Look closely at many uniforms, and you’ll notice something that at first glance looks strange: an American flag patch that appears to be backward, with the star field facing right instead of left.
VERIFY viewer Donald noticed such a patch on the jerseys of Team USA at the World Baseball Classic in March.
So why do these patches appear backward? Is it a mistake or was it intentional?
Can American flags appear backward on uniforms on purpose?
Yes, American flags can appear backward on uniforms on purpose.
WHAT WE FOUND
The jerseys of Team USA aren’t the only place you might run into backward flag patches. They’re also on many military uniforms.
And what nearly all backward-facing flags have in common is that they’re found on the right sleeve of the uniform (or the right side of a helmet or vehicle).
Guidelines for respectful use of the American flag are set in 4 U.S. Code § 8. Often called the “flag code,” it’s largely non-binding.
The code says “a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations” but doesn’t provide more specific requirements regarding the appearance or orientation of that patch.
The U.S. Army has regulations that go into further detail, and are the origin of the flipped flag.
Army Regulation 670-1 instructs that “the… U.S. flag… is worn so that the star field faces forward… When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”
The idea is to make it appear as though the soldier is carrying a flag into battle, not retreating away from it. That means when the flag is on the right sleeve the stars must face right in order for them to face forward, making the flag as a whole appear backward.
USA Baseball chose to follow this tradition for their uniforms.
“USA Baseball traditionally wears the flag on the right sleeve, and, per military uniform regulation, the star field always faces forward,” the organization explains on its website.
Other institutions that may utilize flag patches – such as police departments or security agencies – generally also follow Army regulations and have right-sleeve patches with the flag appearing backward.