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An American flag lapel pin has become more integrated into American culture throughout the years. With a long history, these flag pins have transformed the way civilians and politicians communicate their ideas.

Tradition says they are to be held to almost the same respect as the American flag itself. However, changing times and crisis have seen the flag pin otherwise. Either way, they are worth seeing how meaningful they have been to our country’s development.

Origins of the Flag Pin

If we look at the origin of an American flag pin, we look towards the history of the American flag itself. Waving the American flag is a cherished tradition in the United States. It goes without saying that it is symbol looked at with near religious reverence.

It is a tradition that many people believe starts during the American Revolution. However, Marc Leepson, author of Flag: An American Biography, disgrees. According to Leepson, America’s love affair with the flag began in the Civil War era.

It seems natural to think that the American flag was central to the spirit of the Revolutionary Era. Popular lore says the flag was on the helm of Washington’s boat when he sailed the Delaware. Other imagine American flags decorated storefronts.

In truth, not many people actually owned flags during the Revolutionary period. At the time, only the military or government owned flags. Not to mention, the flag design we know today was not solidified until after the war.

The stars and stripes design actually became widespread during the Civil War. During the early years, the Confederates won many major battles. As a sign of solidarity, the North started to fly the American flag.

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Lapel Pins & The Civil War

Lapel Pins & The Civil War
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Interestingly, just as the North started to fly the American flag, lapel pins also came into use. Granted, lapel pins would not become emblazoned with the image of the American flag until much later.

During the Civil War, lapel pins were created for a very functional reason. They were used to keep units organized and help soldiers recognize their unit members. They also had the unintended effect of creating solidarity between soldiers.

Their use continued into World War I. It was during World War I that lapel pins were used to recognize an individual for their service. From here on out, lapel pins have become a means of reward and distinguishment.

While they had their start in the military, lapel pins have been adopted by a variety of groups. Businesses have been using pins to recognize their employees and as a means of corporate branding. Schools and teams use them for academic achievements and team building.

Fraternities and sororities use it as a mark of membership. And most importantly, lapel pins have become a major part of our political culture.

What Are the Politics Behind the Flag Pin?

What Are the Politics Behind the Flag Pin
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After the Civil War, the American flag became heavily associated with times of crisis. It was during the cultural wars of the 60s and 70s that flag pins would rise to prominence.

The American flag lapel pin became both a unifying and divisive symbol.

Anti-Vietnam protestors, like Abbe Hoffmann, would wear shirts made out of an American flag. They also would sew the American flag into the seat of their pants. In response, republicans started to wear flag lapel pins as a sign of patriotic spirit.

However, it was Richard Nixon who brought national attention to American flag lapel pin. Inspired by The Candidate, Nixon demanded all his aides wear flag pins too.

Since then, United States flag pins continue to make appearances They sold well during the Gulf War and in the aftermath of 9/11. LIke Nixon, President Bush asked his aides to also wear lapel pins.

Many Fox news anchors followed suit, but ABC news had other ideas. ABC actually prohibited their reporters from wearing the flag pin for fear of safety.

How Are Flag Pins Used Today?

Since 9/11, the American flag lapel pin became a symbol for the War on Terror. Moreover, it became a controversial symbol of “either you’re with us or against us” mentality. This mentality would rise up during the 2008 election.

During the 2008 presidential election, then-candidate, Barack Obama, was asked why he was not wearing a US flag pin. Charlie Gibson, the debate moderator, suggested that Obama did not support the flag because he was not wearing a pin.

Obama replied that he felt a person’s patriotism should be defined by their actions, not what they wear. His statement caused so much controversy that Obama eventually resumed wearing a custom American flag pin.

Evidently, the symbol had become so powerful it superceded how Obama feels about its use.

However, since the 2008 elections, it seems the excitement around the American flag pin has died out. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, did not wear one at the 2012 State of the Union Address. At the 2015 republican primaries debate, only 10 out of the 17 candidates wore a pin.

Why Wear an American Flag Lapel Pin?

If we think about the purpose of wearing a flag pin, we think of it in conjunction for our respect to the American flag. A flag pin represents an appreciation for freedom and democracy. It is a clear sign of patriotism and commitment to a country’s ideals.

In another way, an American flag lapel pin also means silent commemoration. True, the American flag and the pin were not used until after the Revolutionary war. However, they still carry those memories

Remember, what each of the flag’s colors mean. The red stripes of the American flag stand for the blood of those died in the name of bravery and valor. The blue stands for perseverance and justice.

The white is for purity and innocence. The United States was born out of those ideals. And the flag pin continues to carry those ideals into the modern age.

Nowadays, flag pins still have a degree of politics to them. We see them used as gauges for politician’s patriotism. However, to civilians it is a way to still celebrate a vibrant history of freedom and overcoming conflict.

What Is Proper American Flag Lapel Pin Etiquette?

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An American pin, like the American flag, is simply a sign of patriotism. The flag can be waved from houses, cars and parades to celebrate freedom and democracy. Politics aside, civilians and politicians can wear a flag pin to show unity and support for their country.

