Why Are Flag Patches on Uniforms Backward?

Published on
December 14, 2021 9:21:00 AM PST December 14, 2021 9:21:00 AM PSTth, December 14, 2021 9:21:00 AM PST

The flag is one of the crucial elements of every country in the world and is to be treated with respect. As a matter of fact, there are so many rules on how to properly fly a flag or wear it. For this reason, a rightful question arises: why are flag patches on uniforms backward? The explanation is very logical and we’ll also expand on when the flag can be in the usual position and why.


Movement Is in the Eye of the Beholder


To explain the reason why the stars are “in the wrong place” on uniform patches, we have to use our imagination a bit.


Imagine that you see an army ready to go into battle, perhaps even the Civil War. There’s the soldier with the flag pole, waiting for the bugle to sound the charge. The flag is hanging or perhaps flying a bit if it’s windy. Once the charge is commanded, the flagpole is lifted and the flag starts flying with the soldier moving forward, right? In that case, the stars will be positioned right to the flag pole during the forward movement.



It is for this reason in particular that the flag patches sewn onto the soldier and police uniforms are made like this. To imitate the forward movement, which in fact symbolizes power and winning the battle. If you think about it, the flag would have its stars to the left in the opposite scenario — retreating or losing the battle.


As the flag is sewn onto the uniform sleeve, it seems like every soldier is carrying the flag into the battle. Thus, it is only natural to have the union part on the right side.


Right vs Left


For the majority, the flag is worn on the right sleeve. However, the law does not explicitly say that only the right sleeve is the “right” sleeve for wearing the flag. Either way, even when it is on the left sleeve, the flag patch is still backward.


Rules and Regulations


If you wish to see this in fine print, you should check the Department of the Army Regulation 670-1, Guide to the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, and look for Chapter 19. There it is clearly stated that the effect of the flag flying in the breeze has to be shown. In other words, the union part is to the flag’s own right.


Bonus: Color or No Color


Until recently, even the camouflage uniforms had the Old Glory patch in its natural blue, red, and white. However, due to the functionality and the purpose of the uniform, it is now accepted that the flag patch matches the colors used for the updated Army Battle Dress Uniform.




To sum things up, let’s finish by reminding you that the flag seems to be backward not only on uniforms but on presidential vehicles. During a parade, the flag will seem reversed, yet it is actually in the normal advancing motion.