When shopping for their Independence Day outfits, consumers should remember a little-known fact: Under the U.S. Flag Code, any clothes with the flag on it are 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,” said Marc Leepson, author of “Flag: An American Biography.”
The federal flag code says that “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” In the District of Columbia, a flag being “printed, painted, attached, or otherwise placed a representation” on any “article of merchandise” for the purposes of advertising is a misdemeanor, can lead to a fine of $100 or imprisonment of less than 30 days.
The code also bans the material of a flag from being converted into clothing of any kind.
However, “You have to look at it as a series of guidelines,” said Leepson. “There’s no flag police. No one’s going to get arrested.”