Its frequent appearances on my Facebook feed over the past week has reminded me of an unavoidable fact about Wisconsin, a state I ordinarily love: the Wisconsin flag is an abomination.

This shitshow violates every one of the basic principles of vexillology, not to mention taste and common sense. Yes, there are principles of vexillology (the design and academic study of flags) thanks to the wonderful dorks at the North American Vexillogical Association. It offers a helpful publication entitled Good Flag, Bad Flag that I stumbled upon many years ago while attempting to design a logo for a student organization. Note how many of these principles Wisconsin disregarded:

1. Keep it simple
2. Use meaningful symbolism
3. Use 2 or 3 colors
4. No lettering or seals
5. Be distinctive

This is the sort of thing one never contemplates but when it is explained it makes perfect sense. Then again, one doesn't necessarily need a theoretical explanation to pick a crappy flag out of a lineup as this study of city flags proves. See if you can find the terrible one!

Come on, Milwaukee. If you're going for camp, why not Alice Cooper saying "It's Algonquin for…'the good land'." Washington D.C. and Chicago keep things simple and accordingly have flags that kick considerably more ass. Aside from my native fondness for Chicago's design, I'd say that these are my two favorite flags:

The first one is New Mexico, of course. How about you? Feel free to share some particularly excellent or appalling designs you've encountered over the years. I'll award a cash prize to the first person who can find a flag uglier than Louisiana's. Nice pelican, losers.

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  1. Evan Says:


  2. smelter rat Says:

    The Province of Newfoundland & Labrador has the coolest flag of any Canadian province:

  3. Bella Q Says:

    How about Sicily? It's pretty awful.

  4. Paul Camp Says:

    I'm thinking that a flag that features Confederacy emblems is uglier than Louisiana's. So that would include every flag that has flown over Georgia since the 50's. Much as I respect Roy Barnes, that compromise flag he created was godawful.

  5. Eric O Says:

    The flag for my home state of New Jersey is pretty bad and violates every rule you listed. It's not simple or original, it's got at least a half dozen colors, it's just the state seal, and its symbolism includes a hat on a stick. Yes, it's a liberty cap and Liberty is the one holding the stick, but it's still a hat on a stick. On top of that, it includes a knight's helmet topped by a severed horse's head, presumably to remind everyone of the state's mafia presence.

  6. Nunya Says:

    A total non-sequiter but this little gem from Ronald Reagan just surfaces on the interwebs:

  7. Osric1 Says:

    A quick note on mining in WI, yes it is true, there used to be a hell of a lot of copper mining here. In fact we have some of the world's purest copper. There was so much in such pure quantities that local tribes actually had a method of mining copper that simply involved starting a huge fire next to a wall of rock with giant copper veins in it, when I say a huge fire, I mean the size of your apartment building. Then when the metal expanded from the heat it would destroy the more brittle rock and dislodge itself, then once it cooled down they could actually just pick it up and walk away with it.

  8. BostonCharlie Says:

    Could there be anything simpler and more direct than the good old Red Flag?

  9. Bill Says:

    Here are some horrible flags from across the globe.

    And my personal favorite:
    St. Petersburg, Florida

  10. Bill Says:

    Oh god… and there's this.

  11. Algerine Says:

    Fuck you, our pelicans rock! (And are tasty.)

  12. Kerry Says:

    I didn't realize cities even had flags. Where have I been? Oregon, that's where.

    Speaking of Oregon, any state that has the guts to put a beaver on the butt-side of its flag…well we just hafta win.

  13. [BOBY] Says:

    Hey I'm a Louisianian sayin our flag isn't that bad. It's much nicer than virginia's…