For Flag Day: America's 10 Best State Flags

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

As all you vexillologists out there know so well, it's Flag Day again: the most wonderful day of the year.

Last year's drought and intense heat put us in a sour mood, so we raked ten of the worst state flags over the coals. This year, thanks to all the rain we've been enjoying, we're feeling much better, so much so that we are going to give you the ten best.

As part of their 2001 survey of the best and worst flags on the continent, the North American Vexillological Association came up with five guidelines toward creating a great flag.

First, it should be so simple a child could draw it from memory. Second, there should be symbolism and it should be meaningful. The colors should be basic, and no more than two or three should be employed. Fourth, flags should have no writing on them and seals should be avoided, and last, flags should not duplicate other flags, while retaining some similarities to show connections.

We agree with some but not all of that, and here, without further ado, are our Ten Best American State Flags. 10. Texas

We're putting this down low on the list to avoid accusations of bias; it probably should rank higher, as it lives up to all of NAVA's standards. There's the lone star, symbolic of the Republic of Texas, and the red, white and blue nod to Old Glory. And there are no seals or letters clogging up the picture.

9. Maryland

America's only heraldic flag has Ye Olde Englishe flair. The red-and-white cross represents the Crossland-Mynne family, while the psychedelic gold-and-black checkerboard represents the Calvert family, to which Maryland founder Lord Baltimore belonged. During the Civil War in this border state, Southern sympathizers adopted the Crossland colors while Unionists stuck with the Calvert design. This flag attempts to mend those fences, and does so strikingly.

8. California

Even the sin of having words can be overcome if you put a big old grizzly bear on your flag. Did you know that California's lone star was a rip-off of Texas's design of one year previous? So they totally deserved it when Enron, etc. overcharged them grievously for their electricity back in the rolling-blackout days.

7. Oklahoma

Another cool flag with words; the art-deco-y font helps...NAVA also advises against putting shields on flags, but this one kicks so much ass. The peace pipe and olive branch represent Native Americans and Sooners living together in harmony, and the blue memorializes Choctaw soldiers who served in the Civil War. 6. North Dakota

Like Illinois's only better. In 1953, there was a move to change the flag as some felt it bore too much resemblance to the seal of the United States and had little to do with North Dakota. A bill was introduced and was defeated, because this flag is not to be trifled with.

5. Tennessee

Tennessee takes a Texas-like approach with its simple use of color and clever symbolism: the three stars represent the Volunteer State's "Three Grand Divisions." Namely, mountainous East Tennessee, the rolling bluegrass hills of Middle Tennessee and the cotton country in the west.

4. South Carolina

Outside of Louisiana and parts of Florida and Texas, no state feels more Caribbean than South Carolina, and this flag spells that out perfectly. It's so cool, even the perpetually secessionist locals haven't tried to replace it with some variation of the rebel flag, unlike so many of their Deep South cousins. And now for the top three, all of which are Four Corners states.

3. Colorado

A John Denver song made visible. The red represents the rocks and soil, the white, the snow-capped mountains. There's sunshine in the middle of the cleverly composed "C" and abundant blue skies in the two azure bands.

2. Arizona

The copper star represents Arizona's most prominent natural resource, while the 13 rays behind it nod to western sunsets, America's original colonies and Imperial Spain: Coronado marched under a red-and-gold banner as he searched for the seven lost cities of gold.

1. New Mexico

As with Arizona, the New Mexican flag also nods to the Spanish conquistadors with its colors, but the Land of Enchantment's flag is utterly mystical, an encapsulation of an entire worldview. The symbol is called a "zia" and was common on Pueblo Indian pottery. It represents the sun. Four of the points radiating from it represent the north, south, east and west, and four others are the seasons. Then there are the "seasons" of each day: sunrise, noon, evening and night, and the four obligations we must each undertake in our lives: physical health, clear thinking, spirituality, and loyalty to family and friends. This flag could be your life.

Honorable mention In contrast to its ridiculous state flag, Kansas has an awesome state banner that enjoys official status as an alternate flag, and it would likely have made this list were it deemed the state flag:

Follow Houston Press on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews or @HoustonPress.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.