Show your colors (correctly)

American flag etiquette for businesses

There was a time when nearly every business on the main street of a small town displayed an American flag outside its storefront. It gave a town a kind of Norman Rockwell feel.

A majority of businesses continue that tradition, including in many mid-Michigan communities. You can often find the Stars and Stripes displayed from flag brackets attached to the sides of buildings. Other manufacturing plants and businesses fly huge American flags from tall flagpoles, often accompanied by the Michigan flag. Another way flags can be displayed is by affixing them to a wall or in a window.

Even if a business owner decides only to display Old Glory on designated holidays this summer and autumn – Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Constitution Day – proper flag etiquette should be observed.

According to, there are rules for how and when the American flag can be flown.

Using a flagpole: First and foremost, the American flag should be flown the highest if used with another flag or a group of flags. The U.S. flag should always be raised first and lowered last. If the flag of another country is to be displayed with the American flag, the foreign flag must be on a different flagpole, but the Michigan flag may fly beneath the Stars and Stripes on a single flagpole.

Window flag displays: If displayed in a storefront window or on a wall, the flag may hang vertically or horizontally, but always with the field of stars, called the Union, on the viewer’s upper left (referred to as “to the flag’s right”).

Night display: The U.S. flag may be flown at night if it is properly illuminated, which the American Legion defines as: A light specifically placed to illuminate the flag (preferred) or having a light source sufficient to illuminate the flag so it is recognizable as such by the casual observer.

Other elements of the U.S. Flag Code include:

  • The flag should not touch anything beneath it, including the ground. This indicates that care should be exercised in the handling of the flag to protect it from becoming soiled or damaged. It is not necessary to destroy a flag if it touches the ground, as long as it remains suitable for display.
  • It is allowable to wash or dry clean an American flag.
  • According to the flag code (but often disregarded, as the code is merely instructional), “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”
  • The flag should be removed during inclement weather, unless it is an all-weather flag, which according to the American Flag Foundation means the flag is made of nylon, or other nonabsorbent material.




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