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5 Myths About the American Flag

We the people love and honor the Stars and Stripes but haven't mastered its whole truth

A man wears a bathing suit made from the America Flag design.

These patriotic trunks definitely violate Flag Code guidelines. — Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Myth #5: It's OK to wear a Stars-and-Stripes T-shirt.

The U.S. Flag Code frowns on the use of the flag "for advertising purposes." It goes on to warn against the sale or display of any "article of merchandise ... upon which shall have been printed, painted, attached, or otherwise placed a representation of" the flag to "advertise, call attention to, decorate, mark, or distinguish the article or substance on which so placed."

In other words, when you wear a flag T-shirt or hat while reclining on an American flag beach towel near your American flag camping chair, you are violating the Flag Code. The code, which was drawn up at the first National Flag Conference in Washington in 1923, is part of the law of the land. But it is not enforced, nor is it enforceable. It is merely a set of guidelines, letting Americans know what to do — and what not to do — with our red, white and blue national emblem.

There is no Flag Police. You will not be arrested for wearing a flag-embossed T-shirt on Independence Day — or any other day of the year.

Marc Leepson is the author of Flag: An American Biography and, most recently, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership From the Idealist General.

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