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US Flag Code: Clothing With Flags Technically Illegal

audience members cheer during dress rehearsal for the boston pops fireworks spectacular in boston july 3, 2019
(Michael Dwyer/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 04 July 2019 09:10 AM

As controversy continues over Nike's decision to pull back shoes adorned with Betsy Ross flags, under the U.S. Flag Code, any article of clothing bearing an image of the American flag is technically illegal. 

“Every item of apparel that they’re wearing that has an American flag on it: shirt, shorts, bikini, hat, technically is in violation of the flag code,”  Marc Leepson, author of "Flag: An American Biography," told NBC News. 

According to the code, the flag "should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."

In addition, the code says material from a flag itself cannot be converted into clothing.

Leepson, though, pointed out there is "no flag police" so people do not have to worry about being arrested. 

The code says it concerns the handling and display of the flag, but leaves penalties up to states and the District of Columbia.

For example, in Washington D.C., a flag that is "printed, painted, attached, or otherwise placed a representation" on any "article of merchandise" for advertising can be considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $100 or jail time of less than 30 days.

Meanwhile, Nike's initial decision to market a shoe with a flag would have been on trend, as there is a move to "return to classics" when it comes to clothing, said Rachel Bennett, a creative director at The Doneger Group.

"The flag itself was pretty popular in the 90s, and that's a moment in time that's being referenced often."

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Under the U.S. Flag Code, any article of clothing bearing an image of the American flag is technically illegal, according to NBC News.
nike, flag, clothing, flags, code
Thursday, 04 July 2019 09:10 AM
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