When going flag shopping, probably the first thing that pops into your mind is the size of the flag you want. The second one, for sure, is flag materials. Historically, flags were made of cotton, linen, hemp, and even wool, while nowadays the choice mostly comes down to polyester, nylon, or cotton. Each of these materials is specific in its own right
Here is what makes flag materials so interesting and what to pay attention to when thinking about buying a new flag.
What’s the weather like where you reside? Would you say it doesn’t get windy very often, and all you get is some light wind most of the year, if any? In that case, nylon is the flag material for you because it will fly even in the lightest dash of wind.
The material discovered in the 1930s, nylon matches its long history with durability. A nylon flag will fly and serve you well. Manufacturers love the fact it can be woven in different ways, while most people appreciate the fact nylon can be made in the brightest flag colors.
Since nylon can withstand the elements quite well, it is little wonder nylon flags are best-selling outdoor flags. Also, there’s the economic moment of getting your money’s worth with this one.
Poly or polyester is without a doubt the most durable flag material (yes, it even beats nylon) provided it is a woven polyester. Another term for this is flag bunting, which may sound more familiar. On inspecting it closely, you will see the material is semi-transparent.
Conversely, if you’ve ever run into American flags that are shinier on one side than the other, that poly flag was made with trilobal, or poly knit. That means the flag wasn’t woven and won’t be as durable as you may expect. On the plus side, a knitted polyester flag flies better. This is important as generally; poly flags aren’t best suited for light winds.
High winds go hand in hand with big American flags, so poly is the preferred material when it comes to big ceremonies in the open. The very nature of this material makes it possible to have the strong, vibrant colors of an American flag.
Patriotism is priceless, but how you display it comes at a certain price. Thus, poly is more expensive than nylon. Next, it takes over 200 years to decompose and may emit toxic materials when burnt (this is important if you wish to retire your old poly flag by burning).
Cotton flags are mostly displayed indoors. This is not to say they aren’t to be flown outside. It is just that the nature of the material is such that it is very susceptible to weather changes and does not fly as well as nylon or polyester flags. Cotton wrinkles much more easily, too.
Due to its texture and soft and rich colors giving them a unique conventional appearance, cotton flags are very much preferred indoors. Being 100% natural and coming from sustainable sources, cotton is fully recyclable. And compared to polyester, it is even cheaper.
Hemp is most famous as the material of the very first Old Glory. Nowadays, it is not your typical first choice unless you wish to pay tribute to the original despite its many advantages.
First off, it is a natural, green material. The UV blocking effect of hemp is 50% higher than what polyester provides. Since it is hypoallergenic, it is great for people with sensitive skin that will deal with the flag daily.
Yet, similarly to cotton, it is easily wrinkled and not as durable as poly or nylon flags. It is more durable than cotton, though, and at the time the first American flag was made, hemp was chosen particularly because it was the best material available.
Wool flags are very rare and considered a real vintage material. They have quite an interesting texture that is warm and appealing, but not so practical mostly due to their weight. Today the wool bunting is mostly done by machines and hence regular, while ancient American flags used to have more irregular weaving.
Wool is not the best choice regarding durability, weather conditions, or ability to fly. It is natural and certainly has its own charm, so perhaps you can use it for flags meant for inner display.
All things considered, each American flag is beautiful in its own way, regardless of the material. It is up to you to go for the best material regarding the fact where exactly you wish to see your flag fly (or hang on a wall, in a glass display, or use it for a special event).