Why Is the U.S. Flag Worn Backwards on Army Uniforms?

The answer dates back to the mounted cavalry

American flag patch on army uniform
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U.S. Army uniforms feature the U.S. flag, which is worn backwards. Civilians often wonder why the flag is reversed when worn as a patch on a uniform.

As it turns out, not all U.S. flag patches are reversed — only those worn on the right shoulder.

The reason has to do with proper display of the flag. The blue field of stars should always be in the highest position of honor, which is the right shoulder.

How Flags Are Worn on Army Uniforms

Army Regulation 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, is the governing authority for how Army uniforms are worn. Specifically, paragraph 28-18 governs the wear of the United States Flag on Army Uniforms.

Specifically, the regulation states that: "All Soldiers will wear the full-color U.S. flag embroidered insignia on utility and organizational uniforms, unless deployed or in a field environment. Soldiers will wear the subdued tactical flag insignia while deployed or in a field environment."

The subdued tactical flag worn on deployments or in the field features muted colors.

Formerly, U.S. Army regulations had required the flag to be worn only during joint-duty and multinational deployments, and stated that it should be removed when the service member returned to home station. However, the flag became a mandatory uniform component at all times in 2005.

The Official Reason for the Backwards American Flag

Basically, the idea behind the backwards American flag on Army uniforms is to make it look as though the flag is flying in the breeze as the person wearing it moves forward.

The rule dates back to the Army's early history, when both mounted cavalry and infantry units would designate a standard bearer, who carried the flag into battle.

As this standard bearer charged, his forward momentum caused the flag to stream back. Since the Stars and Stripes are mounted with the canton closest to the pole, that section of the flag stayed to the right, while the stripes flew to the left.

Therefore, the flag is worn on the right shoulder, and wearing it backwards gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.

Chapter 1, Title 4, United States Code, provides for the design of the U.S. flag and specifies the colors as red, white, and blue.

When approved for wear, the full-color U.S. flag cloth replica is sewn half an inch below the right shoulder seam. It should be worn with the temperate, hot-weather, enhanced hot-weather, and desert battle dress uniform; the battle dress uniform field jacket; and the cold-weather uniform.

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