Want more? Follow us on Facebook!Follow the Cut
Bad news, patriots. Slate reports that your American flag Chuck Taylors are frowned upon by the federal government. “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform,” says the Flag Code, which has been part of the U.S. code since 1942, though not enforced. “Think of it as a sort of federally mandated Miss Manners manifesto,” writes Troy Patterson.
This was a huge disappointment to me: I’ve always thought of the stars and stripes as officially sanctioned pattern-mixing. In fact, getting dressed up for the Fourth of July is the only time I reliably feel glad to be American. I didn't catch a single U.S. World Cup game, but I've been planning my barbecue outfit for weeks. In addition to being our nation’s birthday, it is the one day a year when a cynical, grayscale urban-dweller can sport a loud combination of red and blue, stars and stripes. (No one at work even has to know.) Americans are objectively blessed, palette-wise: These colors don’t run — or look bad on anyone!
I blame my annual flag mania on Old Navy’s very American consumer-conditioning. When I was a kid, the store began releasing its flag T-shirts each Fourth of July. At $4 a pop, I could afford to be completist about them. And when I outgrew the tees, Old Navy was waiting with flag-print bikinis — stars over the left breast, where I imagined I would rest my hand as I sang the national anthem on a yacht.
The yacht has yet to appear, but flag apparel remains an aspirational purchase I still enjoy. These days, I begin categorizing potential purchases as “good for the Fourth” — and the associated promise of warmth and fun — sometime in March. It’s kind of like the sequined miniskirt you’re positive you’ll wear on New Year’s, thereby transforming yourself into a person with something glamorous to do — when I buy stars and stripes, I believe that someday I will find myself on that yacht, or at least in a backyard. And I think others feel similarly. Consider Chubbies, the bro-cult shorts with a brief, five-and-a-half-inch inseam. Would so many men be willing to bare their thighs without the insta-testosterone imparted by the stars and stripes? I know a woman with an American flag vest, and when she wears it to karaoke, she becomes Bruce Springsteen.
I don't think of wearing the American flag one day a year as pure irony, but it can be — with apologies to the Flag Code — a kind of costume. I’m dressing up as the kind of person who doesn’t instinctively chafe at any display of nationalism. Patterson warns that the flag “represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing,” and it is our “patriotic duty to think hard about the ethics and aesthetics of our dialogue with it” before turning it into a tube top. But, truth be told, being a critical citizen 364 days a year is exhausting. On the other day, I want to wear some bold colors, drink from a matching Budweiser flag can, eat hormone-stuffed beef, and watch massive explosions over the sky or, failing that, in a Michael Bay movie. It’s not about turning off your critical faculties in favor of blind chauvinism. Just pausing long enough to celebrate living in a country that permits constant self-criticism.
To that end, my flag-wearing style icons are Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst, who fashion skimpy outfits from an American flag in the 1999 movie Dick, which reimagined the Watergate scandal if it had been uncovered by a pair of ditzy but principled teenage girls in killer, DIY American flag crop tops. "Isn't it illegal to cut up the flag?" Dunst asks. "Not if you sew it back together," Williams reasons. It’s political satire, but a hopeful one.
Most Viewed Stories
I Tried Hillary Clinton’s Diet and Now I Sympathize With Her
Brad Pitt Fights Back Against Angelina Jolie and Her Plot to ‘Destroy’ Him
Looks Like Kate Middleton Is Enjoying the View in Canada
What It’s Like to Be a Female Reporter Covering Donald Trump
Blake Lively Reportedly Just Gave Birth, and You’ll Never Guess Who’s Running to the Hospital
The Best Part of Being a Royal Is Getting to Pet Bunnies
Angelina Jolie Got Everything She Wanted in Temporary Divorce Deal With Brad Pitt
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Trump Campaign Manager Accidentally Refers to His ‘Abuse’ of Women on Live TV
Megyn Kelly Roasts Trump’s Campaign Manager for Claiming He Doesn’t Make Sexist Comments
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesThe Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.