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Flag etiquette is an important part of the American tradition that ensures the Stars and Stripes are treated with the dignity they deserve. Established by Congress in 1942, the official U.S. Flag Code created guidelines for the care and display of the flag. Although it does not describe an official method for folding the flag, the rules do state that you should never store a flag in a way where it can get torn, soiled, or damaged. You should also never let the flag touch anything beneath it, such as the ground or floor.
Over time, a triangular shape has become the traditional way to fold the flag and store it in a safe manner. According to the American Legion, the exact origin of this specific procedure is unknown, but it may trace back to the Gold Star Mothers of America or the United States Air Force Academy.
You can fly Old Glory any day of the year, but you may want to put away an especially large flag after displaying it on Memorial Day. This method will keep your flag looking pristine until until the Fourth of July or the next major holiday. If you’re by yourself, first lay the flag out on a table face-up, smoothing out any wrinkles. Otherwise, find a partner and stand opposite each other at the short ends, holding the flag taut and parallel to the ground. Here’s what to do next:
How to Fold an American Flag
- Fold the lower, striped section of the flag over the blue field.
- Fold over the folded bottom edge to meet the top edge.
- Begin a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the top edge.
- Turn the outer point inward, parallel with the top edge, to form a second triangle.
- Continue until the final folds ensure that only the Union (the blue portion with white stars) is showing and the open edges are folded in.
See Exactly How to Fold the Flag
A couple tips:
- In the first two steps, you’re essentially folding the flag in quarters lengthwise.
- If you’re folding the flag with a partner, the person at the striped end should make all of the triangular folds while the person at the Union end keeps the flag taut.
Flag etiquette dictates only flying your flag between sunrise and sunset unless it is properly illuminated. You should also take down Old Glory in the event of inclement weather except if it’s an all-weather flag made out of a non-absorbent material like nylon. Only fly American flags in good condition, but as long as you follow these guidelines, your Stars and Stripes will last years to come.