If you plan to let your patriotic colors fly this Independence Day, do right by Old Glory and display it with dignity — which is to say, not on your stars-and-stripes bikini. The U.S. Flag Code gives guidelines for properly displaying the American flag. The rules are purely advisory and there's no enforcement or penalty for violating them, though there are some exceptions for the District of Columbia and states can make their own flag laws.
Displaying a flag
. Whether hanging horizontally or vertically, the union should be uppermost and to the observer's left (in a window, the observer is the person in the street).
. On Memorial Day, the flag should fly at half-staff until noon and then be hoisted to the peak. (When flying at half-staff, hoist the flag to the peak first before lowering it to half-staff; bring to the peak again before bringing it down for the day).
. The flag should be displayed outside from sunrise to sunset only, unless it's properly illuminated at night.
. When displayed with other national flags, all flags should be the same size and fly from separate staffs of the same height.
. When displayed with other state, local or society flags, the U.S. flag should always be at the peak (if on the same halyard — the rope that hoists the flag); at the center and highest point (if in a cluster of staffs); and hoisted first and lowered last (if on adjacent flag poles). No other flag should be above it or to the flag's own right.
. From crossed staffs, the U.S. flag should be on the observer's left, with its staff in front.
. When marching, the flag should be carried on the marching right, or, if there's a line of flags, in front of the center of that line.
. On a car, the flag staff should be fixed to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
. Wear a flag lapel pin over your heart.
Folding the flag: Though the Flag Code does not specify how the flag should be folded, tradition dictates you end up with a triangle with only the blue union showing. For instructions, visit legion.org/flag/folding.
. Don't display the flag during inclement weather (unless it's an all-weather flag).
. Never let the flag touch anything beneath it, including the ground, water or merchandise.
. Don't drape the flag over vehicles, wear it as apparel or use it as bedding or drapery.
. Never carry the flag flat or horizontal, or festoon it or draw it up in folds. It should fly aloft and free.
. Never put any mark, insignia, words, pictures or designs on the flag.