This article used to be All About Flag Sizes that I wrote back in 2013 but I felt it needed expanding.
The Outside Flag
- Garrison: 20′ x 38′
- Post flag: 8′ 11 3/8″ x 17′ (Army) and 10′ x 19′ (MC/N/CG)
- Field flag: 6’8″ x 12′ (Army)
- Storm flag: 5′ x 9’6″ (Army) and 5′ x 9′ (MC/N/CG)
- Internment flag: 5′ x 9’6″ (use cotton only!)
- boat flag: 3′ x 4′ (3′ x 5′)
- Ensign: 2′ 4 7/16″ x 4’6″
The Indoor-Outdoor Flag
- Indoor-Outdoor/ceremonial display (pole hem, with or without fringe): 3′ x 4′ and 4’4″ x 5’6″
A flag does not have fringe when it is flown from a stationary (at right) or mounted pole (just below). These are outside flags and are never fringed.
A flag for a color guard has fringe and is what a color team carries and presents or posts. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard forbid fringe on the National Ensign, but all departmental and organizational flags must have gold-colored fringe.
The Army and Air Force require gold-colored fringe on all flags. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard forbid fringe on the national but require fringe on the departmental and organizational.
The Space Force departmental, organizational, and general officer flags must have silver-colored fringe. This is mandatory and you must request it from the flag company (go to www.colonialflag.com).
Historically, fringe was used to keep a flag clean. Supposedly, it generates static electricity and that attracts the dirt from the flag material. This seems to be an accurate use from the time of the US Civil War.
If you do some research, you can find a theory that states that gold fringe on the US flag means that maritime law is in effect (especially in a court of law) and that set of laws is very different from the law of the land. There is also the connection between the United States, a corporation, and the United States of America, the country.
The information is a bit complicated and convoluted. I’m not going to completely discount it, but I’m not ready to fully accept the theory because: The Flag Code states nothing will be attached to the American flag (this is why the Marine Corps forbids fringe) and then the Army comes along and codifies attaching fringe as purely an affectation saying that the flag then becomes a “ceremonial color”. It doesn’t add up.
To make things more interesting, in the ceremonial drill world, for state (federal government) arrival/departure ceremonies, none of the international flags have fringe. This is because many other countries simply forbid the fringe while others have elaborate fringe color and length requirements.
The photo below shows an arrival ceremony at the Pentagon for a Japanese dignitary.
Color Guard Flag Sizes
- US flags: 3’ x 4’, (3’ x 5’ is not used in the military), 4’4” x 5’6”
- Army, AF, & SF departmental flags: 3’ x 4’ and 4’4″ x 5’6″
- MC, Navy, and CG departmental flags: 4’4″ x 5’6″
- Organizational flags: 3’ x 4’
- General/Admiral flags: 3’ x 4’ and 3’ x 5’
- JROTC organizational flags: 3’ x 4’
- Civil Air Patrol flags: 3′ x 4′ or 3′ x 5′ 8 3/8″ (CAPR900-2 Section B)
- Young marines: 3′ x 4′ or 4’4” x 5’6” (MCO 10520.3)
- Sea Cadets: 3′ x 4′ or 4’4” x 5’6” (NTP 13B)
Flag and Staff Sizes
Mount and carry the smaller flags on eight-foot flagstaffs and the larger flags sizes on nine-foot six-inch flagstaffs. These are the only two sizes used by a military or military-type color teams, except the Air Force.
The USAF had the 10′ staff as the taller one, but a recent change in AFI 34-1201 has 9′ for the taller size. When posting colors, the AF recommends the 7′ staff (this size of staff is not authorized for any other colors situation at all, period. It is ONLY for posting.).
The 10′ staff is only for the Presidential colors. The Army uses 8′ and 9.5′ staffs. The Air Force and Space Force should be using the same. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard may only use the 9.5′ staff and the larger flag.
Note: The US Army does not have a size restriction for staffs and flags. You will often see an Army color guard carrying the 9.5′ staff with 3′ x 4′ flags mounted. I think it looks a bit odd, but the flag material stays out of the team’s faces.
US Army Regulation 840-10, Section 7-11 states that state flags shall be 3′ x 4′ or 4’4″ x 5’6″. However, one question that DeVaughn Simper, vexillologist at Colonial Flag, receives from the National Guard is: which guidance do they follow? the AR or the State statute?” He refers them to their chain of command since that decision is usually handled by the state Adjutant General.
- Each state has a different statute as to the legal size of the flag.
- Utah: 3 ‘x 5’
- New York: 3′ x 6′ (1:2 ratio)
- Rhode Island: 3′ x 3.5′ (1:1.3 ratio)
- Connecticut: 3′ x 3.8′ (1:1.3 ratio)
Now read up on All About the Color Guard Nomenclature of the American Flag, All About the Flagstaff, Flagstaff Ornaments, The Only Time the Spread Eagle is Used, How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff, To Fringe or not to Fringe, that is the Question
A BIG thank you to DeVaughn Simper of Colonial Flag for helping with the flag size information!