition of fringe, nor is there any indication that any symbolism was ever associated with it. The use of fringe is optional with the person or organization displaying the flag.

A 1925 Attorney General's Opinion (34 Op. Atty. Gen 483) states:

"The fringe does not appear to be regarded as an integral part of the flag, and its presence cannot be said to constitute an unauthorized additional to the design prescribed by statute. An external fringe is to be distinguished from letters, words, or emblematic designs printed or superimposed upon the body of the flag itself. Under the law, such additions might be open to objection as unauthorized; but the same is not necessarily true of the fringe."

It is customary to place gold fringe on silken (rayon-silk-nylon) National flags that are carried in parades, used in official ceremonies, and displayed in offices, merely to enhance the beauty of the flag. The use of fringe is not restricted to the Federal Government. Such flags are used and displayed by our Armed Forces, veterans, civic and civilian organizations, and private individuals. However, it is the custom not to use fringe on flags displayed from stationary flagpoles and, traditionally, fringe has not been used on internment flags.


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