By W.F. Strong
If you were ever to start a new country, one of the first tasks you’d have to undertake would be to design a flag. Are you really a country if you don’t have a flag to advertise your existence – a flag that can fly atop skyscrapers, state houses, schools and ships at sea? Now cities and even corporations have flags, as do organizations and social movements.
I’m proud to tell you that according to Ted Kaye, one of the world’s leading vexillologists – a fancy word for one who studies flags – the Texas flag is the best-selling of all the state flags. It also rates almost perfect in artistic design. That’s the conclusion of one landmark study by the North American Vexillological Association (try saying that after three beers at sea). The study rated all national, state and territorial flags of North America and found that only New Mexico’s flag had just a smidgen of a better design.
Ted Kaye says these are the five rules of good design.: first, keep it simple – so simple a child can draw it from memory. Use meaningful symbolism. Use two to three basic colors – no more than three. No lettering. No words. The design should speak for itself. Do you hear it saying Lone Star State? Yep. And finally, your design should be distinctive. I know what you’re thinking – the Chilean flag. There are accidental similarities, but there is no evidence at all that the Chilean design influenced ours.
Not only is the Texas flag the best-selling state flag, it is also displayed more in all its forms than any other state flag.
Drive down any neighborhood street in Texas and you will see the flag flying proudly in the Texas breeze on 30 and 40 foot poles in many a yard. It’s displayed from wall mounts on porches or over garages. You will see it over car dealerships and on top of skyscrapers in cities. In the countryside, you’ll see it at the entrance to farms and ranches, perhaps with the Stars and Stripes next to it.
It’s at the beach, fluttering and snapping smartly behind four-wheel-drive pickups. Or on boats and at makeshift campsites and even over children’s forts in the woods. It’s found in dorm rooms and in shopping malls. It’s everywhere.
And when it’s not in cloth form, you will find it displayed in many a medium. It’s painted on barns. You can’t drive very far in rural Texas without seeing a barn flag. I’ve never seen a Nebraska barn flag. I see many a Texas flag painted on gates, too. Beautiful. Never seen a Michigan flag gate, either. And though it’s not the same, I’d like to point out that we’re the only state with our own toast. There’s no Oregon toast. There’s no Florida-shaped waffle maker either.
Yes, the Texas flag is everywhere: t-shirts, swimsuits, towels, bikinis, boots, belt-buckles, earrings and tattoos. We have Texas flag picnic tables, tablecloths and stools. And if it’s not a flag, we have the Texas star as a stand-in, on the side of our houses, hanging on the wall in the kitchen, or on the apron we’re barbecuing with. I have even seen a Texas star barbecue grill cover.
John Steinbeck pointed out that the deep love and commitment Texans have for their state closely approximates that of a religion. Based on the affection we have for our symbols; it seems that we are an extraordinarily devout people. As this is radio I can’t end with the flag, but I can play Willie. You can hear Texas in his voice.