According to the United States Flag Code, a lapel pin of the US flag is considered a living entity, and as such, there are strict rules about placement and usage.
Are there etiquette rules for wearing pin flags? There are several official rules regarding wearing a flag pin, including location and size. There are also different laws for uniformed individuals and civilian use of a pin flag. Wearing or creating a custom pin means you need to follow these codes.
The main component necessary for flag pin use is respect for the image. It is a patriotic symbol and has protections under the law with the punishment of a fine and jail time for anyone using a flag emblem in an incorrect way. We will go over five essential things you need to know before custom designing or wearing a pin that depicts the image of the Stars and Stripes.
The following information was taken from the official US guidelines for pin-wearing etiquette provided by the United States Flag Code, which is the foremost authority on the subject. These regulations apply to flags of every form and material, whether they are meant as decoration or are being worn by individuals of government, military, or other civilian organizations that operate under US law.
We have all seen instances where these codes were not followed, but that will not protect you legally if you choose to disregard the following statutes or any other guidelines that are listed under the United States Flag Code.
There is precedent for not making a spectacle out of the flag by wearing it in an attention-seeking fashion. It should be worn in a size that is both understated and respectful. Wearing flag pins that are between half an inch and one inch are the most common, especially in professional environments.
There are no specific code guidelines for the size, but it does fit under “§5. Display and use of flag by civilians; codification of rules and customs of the flag” where it is stated that displaying the flag should be done with reverence. Gaudy pin flags that are larger can detract from the desired regality of the image, and shrinking them should be considered during the design phase for original pins that initially are larger than one inch.
You should always wear your pin on the left side of your body. The flag pin should be worn over or near the heart (e.g., lapel, tie, chest pocket area) and should not be worn upside down, sideways, or backward. It should not be covered by other pins and, ideally, would not be placed below other pins as it should resting a place of high respect.
Military personnel, firefighters, police, and specific other official organizations can wear flag pins as a part of their official uniform. There may be position-specific rules for each of those professions as they all have unique regulations about how, when, and where uniform and additional pins should be worn. Most of the time, the flag is worn over the heart on the left-hand side of the chest.
The code clearly states that it is illegal to knowingly alter an image of the US flag with words, images, marks, or drawings added to it or overlaid. The punishment for doing so is up to $100 or thirty days in jail. When designing your custom flag pin, keep this in mind.
Altering the flag includes changing the number and format of the Stars and Stripes. When using the flag to advertise, it should never have anything placed over any area of the flag. It should be easy to make out and created in a quality manner to avoid disrespecting the symbol.
We have given a brief description of the code as it may apply to your pin creation and wearing habits, but it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rest of the United States Flag Code if you intend to display or sell US flag pins.
One reason why there are so many etiquette rules is because country flags are seen as almost sacred. Desecrating them comes with grave consequences in virtually every country on Earth. The intent you project when wearing them has a significant impact on whether it is appropriate or not since genuine patriotism can allow you to get away with wearing them when otherwise it might be best avoided (e.g., during sports events, etc.).
While the US Flag Codes only apply to the American flag, it is important to know that if you plan to use any other official flags from another country, there are most likely codes and regulations unique to their flag. If you intend to sell your design worldwide, it is good to be aware of all laws regarding any flags you intend to use, including state or province flags. You can find this information online using official government sources.
There are no specific rules for displaying flag pins in cases or collection pinfolios other than a need to show respect to the image. They should still be positioned properly (e.g., not upside down, sideways, or backward) and it is recommended to place them in the space of honor rather than hiding them behind other pins. By showing deference to the image, you will keep the integrity of the flag intact.
For anyone wanting to create a custom flag pin to show patriotism or for some other reason, there are a few more things to consider. You are not capable of controlling how your customers wear or use the flag, but you are responsible for the quality, appearance, and design of your pin. Be sure to follow the advertising and civilian codes for the US flag.