What’s up with gold fringe on flags?

golf fringe

Whether in an office, at a parade, in a government building, or any number of places, our American readers have probably seen an American or state flag with gold fringe or tassels. If you’ve read our website, you know that almost every element of a flag has a meaning and history behind it. So what’s the meaning behind the gold fringe? Well, not a whole lot.

us flag gold fringeThe only mention of fringe in any law or code is U.S. Army Regulation 840-10 that states that fringe should be used on indoor and ceremonial flags, but does not state any reason why. According to the American Legion, the earliest record of fringe on a flag was in 1835. By 1895, fringe was added to all military regiment flags as an “honorable enrichment” (you can see all the different designs and their fringes in the regulation 840-10 document).

No U.S. flag law or codes state the purpose of the gold fringe in either a military or non-military setting. However, the fringe is mostly considered acceptable flag etiquette for any formal setting. I say “mostly” because if you search the depths of the internet you will find all sorts of conspiracy theories behind the fringe on flags. Yes, you read that correctly.

The most prominent is that the fringe indicates martial or admiralty law – basically that the constitution does not apply in the area that the flag is in. Theorists then say that whoever is the authority figure in this area has absolute rule. Those who subscribe to this theory find this most troubling in courtrooms, and claim that this means judges have complete say over your fate.

As I said before, there is no law or flag code that supports this. Those who subscribe to this theory will often point to text they claim comes from executive order 10834 or Title 4, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code. The text that they cite is completely fabricated. Neither document mentions fringe or a “martial law flag” of any sort.

So in conclusion, it’s a traditional military decoration that has made it was into non-military use. Do you feel like you have substantial evidence to support a theory behind the fringe? Tell us in the comments!

Editors note (Feb. 25, 2022): The original version of this article published on March 26, 2016 contained a link to a website promoting the false theory that gold fringe on a flag indicates martial or admiralty law. We have chosen to remove the link due to the fact that the website also promotes other false theories that are dangerous and hateful. We have also updated the language and sources provided in this article to more accurately address how the false claims by those who support the theory have evolved since the original publishing date. 

15 Comments

  1. Very simply, the fringe is a meaningless adornment.

    This was stated in the Attorney General’s statement in 1925, repeated in Army Regulation 840-10, enforced by US Code Title 4 and Executive Order 10834, and supported by US Marine Flag Manual Sect D Art 2a (see the text for links).

    The USMC manual is interesting as the USMC come under the Dept of the Navy, i.e. The Admiralty, yet they ban the use of the fringe on the US flag when we would expect them to enforce it under “Admiralty Law”!

    International flag protocols do not mention fringes as being anything but an adornment.

    The fringe is on the edge of the flag, it therefore does not deface it (when a symbol or text is put on the flag) and does not change its form, e.g. by adding a 4th colour.

    Finally, flags have never defined a legal status, merely reflected it. Flying a US flag at a US embassy just reflects the pre-existing agreement of US territory. The US flag at the American School in Paris flies on French soil. A Frenchman flying le Tricolore on Bastille day in New York is still on American soil not French.

    There is absolutely NO evidence to the contrary, except conspiracy theories and misunderstanding of the law.

  2. In New Zealand the choice of trial by judge and jury or hearing by judge is offered.
    Two flags are hanging.
    One with gold trim and one without.
    Trial by jury is common law, law of the land, so the Gold trimmed flag is removed.
    Hearing by judge is admiralty/maritime law, law of the sea, so the NZ flag proper is removed and I would suggest at your peril

    • Absolute rubbish. A New Zealand court has the New Zealand Coat of Arms, it does NOT have a flag, with or without a fringe. I am a proud Kiwi and have had to attend court for many reasons including seeing my wife sworn in as a JP and jury service.

      No flag, mate. If you got that fact wrong, you’ve probably got others wrong too.

      And I’ll repeat, based on knowledge of real law not made up law, the fringe means nothing.

