Ladies, Please Stop Wearing American Flag Bikinis

flag bikiniThis is wrong on so many levels. (Photo via Thinkstock)


The Fourth of July is just a couple of days away. The Olympics Opening Ceremony isn’t too far out, either. Americans everywhere are gearing up for the festivities. And this means that American flag bikinis — those ostensibly patriotic, polyester eyesores — are returning to a beach near you.

Ah, yes. The American flag bikini: A classic staple of highway-exit, discount beachwear retailers everywhere. Always advertised at the same low price, flag bikinis appear on billboards year after year alongside other such gems as the Beach Patrol mank-top (read: man tank-top) and the 99-cent genuine shark tooth necklace. And these days, it seems like these patriotic suits are going mainstream: Ralph Lauren and Lucky Brand are both offering their take on the eternal style this season. Finally, the major labels have picked up on what the designers at Wings have known all along: Stars and horizontal stripes are both fashion-forward and slimming.

What is the logic behind showing your pride in our nation than by wearing its flag on a couple of flimsy pieces of fabric stretched across your hips, butt, and boobs?

Note that I say “flag” here, and not flag-print, flag-painted, or other such descriptors that might differentiate between the American flag that’s proudly flown over the Capitol and those sold in bikini form — or worse, in flip-flop form. I avoid these descriptors because there is no difference.

That’s right: No difference.

That’s because an American flag is “any flag, standard, colors, ensign, or any picture or representation […] made of any substance or represented on any substance, of any size evidently purporting to be either of said flag, standard, colors, or ensign of the United States of America,” according to section three of the U.S. Flag Code.

In fact, “the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,” as section 8d of the code states — not that this provision seems to have stopped anyone as they reached for a flag beach towel or two at their local Wal-Mart.

It seems that the Flag Code has done a rather ineffective job at preventing our flag from being fashioned into beachwear. This is most likely because there’s no penalty for individuals or companies who fail to comply with it — the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such penalties would violate our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Although our Founding Fathers went to great lengths to secure our individual liberties, somehow I don’t think that they had the right to wear a tacky swimsuit in mind while they were drafting the Bill of Rights.

Regardless, it seems that legal action is out of the question when it comes to protecting our flag from such egregious offenses as its use as a butt-cover. (Not that I would seriously advocate a flag-print bikini prohibition. I think we’d all agree that there are larger and more pressing issues at hand in America today.)

But by transforming this symbol of our nation into any number of consumer goods — ranging from swim suits to flip-flops to plastic cups to paper napkins — we are trivializing our flag and everything for which it stands.

As we approach the Fourth of July, I simply ask that we all stop and take a moment to consider the way in which we each display our country’s flag: Does it honor our nation? Does it pay respect to those serving abroad, to those who are fighting to protect our freedoms and dying to protect our shores? And – last and certainly least – does it look flat-out offensive when it’s marching toward you at the beach?

This week, I encourage everyone to let the American flag fly high — but please, don’t wear it.