Flags: Frequently Asked Questions

Debbie O'Keefe
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Flags: Frequently Asked Questions


I think the idea of an FAQ about flags is a bit puzzling because I don’t think anyone is frequently asking questions about flags, but they should be! So, rather than a traditional FAQ this is more like a QTSBFA (Questions that should be frequently asked) because flags are actually really interesting. 


What Are Flags?


What are flags? Well, obviously everyone knows a flag is floppy piece of material that you face and recite the pledge of allegiance to, right? Yes and no. Yes that is an example of A flag, specifically the American flag, the flag we are all most commonly familiar with, but no that is not THE flag. Despite what your more patriotic friends might tell you. Flags serve a wide variety of other purposes besides patriotism. Flags at their most basic are printed cloth that serve as symbol. Every flag is symbolic of something; The American Flag is a symbol that we belong to the United States of America, a Cubs flag is a symbol that you’re a fan of America’s best baseball team, and a checkered flag means you just won an automobile race. In short, flags are symbols, whether of unity and belonging, or even a symbol of winning. 


Where Did Flags Come From?


As long as there has been civilization there has been war and as long as there has been war there have been flags. Flags started out as ways for military regiments to tell each other apart. In Roman times each legion would have its own banner to distinguish itself. In the Middle Ages knights used the same principle. Their flags were referred to as heraldic flags because they were a way of “heralding” their presence those around them. They also gave us this sweet mess of a flag. 


Lions, castles, and pirate ships. It’s enough to get the 10 year old in all of us jazzed up. Continuing forward into the age of the great discoverers,  like Columbus, Magellan, and Cortes all would plant flags of their native countries on any new land they discovered as a symbol of ownership (albeit in complete disregard to the people already living there.) Not only that but they sailed the ocean in large fleets of ships, Flags were very important in the Age of Sail because it was how ships could quickly and easily identify if an approaching ship was friend or foe. Which in turn gave rise to another of my favorite flags.



Now a days you can find flags for pretty much any subset of society in which you belong. What if my subset of society doesn’t have a flag? Great news! You can custom make any kind of flag you want for whatever group you belong too. Your weekend adult dodge ball league team needs a banner to unite under? Boom, custom flag! Jousting in a medieval fair and want to take your showmanship to the next level? Boom, custom heraldic flag! Your monthly book club that only reads romance novels from the nineties need a way to proudly announce they’re having a meeting? Boom, Fabio flag!






That’s Pretty Much Everything I Need To Know About Flags Right?


Wrong! There is some much more to learn about flags. Not from Cubs nation and want to know what the heck #flythew means? Want to know how many different version of the American Flag there have been? Want to know what the ugliest city flag is? (there are a lot of candidates) Well keep checking back to learn all this and more in the continuing adventures of Flag Man! The man who knows way too much about one very specific thing. 

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