Flag Lapel Pin Etiquette

Flag lapel pin etiquette has generated plenty of controversy.

Flag lapel pins symbolizing national patriotism and solidarity skyrocketed in popularity following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, particularly among American politicians and other public figures. However, flag lapel pin etiquette has also generated its own share of controversy. Barack Obama said wearing a flag pin "became a substitute for...true patriotism" when questioned about his pin practices during the 2007 presidential campaign. While few specific rules exist for flag lapel pin etiquette, the United States Flag Code adopted in 1942 issues guidelines for U.S. flag representations.

1 Location

Wear the pin on the left lapel just above the heart. According to Title 4, Chapter 1 of the official United States Code governing the flag, "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." If the wearer is not wearing a jacket, positioning the pin in the middle of a tie is also acceptable. If there's no tie or jacket, the pin should sit on the wearer's shirt directly above the heart.

2 Position

Make sure a flag pin is firmly affixed and can't get spun around. Wearing a U.S. flag upside down is unacceptable "except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property," the Flag Code states. An upside-down flag pin can also be interpreted as a statement of opposition to the nation represented.

3 Size

Don't wear a flag pin over one-half inch in diameter. While there are no specific stated guidelines for proper flag lapel pin size, wearers are encouraged to be proud, yet understated when judging a pin's dimensions.

4 Uniforms

Flag pins are allowed on "the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations." As with business suits, the pin should be worn on the uniform's left lapel and adhere to all other flag lapel pin guidelines.

5 Costumes

Flag pins and other representations of the flag should never be worn as part of a costume or athletic uniform. While the U.S. Flag Code is federal law, the regulations governing flag use are seldom enforced and regarded mostly as a guideline for proper national respect.

Based in Sacramento, Jason Kobely has been a practicing journalist since 1994. In addition to broadcast radio and television work, Kobely's articles have appeared in the "Sacramento Bee," "Village Life," “Comstock” magazine and “Senior Living” magazine. Kobely holds a Bachelor of Arts in American studies with an emphasis in mass media from the University of California-Davis.