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Can You Wear the American Flag Without Irony?

Over the last nine months, Gen Z trend forecaster Casey Lewis started to notice a centuries-old impulse surging on social media. Not for the first time, people were planting an American flag on new territories—in this case, to be specific, Lewis’s TikTok feed. Perhaps you’ve seen them too: There is the Polo Ralph Lauren flag pullover, retailing for just under $400 (a cashmere version costs $1,490), and a Brandy Melville quasi-roll-neck iteration. Tuckernuck produced a take on Americana that cost $248. Denimist sells one for $365. Fast-fashion options abound. Lewis has seen interest grow in a TikTok Shop dupe that costs $11. Creators started comparing their virtues; over Christmas, scores of them unboxed the ones they’d been gifted.

Amid the proliferation—and especially this week, as President Joe Biden and most congressional representatives will likely pin a small enamel version to their lapels at the State of the Union address—a question remains: Can you (not a politician) wear American flag paraphernalia unironically? Can a sweater or a dress declare that America—or at least Americana—can be kind of great, without risking association with the rabid MAGA hordes?

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