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 anything on our website, you know that almost every element of a flag has a purpose, meaning, and history behind it. So what’s the meaning behind the gold fringe? Well, not a whole lot.

us flag gold fringeThere’s nothing in any flag codes that states the purpose or legality of the gold fringe. However, the fringe is mostly considered to be acceptable flag etiquette. 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, conspiracy theories about flag fringe. The most prominent is that the fringe indicates martial or admiralty law – basically that the constitution does not apply in that area and that whoever is the authority figure in this place has absolute rule. Those who subscribe to this theory find this most troubling in courtrooms, where 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 executive order 10834; however, the text that they cite is completely fabricated.

While there are no U.S. laws on flag fringe, it is mentioned in U.S. Army code. Army Regulation 840-10 states that fringe should be used on indoor and ceremonial flags, but does not state any reason why.

So in conclusion, it’s all for decoration. Most likely a military tradition that has been adopted by civilians. Do you feel like you have substantial evidence to support a theory behind the fringe? Tell us in the comments!

1 Comment on What’s up with gold fringe on flags?

  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.

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