  3. So, why are we told to say The Pledge of Allegiance every day throughout our school
    Years yet the Law of the Republic (which the flag stands for) and it doesn’t apply in the court house? I call B.S. on “It’s just a Conspiracy theory…”

  4. It’s hilarious the significance that the tinfoil hat crowd attribute to gold fringe, which is there for decoration only. Ironically, while the Army and Air Force use a gold-fringed U.S. flag for honor guards and parade use, by tradition the naval services (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) use an unfringed U.S. flag. This would seem to be contrary to the conspiracy theorists’ idea that the gold fringe represents some “Admiralty” law (which in fact does not exist in any form in the United States).

  5. “THIS” is what DIS-INFORMATION looks like. Many and a GROWING NUMBER are educating themselves..IT ISN’T a minor thing, either! I, pretty much SAY THE WRITERS OF MISINFORMATION are either SOCIALIST, COMMUNIST..”MARXIST”.. or THE lowest.. SHILLS (TRADERS TO OUR REPUBLIC!

    • Duh, your argument is completely lost in your lack of grammar. I’ve read and re-read your post and am still at a loss as to what your message is. This is why grammar, spelling and punctuation do matter.

    • You are right. The disinformation campaign conducted by the Marxists is ubiquitous and endorsed by both the media and technology conglomerates.

      However, we on the right are also fully capable of spitting, and falling for, misinformation. The “fringe means an admiralty court” conspiracy is a famous example, and will not die, even when confronted by the fact that the Navy and Marines DO NOT USE THE FRINGE. For that reason, an admiralty court would NEVER have yellow fringe on the flag.

  6. Speaking of grammar. Is the government unaware that using all caps for a proper name is improper grammar? What about the gold tassels on the flag are those decoration too?

  7. I present the United States Colors on my house (without gold fringe). This is the legal name of a flag similar to the US Flag but with overall seminarians 1.0 to 1.5. The US Flag has overall dimensions of 1.0 to 1.9,allowing it to be folded in triangles 13 times.

    I believe that the gold fringe does denote military and as a civilian refuse to allow a gold fringe flag in or on my house. I was US military for 14years but am now a peaceful law abiding civilian.

  8. Possibly I should have added gold fringe to the bottom of my wedding dress to ‘decorate’ it more! It is ridiculous that we would decorate our American Flag more!
    I love our military. I love our country. But why do we find the need to add color? material? to a finished product of such symbolism? The Stars each mean something, as do the stripes. Nothing else is needed.
    If our military chose to add fringe for ceremonial reasons, silly but ok. This should not be the flag that represents our country. Get the fringe off our US FLAG!!!

  9. My father was in the USAF, stationed in Korea for a year, he learned that the flag on the table between North and South Korea were supposed to be a certain size with a certain size pole. The story was that the North Korean wanted their flag to look larger so they put a taller base under the flag pole. Then the south made a flag with a fringe to make it larger.

    I was told that gold fringe flags are ceremonial flags and only added the fringe to look pretty an n me draw attention.

  10. From the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Washington D.C.,…”Out of respect for the U.S. flag, never: place anything on the flag, including letters, insignia, or designs of any kind.” If that Isn’t explanatory enough then I don’t think anything would be! Considering that the interpretation of the Standards concerning the flag are given over to the American Legion, a Border on the American flag is illegal!!!

  11. I’m not an expert in law and never will attest to being such. But I’d make some observations and suggestions.
    First of all, i notice there is a lit of name-calling on both sides. “Communists, tinfoil-hat-wearers, fascists, etc”. I was always raised to understand that ppl with weak arguments resort to name-calling.
    Secondly, ive been searching on google for an hour now and no one has been able to explain WHY there is a fringe. Just saying that its not defacing (no one said it WAS defacing 🤷‍♂️). I say you get a crafty person to make all kinds of fringes then. “Just for decoration”. How bout a rainbow fringe for pride day?

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