Who remembers the Geri Halliwell dress? Or the Liam Gallagher lairy t-shirts with the massive flags on them? What about back in the good old mod days, where color palettes consisted of red, white, and blue, with the occasional army green and black leather? No one can argue that Union Jack apparel has stood the test of time. Lets review!
The history of the Union Jack
It surprises some people to realize that the Union Jack, more officially known as the Union Flag, is actually made up of three flags – England, Ireland, and Scotland. Another surprising fact is that there is a way to display the flag upside down, owing to the location of Saint Patrick’s Saltire (the diagonal cross in the back) with the white stroke that outlines it. This is a common mistake, but one that is not easily forgiven by those who see it.
When James VI of Scotland inherited the Irish and English thrones in 1603, he issued a royal decree to have a new flag drawn up, which included the St George’s Cross and the St Andrew’s Cross. In 1801, a change was made to reflect the new union of Great Britain with Ireland, bringing the flag to its currently recognized design that included a third pattern; the Cross of Saint Patrick. The reason Wales is not included is due to it being already being united with England back in the 13th Century, making it a Principality, and thus excluding it from use in the flag.
Now we’re all clued in on what the Union Jack is about, lets discuss its meaning. We know that the flag shows a union of countries (it’s kinda in the name, too), and we may have seen it on many other flags, in addition to the one flying over Buckingham Palace right now. New Zealand, Australia, and interestingly, Hawaii all have the good old Jack as part of their national colors. For most, this inclusion of our flag around the world represents a sort of support network, a togetherness, or to use the words literally on the name of the flag, a union, of nations. So in short, wearing and showing the flag simply shows a pride and support in this union. How lovely! Now lets look at how this has transpired over the years in terms of Union Jack apparel…
Mod Culture’s Red, White, and Blue
It was cool then, and it’s cool again now. Mod culture is one of the best examples of the Union Jack being used in fashion. The style focused on customizing existing icons and patterns, one of which being the national flag, and another being the Royal Air Force roundel. Both use the same color scheme, and it can be argued that this was a main source for the following trends featuring these colors heavily. A strong part of the mod style was to wear bold, immediately identifiable designs, in an attempt to stand out from the dullness of daily life in post-war Britain.
Mod culture hasn’t died. It may have shifted, first to the cute and slightly weird fashions of the 60s and 70s, to the much more offensive and brash fashions of Punk, but it never left. Today there are many signs that it is live and kicking, through online stores such as ModCloth.com and Betsey Johnson, and even with traces in the designs found in LuLaRoe’s clothing items.
Union Jack Apparel in Pop Culture
Most people reading this blog will have thought immediately of one person when conjuring up the thought of the Union Jack in fashion… Ginger Spice, AKA Geri Halliwell. Ginger Spice’s character was loud, carefree, and somewhat provocative, so when she stepped out in that dress, a shorter-than-short micro dress with all over Union Jack apparel print, the world took notice. A new style was emerging in pop culture, one that was dubbed “Cool Britannia”, and this was the defining moment of the movement. Fun fact: A friend of mine almost wore a remake of the dress to my wedding, but ended up wearing it to the Bachelorette party instead (I’m still a little bummed about that.)
Britpop was a musical movement of the 90s (although, if you’re ever in my car, it’s like the movement never ended) that included the likes of Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, Super Furry Animals, and Pulp, to name a very select few. The economy was growing, and young musicians and artists had caught onto the swell of British pride in the UK. To put it bluntly, it was cool to be British, and fashion made use of that. The flag had also gathered a little momentum in representing individuality and strength in being unique, which probably came from the UK’s reputation as “that little island that once owned everyone” and the pride of residents that we’d stood strong throughout it all. It was a pretty cool time to be proud to be British.
The Brexit Effect
I didn’t keep up with opinions of David Cameron too much, but I know he wasn’t too highly regarded among the British voting public. That being said, I found his exit speech to be pretty motivational, and even moreso, a really good reflection on why the British still hold on to the Union Jack as a powerful symbol of the strength of a nation. His speech pretty much summed up why there is so much national pride surrounding our country and people, and why it is still as popular as ever to declare this support through wearing Union Jack apparel:
“The British people have made a choice. That not only needs to be respected — but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work. Britain is a special country. We have so many great advantages…. And while we are not perfect, I do believe we can be a model of a multiracial, multifaith democracy, where people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows. Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible strengths. I have said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union, and indeed that we could find a way.”
more reasons to wear the jack
A few other reasons that Union Jack apparel has stayed true to form at the forefront of British fashion is because of the accessibility of the design. The flag is not copyrighted, allowing designers to use it as they wish. London is an epicenter of fashion and tourism, which has spawned a perfect and lucrative industry for flag-themed clothing. There is also the fact that the flag features only three colors, making it a screen printer’s dream.
I for one love my country. I love what it is now, and I will love what we become if and when we invoke the thingie that makes us do the separating thingie that makes Europe hate us. Fashion that includes our flag, our colors, or statements of pride are a positive thing, in my eyes, and I think it’s great that we can unite so well as a country, and it’s even better that we have a unified symbol with which to do it, fashionably.
Pssst: While you’re down here, why not check out our Missing EU t-shirt – a mixture of Sean Puffy Combs and Brexit – what can be better! Here’s the link to buy.