However, if you want to wear an American flag lapel pin, it is important to follow proper etiquette. True, a lapel pin is a generally universal accessory. But the symbol of the American flag requires a different protocol.

Done incorrectly, wearing a USA flag pin could be grossly misinterpreted. It could be considered disrespectful to the flag. It could even be seen as disrespectful to those who have served in the military.

So let’s take a look at the rules of wearing a US flag pin. They are actually quite similar to how you should wear a flag patch or wave one at your house.

For the most authentic rules when handling the American flag, check out the United States Flag code. 

American Flag Lapel Pin Placement

American Flag Lapel Pin Placement
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The United States Flag code labels a flag as a living country. Therefore, it is a living thing. In this way, it should also be treated as such.

An American flag lapel pin, therefore, should be worn on the left lapel over your heart. Some other organizations might say otherwise, but for respect’s sake, the lapel should be near your heart. In this way, it is symbolic of holding your patriotism close to your heart.

The positioning does vary with the type of clothing you are wearing.

If are dressed more casually, the flag pin should still be worn near your heart. For men who are wearing ties, but not a jacket, should wear the pin as a tie tack. However, the pin should be worn alone.

Moreover, when you wear a flag pin, it should be firmly secured in place. The last thing you want is for the flag to spin around and end up upside down. Not only does the Flag code deem this unacceptable, but other might think you actually oppose the U.S.

Can American Flag Pins Be Worn on Formal Uniforms?

Under the Flag Code, military, first-responders, and other patriotic organizations can wear a flag pin with their uniform. The rules of placement are generally the same.

The American flag pin should be worn on the left lapel of the uniform near the heart. However, for military formal uniforms, active duty grooming rules still apply.

Can American Flag Lapel Pins Be Worn on Costumes?

In general, flag pins are prohibited from being worn with costumes. Again, the flag is considered sacred. As such, they should not be worn under false pretenses.

However, this rule tends to be bended more than often. We have seen flag pins be used in Hollywood movies. Athletes have also worn them during press conferences.

At this point, it is more about the intention of the wearer.

What Is the Standard Size of An American Flag Pin?

What Is the Standard Size of An American Flag Pin
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When it comes to wearing a flag pin, it is all about subtlety. There are no official rules on standard pin sizes. However, wearing a flag pin that is too big can be gaudy.

As such, it is advised that you pick a small design over a big one. A suggested size is around under a half-inch in diameter.

It is a good size that can be worn for a variety of occasions. No matter where you go, it will always look classy.

Traditionally, the pin will always just look like the flag itself. Sometimes it will look like it is billowing in the wind. There are also some designs that fit the American flag into the shape of certain state.

In the latter sense, there are not hard rules about changing the shape. However, you might not want to drift too far from the original design.

In general, treat the US flag pin as you would the flag. Understand that it is a revered sign and should be worn and treated as such.

How Are Flag Pins Made?


Due to its timeless, classic quality, most flag lapel pins are made out of die-struck hard or soft enamel. Both processes are among the most popular, dynamic designs for lapel pins.

Die-struck means the shape of the American pin is stamped from a piece of sturdy metal. The stamping process creates a mold with recessed areas that will be filled with enamel color.

The enamel color is then usually applied by hand. However, depending on the style, the enamel makes a difference in the finish.

Soft enamel pins only have enamel filling about 75% of the recessed areas. This leaves dips rather than smooth surface. This creates a more textured, 3-D appearance that many people enjoy.

Hard enamel pins have enamel filled to the top of the recessed areas. This means the surface is level and smooth. When the pin is heated to dry and set the enamel, you are left with a jewel-like surface.

The hard enamel pins tend to have a classier look to them. Not to mention, they are a little more durable.

Either design still leaves you with a stunning American flag lapel pin. The latter might be more perfect for the traditional American flag imagery.

Where Can You Buy an American Flag Lapel Pin?


There are a variety of places where you can find and purchase flag pins.

The first place you can visit is the White House Gift Shop, online or in person. The White House Gift Shop actually carries two popular designs of an American flag pin. Their designs are classic and very close to the heart of the flag pin tradition.

You can also find United States flag pins at several online stores. Amazon or eBay are easy places to visit for new or refurbished pins. Etsy is also a viable marketplace for flag pins.

However, there are also some other manufacturers who have assorted flag pin designs. Unlike more casual lapel pins, customization is pretty limited, if not prohibited.

An American flag lapel pin is something that truly is handled according to history and tradition. Any unnecessary changes and customizations would defeat the flag’s already powerful meaning.


The American flag lapel pin has had many transformation and interpretations through the years. It has unified brothers in arms, but it has also divided a nation. In times of utter tragedy, it has brought pride and comfort.

No matter the narrative, the flag pin has never failed to mean something to someone. There are memories, history and ideals attached to every American flag lapel pin. Thus, it should be said that even something as small as a flag pin cannot be taken lightly.

That being said, I hope this article was of great help to you. If you have any questions or comments, please share them below!

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