How To Properly Display The American Flag

Make sure you show the stars and stripes the appropriate respect!

Brilliant Red Front Door on a Light Blue House with Containers of Hydrangeas
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, the stars and stripes are popping up all over the place. The national holiday represents the epitome of American pride, and what better way is there to express it than flying our nation's colors? While a lot of families have permanent installations outside their homes, many people aren't familiar with the federal rules that dictate when and how to display the flag. Flag etiquette is of utmost importance if your intention is to honor the U.S.

Here's a couple of tips for observing the U.S. Flag Code:

1. The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, and should be elevated above any other city or state banners.

2. When displayed on a staff, the union (stars) should always be at the peak of the pole. When it hangs vertically or horizontally above the ground, the union should face the observer's left.

3. Normally, the flag should only be flown from sunrise to sunset, however, you can fly it for 24 hours as long as it's well-lit.

4. The flag should always be able to fly aloft, kink- and fold-free.

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5. Of course, it should never touch the ground! (Or anything beneath it, for that matter.)

6. Don't write or make any marks on your flag; it's beautiful the way it is!

7. You should never use a flag as a piece of clothing, so no wearing the stars and stripes as a cape—sorry!

8. The flag really isn't supposed to be used as decoration; the Flag Code specifically prohibits its use on merchandise that is used for advertising or can be easily disposed. While that law is a bit difficult to enforce, you can at least avoid using a flag as a tablecloth at your Fourth of July barbecue.

9. You should never hoist a flag that is ripped, stained, or otherwise unpresentable. If the flag is beyond repair, the Flag Code requires that it be retired and disposed of by burning in a special ceremony.

To learn more about flag etiquette, read the full U.S. Flag Code.

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  1. Congressional Research Service. Frequently asked questions about Flag Law.

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