Never fly your flag after midnight


When I was in Sweden, I bumped into a pair of patriotic thong underwear in a highway gas station. It was blue with yellow crowns on it, for sale next to the patrotic socks, boxer shorts, and stuffed animals that said “Sweden” on them.

There’s something about undergarments and bikinis that inspires patriotism around the world , though you may be less likely to find this combination here in Iceland.

It was recently brought to my attention that the Icelandic flag has a coterie of highly specific rules and regulations that go along with it, known as the flag laws. You’ll find the flag on some t-shirts around town, but the companies selling them have to have a license with the Foreign Ministry to do so. The flag cannot be used in as any company’s logo, nor is it permitted to sell a foreign product featuring the Icelandic flag.

When I found out there were such detailed instructions on how to handle the flag, I had the urge to geek out on flag law, but I didn’t get far. I found out the blue, white, and red of the Icelandic flag are meant to represent the blue of the mountains, the white of the glaciers, and the red of the island’s volcanic fire. Blue of the sky would have been my first guess, but nobody said mountains couldn’t be blue.The complete flag laws are currently being translated into English, but I did find a few more things out:

-Two or more flags should never be flown on the same pole.

-If the Icelandic flag is among flags of other nationalities, it should be to the farthest left.

-The flag may not be used on a rostrum, as a tablecloth or a floor mat, or to cover a statue which is about to be presented.

-It is forbidden to fly a flag which is faded, dirty, frayed or damaged in any other way. Such a flag should be repaired without delay or else destroyed by burning.

So with the right permission, I guess you could end up with a rack of Icelandic flag underwear in the gas station, but I’m not sure you would. The flag laws seem to reflect – or maybe have created, as laws do -- a feeling in people I’ve talked to that the flag is somehow above the general commercial fray. But maybe I haven’t been spending enough time in the tourist shops. If there are flag boxer shorts out there, let me know. 

On a totally unrelated note, yesterday morning BBC aired a fairly extensive story about Iceland called “Rolling Back Iceland’s Big Desert.” It’s worth checking out the online print version on the BBC web site


Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.