Are you allowed to wear clothing with the American flag on it? What are the rules about displaying the American flag? Are the rules about the American flag actual laws? Who makes the rules about the American flag? Let's get the answers to all of these questions.

There actually are quite a few rules about handling the American flag, some of which ARE actual laws - others are guidelines of respectful use. There is an actual U.S. Flag Code which lays out all the dos and don'ts regarding American flag etiquette.

HOWEVER,  according to, "The Flag Code in no way enforced or reviewed by any U.S. government entity. Compliance with and interpretation of the Flag Code is up to the individual." So basically, all the rules that we cover here are respectful suggestions...not enforceable laws. We all decide how respectful we want to be when it comes to the American flag.

The rules that are listed below are a sampling of the larger U.S. Flag Code. (There are many more rules and guidelines in the code.) Also, we quoted the U.S. Flag Code verbatim, so any odd verbiage is what was originally written in the document.

  • It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.
  • When a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
  • The flag should be displayed during school days in or near every schoolhouse.
  • No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.

The rule about the flag and athletic uniforms is interesting, as many U.S. Olympic uniforms have boldly displayed parts of the flag. Remember Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Olympics? That's a perfect example.

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  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery
  • The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
  • When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak.
  • The flag should be displayed in or near every polling place on election days.
  • The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
Photo by Danielle Peterson on Unsplash
Photo by Danielle Peterson on Unsplash

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