What Does The American Flag With A Blue Stripe Mean?- Answers

The United States uses the Star-Spangled Banner as the official flag. Each star, stripe, and color have a deep meaning. It is a flag that encapsulates the history of the United States of America.

The flag has 50 stars. Each of the stars represents a state in the Union. The flag also has 13 stripes that represent the 13 colonies. These colonies existed in the imperial era.

Red represents struggle and graft. Blue represents justice and perseverance, while white is a symbol of purity.

All 50 states have their unique flag representing their unique history and traditions. These state flags fly alongside the Star-Spangled Banner in front of government buildings.

There are several iterations of the American flag today. One of the most common variations in the dark flag with blue stripes. So,

What does the American flag with a blue stripe mean?

The flag with a blue stripe flies to show support for Law Enforcement. The blue stripe represents a thin blue line. The thin blue line represents the idea that law enforcement is the only thing preventing society from descending into anarchy.

The History Of The Thin Blue Line

The thin blue line on flags is not anything new. There have been several iterations and uses of the strip in flags throughout history.

The origin of this strip can be traced back to 1858. It has historical significance and does not always have an affiliation to law enforcement.

What are the true origins of the thin blue line?

Ironically, the term was formed from the ‘thin red line.’ The thin red line was a military formation used by the Scotts during the Crimean war in 1854.

Russia was at war with France, the UK, and the Ottoman Empire over Christian minority rights in the Palestine region. One of the epic battles of the Crimean war saw scores of Russian troops defeated by a Scottish army.

The army held a linear formation and withstood Russian attacks before eventually defeating them. The linear formation was famously referred to as the thin red line.

Historically, United States military members wore blue uniforms on the battlefield. Nels Anderson, a poet, coined the phrase ‘thin blue line’ to reference the United States Military in one of his poems.

So, how did the term make its way to law enforcement?

A New York Chief Commissioner, Richard Enright, is thought to have been the first to associate the term with law enforcement. Bill Parker continued to use the phrase in his speeches in the mid-twentieth century.

The term became so common that a Los Angeles NBC station labeled one of their shows ‘the Thin Blue Line.’ The Massachusetts government officially used the term in 1965 to reference law enforcement.

Many films have adopted the term, such as Errol’s Documentary in 1988. A British comedy show featuring Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean)- depicting the lives of police officers also used the title.

Controversy Surrounding The Use Of Thin Strips On Flags

The thin stripes are contentious in the United States and other countries. The thin line has undoubtedly antagonized the masses as people have varying perceptions of law enforcement personnel.

The term ‘Thin Blue Line’ is closely affiliated with the blue wall of silence. It is a secret code among law enforcement officials. 

Its premise is that members of law enforcement ought to conceal cases of misconduct, such as the excessive use of force or evidence tampering.

The Thin stripped flag has also become synonymous with the Blue Lives Matter movement. Individuals justifying the use of force in the line of duty formed the movement. The movement is opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Canada Anti-Hate movement has encountered the use of the flag in hate group social media circles.

Perhaps the most controversial flag use was in the 2017 Unite the Right rally. Attendees were flying the flag alongside the confederate flags and flags bearing swastika signs.

There have been several injunctions worldwide to dissociate the use of the line from law enforcement.

Toronto police officers were ordered not to use the symbol after citizens photographed some officers wearing it on official police apparel. The Service Clothing Committee gave the orders.

In Florida, officers were ordered by their captain not to fly the flag after a portion of them were spotted using it on squad cars.

The Middleton Police Department took down the flag on orders from the mayor and the chief of police. The citizens petitioned the city to take the flag down.

In the United Kingdom, the government banned the use of the strip across the Union Jack. The strip is seen as a symbol of a political association, hence removed from all police apparel.

The United States Flag Etiquette

The United States has strict guidelines regarding the use of the Star-Spangled Banner. These rules are in place as a sign of respect and reverence for the flag.

Some of the general rules are:

1. Dipping

The flag of the United States should never be dipped to any individual. The rule extends to interaction with foreign authorities such as presidents and kings. Dipping is seen as a sign of submissiveness against the core of American attitudes.

A special exemption is made to this rule. Dipping is allowed when a United States naval vessel reciprocates a salute to a foreign naval vessel. It is a sign of respect in this case.

2. Retiring an American flag

The American flag should be retired if worn, torn, or tattered. The flags should never be displayed when in a bad state.

On the 14th of June, flags are retired in a ceremony. The day is officially recognized as national Flag Day. Old flags usually are burnt.

3. Displaying an American flag

When displaying an American flag, it must never touch the ground. All American flags should be light at night.

It would be best to display the flag on the right side of vehicles. It should occupy the front within the driver’s line of sight. The flag should be on the right-hand side, towards the front, when displayed on apparel.

There are exceptions made for apparel. On some military uniforms, the flag is displayed over the left shoulder.

In funerals, the flag covers the deceased coffin or casket. The flag is then correctly folded and handed to the next kin before the casket gets lowered into the ground. Buring the flag underground is prohibited.

The flag flies at half-mast on special occasions such as days of mourning or in the wake of national tragedies. The president decrees when the flag is to fly at half-mast in all states. The governors may also give the orders in their states.

4. Commercial use

It would be best never to use the United States flag for commercial purposes. It is prohibitable for advertisers to use the flag for marketing their merchandise. 

You are not permitted to brand any items using the Star-spangled Banner. Many people disregard the rule.

Symbolism And The Star-Spangled Banner

The United States flag is the most recognized symbol for the country globally. The flag is commonly linked with patriotism and national pride.

Flags fly in households, civilian cars, restaurants, and other public places. American athletes carry it to formal sporting events such as the Olympics.

The flags fly outside public buildings such as national libraries, town halls, official government residences, among other places.

The flag flies in all embassies outside the United States alongside the flags of those countries.

The flag is also commonly used on all United States vessels such as ships, airplanes, spacecraft, tanks, etc.

There has been a fair bit of criticism surrounding the casual use of the flag outside the state’s official business. The flag is thought to have been desecrated several times by civilians due to casual use.

The first amendment rights give civilians the right to use the flag, protected under freedom of speech. Contention comes in when the people fail to observe flag etiquette. Unlike some countries, the United States has no punitive measures on desecrating the flag.

The flag is a unifying symbol that Americans use. Each state has its own flag, but the Union is strong under the Star-spangled Banner.

The colors red, white, and blue have always remained present, despite the different flag variations.


The American flag with a thin blue stripe is an iteration of the Star-Spangled Banner. It is used symbolically by people who wish to support law enforcement. Precincts and other territories usually fly the flag.

The flag has written with it a fair bit of controversy. Several jurisdictions have banned the use of the blue stripe flag. In such areas, people perceive the flag as a representation of police extremism. The flag is still used today by many supporters of law enforcement.

John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor is a seasoned writer with more than 10 years of experience as a professional. He has written professionally for many different organizations, such as The Atlantic and the Boston Globe. John can write on any topic you need him to cover, from business writing to creative nonfiction pieces. His portfolio speaks for his skills; he's not only an experienced writer but also an excellent editor and researcher!


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