I realize the the old story about Betsy Ross and George Washington and the American flag was pretty much made up by her grandson and is probably about 95% false, but I’d still like to send a bit of gratitude their way. It’s not that I’m particularly patriotic; it’s that I am really really fond of the red, white and blue color combination.
I realized that I must had sent the message out quite clearly when fellow fashion history blogger and internet friend Lynn recently sent a red, white and blue Vera scarf my way, and she mentioned that she had noticed I favored the combination. And she didn’t even have the benefit of this view of my closet:
As far back as I can remember, I’ve associated red,white, and blue with summer. Perhaps that is because the Fourth of July is in summer. Even though the US Bicentennial was not until 1976, the lead up to it was a very big deal, with the flag colors being very popular throughout the early and mid 1970s. I was reminded of that this week when I read the Joyatri blog, who had featured a series of magazine layouts from the early 1970s.
Look at Jo’s photos and you’ll see a lot of stars and stripes, but you’ll not see an actual depiction of the US flag, although that shoulder bag is pretty darned close. That’s because according to the United States Flag Code, the flag cannot be used as wearing apparel. In the late 1960s and early seventies there were all kinds of challenges to this law, including rock singers and hippies wearing the flag as a cape or as patches on their jeans. This caused a furor, but times have changed and today we think nothing of the flag being printed on everything from tee shirts to boxer shorts.
My favorite flag/apparel story comes from Deanna Littell who was a designer at the Paraphernalia boutique in the mid 1960s. She designed a shirt made from the little cotton flags that people wave at parades, and found a supplier who could provide the flags by the yard. The design was ready to go into production when Paraphernalia learned that the DAR was looking for flag defilers, and that they were prosecuting offenders. The design was scraped. The Supreme Court has since ruled that violations of the Flag Code cannot be prosecuted as it is an infringement of the right of free speech.
I’m not the only one thinking of red, white, and blue. Bill Cunningham’s On the Street video for the New York Times this week features this summer standby as well. As he said, “It’s a time for sporting red, white and blue!”