Maryland is not a blue state. And for a budding band of entrepreneurs, that’s a very good thing.
No, we’re not talking politics here, but vexillology—the study of flags. We’re one of only four U.S. states whose flags don’t include the color blue. Our jaunty banner with the red, white, black and gold heraldic patterns of the state-founding Calvert clan was ranked fourth best out of 72 state and provincial flags in a survey conducted by the North American Vexillogical Association. A sea of blue brought up the rear—an assortment of what flag fanciers disparage as “seal-on-a-bedsheet” designs featuring some busy emblem flanked by dudes standing around with shovels.
Worth nothing: Our colorful flag hasn’t always ranked first in Marylander’s hearts. According to the Maryland Secretary of State website, the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, created a coat of arms featuring a shield emblazoned with alternating quadrants of the yellow and black colors of his paternal family and the red and white colors of his maternal family, the Crosslands. This shield was incorporated into the state seal early on. The website goes on to say: “By the Civil War, the most common Maryland flag design probably consisted of the great seal on a blue background.” Yikes! We once had a bedsheet flag!
Recall that for north/south Maryland, the War Between the States presented an intrastate clash as well. As it happened, secessionist Marylanders began rallying beneath the red and white colors while pro-Union Marylanders went with the yellow and black pattern. We were a house—and a coat of arms—divided. While the designer of our modern flag is unknown, it first appeared in 1880 as a clear symbol of unification.
Today, we wear our state-shaded hearts on our sleeves—and chests, heads, backsides and feet—because the bold banner has leaped from flagpole to the apparel aisle.
“It’s just such a unique pattern and you can do so much with it,” says Ali von Paris, whose successful Route One Apparel helped pioneer flag fashion back in 2010.
“The last couple of years has been a wild ride for me; the response has continued to be great, and the investment has been both fun and profitable,” says Michael Heyse of State Your Gear retail.
One quick question: What would Lord Baltimore think of a Maryland flag bikini?
29, fitness instructor/model
Lives in: Annapolis
“Wearing a Maryland-flag suit makes a loud and noisy and bold statement for sure. I wore it to Preakness and people asked to have their picture taken with me. It gets a lot of attention. The flag is near and dear to me.
I have a lot of good memories growing up in Baltimore County. For a short period, I also lived just over the border in Southern Pennsylvania. I don’t even remember what the P.A. flag looks like. The closest city was Baltimore, so I always stayed true to my roots. I’m an all-around Baltimore sports fan, for sure.
Here we are close to mountains, you can get to the coast and there’s a lot of history as well. I’m real outdoorsy and there’s plenty of stuff you can do. It’s kind of a one-stop shop. I definitely like to show my Maryland pride. If you have such a unique flag, why not rock it and make a fashion statement? I’m looking forward to wearing it at future golf outings, maybe out of state. I should definitely rock it in Pittsburgh!”
Main image—State Your Gear Testudo Tuxedo $500; Route One Apparel tie $25; suspenders $25; sunglasses $15. Inset—Route One Apparel shirt $34; athletic shorts $40; headband $12; wristband $15 or two for $25.
28, cleaning services VP
Lives in: Baltimore
“I bought my Maryland flag skirt for golf but you can really wear it for anything. People love it and I get compliments all the time. Yeah, it is very loud! But I’ve found that you can really push the envelope these days when it comes to mixing colors that aren’t traditionally worn together. Plus, since it is the flag, most people forgive some style rules that are broken. I also have flag shorts that I’ll wear all summer long—going to horse races or the beach or being downtown. Everywhere you go, you see more and more people wearing the flag. It seems like it took off a couple of years ago and it’s a fashion trend, for sure.
There’s just a big sense of Maryland pride these days. I enjoy everything about living in Maryland. I love that you can get to the beach in three hours or you can go skiing in three hours. I live on the water now and love the views. And we have a great restaurant scene. There’s a lot to do around here.
I feel sorry for people with boring state flags. I wouldn’t even recognize if somebody were wearing the Nebraska flag.”
Main image—Route One Apparel shorts $35; shirt $24; sunglasses $15; headband $12; oven mitts $20 for set. Inset—State Your Gear skirt $85; Route One Apparel scarf $25; rubber ducky $15; bracelet $40.