Why Do They Reverse American Flags On Military Uniforms?

If you look at a military uniform, you may see something that looks oddly out of place. On the sleeve of the uniform is the American flag, but it looks like they sewed it on backward.

At first, you might think that it is just a fluke or a mistake on that uniform, but if you dig further, you will find they all look that way.

When you look at a flagpole, the stars are going to be either on the right or the left, depending upon the direction that the wind is blowing and which side of the pole we happen to be standing on at the time.

Photo: flickr/jnn1776

Most of us, however, are used to seeing the stars on the left-hand side. It is how it is often depicted in pictures, including in paintings from battles when they would carry the flag and the wind would be streaming the stripes behind them.

If they were to put the flag with the stars on the right on a military uniform, however, something unexpected happens. Although you might not think about it, as the troops are moving in a forward direction, the flag would appear as if it was retreating. That would obviously be bad for morale, and forward-facing it is a source of pride for everyone who wears it.

Photo: flickr/The U.S. Army

In the Civil War, people would carry the flag into battle and there was someone assigned to hold the flag as they marched forward. That is why you often see the flag with the stars on the right and the stripes on the left in the paintings of those old battle scenes. This was just adopted by the military.

According to Army regulations: “The full-color U.S. flag cloth replica is worn so that the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. 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 appropriate replica for the right shoulder sleeve is identified as the reverse side flag.”

Photo: picryl

The reason why the right shoulder is used to sew the patch is that it is an area of honor. It is where the unit number is sewn on if they are dispatched in combat, but the flag is always about it.

Although most people think that the flag is sewn on backward, when you really think about it, it is going the way it should be going.

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