The World Cup has the Kelly family in a flag frenzy. The Flags of the World poster is perched by the television. As teams enter the arena and flags are carried horizontally across the field, my kids search until they locate the matching flag on the poster. Games have been created: guess how many flags around the world have a star on them? How many have the color red in them? Which flag is just one solid color?
We could use a replacement for our sun-bleached Stars and Stripes, and it’s a good time for the Kelly children to learn some flag etiquette.
Sunward Flag in Sorrento Mesa manufactures large flags (858-689-8444; sunwardflag.com). “There are two flag materials that we use,” says owner John Russell. “One is Solar Max nylon, which is the industry standard for flags. It has a coating that prevents the sun from degrading the nylon, and it’s a shiny material. The other material is called two-ply poly, which is a looser weave, almost antique-like canvasy-looking material. It’s what we typically see in a very large flag.”
How large are we talking?
“We made a 20-by-30-foot Betsy Ross U.S. flag for the USS George Washington. We make lots of flags for the Navy.” A 20-by-30 flag costs around $600. Sunward also sells smaller flags that are manufactured elsewhere.
What should a consumer look for when buying a flag?
“Look for double stitching all the way around, on all the seams. Look for ‘Made in America,’ which, surprisingly, is becoming an issue. Look for reinforced edging, so on the fly edge of the flag there are four rows of stitching. And added extra reinforcing on the corners.”
Russell offers some flag-maintenance tips. “When it gets halfway through its life, put up a new flag and wash the old flag. The dust and dirt that are in the fibers are like little razor blades in the fabric, so as it flaps back and forth, all the dirt is cutting the fibers of the flag. And take the flag down during big storms. It’ll last longer if you keep it out of the wind.”
Sunward sells and installs flagpoles. “The price will range from $150 to $600 for home poles, plus installation.”
Flag size, Russell explains, is determined by pole size. “For a pole that’s in the ground, the rule of thumb is that you go for 25 percent to 33 percent, or a quarter to a third the size of the pole. The most common house pole is 20 feet, so a quarter of 20 feet would be 5, so a 3-by-5 flag.”
Russell fills me in on flag protocol. “The U.S. flag should be as large as any other flag on the pole, and it always has to be in the position of prominence — that typically means at the top. You don’t want the flag out at night unless it is lit, and the level of lighting is important — you have to be able to see the color at night. The origin of that is that the sun never sets on the U.S. empire.” Sunward sells solar-powered lights for nighttime flag flying.
“In a parade or in a stadium — where they have those flags that are almost the size of the entire stadium floor, and they have them horizontally — they are not supposed to do that. The flag is not supposed to be carried in a horizontal position like that. And the flag is not supposed to be part of clothing, period. It is not decorative; it is not a decorative accessory.”
“To fly a torn flag is a total lack of respect,” adds Jane Cushman, manager at All the King’s Flags in Old Town (619-295-9392). “And, of course, the U.S. flag is flown at half mast by presidential decree only.”
Protocol demands that old or damaged flags be disposed of properly. “We properly dispose of U.S. flags free of charge,” says Cushman. “We have them ceremoniously incinerated.”
All the King’s Flags carries all U.N. flags, state flags, an array of courtesy flags and signal flags, and military flags. They also sell poles. A 4-by-6 Solar Max nylon outdoor flag costs $31.35.