Exhibiting one’s patriotism is noble when it’s done in good taste. Activities that reveal one’s dedication to a nation’s principles and ideals and better angels are in really good taste. This includes engaging in well-informed public discourse, practicing proper etiquette in the presence of the flag and festooning one’s house with bunting on national holidays.
Festooning one’s self with bunting on national holidays, however, is never a good idea. It may be a habit elsewhere too, but is definitely a problem in the U S of A where, especially on Independence Day, all across the fruited plains, Americans indulge in bizarre costuming in the name of patriotism by mis-appropriating the flag in hideous garments. America’s national holidays already teeter on the verge of caricature. It’s not MoT‘s mission to get preachy about national pride, but we will humbly suggest that the triumvirate of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day ought not to be the days-off-work that define the start, peak, and end of summer, extolled as excuses to have a barbecue. Of course you ought to have a barbecue–we’ll bring the brownies–, and it would be great if sometime during the day you did something to recognize the intended nature of the day, but it would also be wonderful if you’d not take part in patriotic-dressing-cum-flag-desecration.
It’s not that the American flag is an inviolate symbol, it’s just that its design is really not amenable to attractive clothing. There’s a reason stars and two-tone striping don’t show up on a lot of your non-holiday-themed garments (unless you wear a certain kind of uniform). The color combo of red, white and blue is very, very hard to pull off. So use them wisely. If you are compelled to decorate yourself like the flag, consider diminutive stars that may be mistaken as polka dots at a distance. Choose stripes wisely; seersucker is not a bad option. Flag pins may be required on politicians’ lapels, but giant star earrings are prohibited. Finally, you can only choose two of the three colors from the flag. (Alternately, forego the whole walking-flag thing and dress as your favorite Founding Father: this guy and this guy knew how to put together an outfit.)
These are the rules for flag dressing, which has very few exceptions. You MAY wear flagoriffic clothes if:
1. you’re a little girl
2. you’re a crazy old man
3. you’re an athlete in uniform
4. you’re a superhero
5. you’re a pop star who is basically a cartoon image of a real person
(and then, if you’re going to do it, do it right)
6. we take that back
America is the home of the free and you are free to wear whatever God-awful clothing you like, but please, consider the tender sensibilities of people who have to look at you. Honor the men and women who have died defending this country and its flag so it can wave proudly from sea to shining sea, not so you can Old Glorify your bottom or star-spangle your bosom. Those colors may not run, but if we see them at the picnic, we may turn tail, and we’re taking our brownies with us.