American Flag Fabric Through Time

As the American flag has flown through the centuries, find out more about the material used and its history.

Waving through the storms of time, the American flag that we look proudly upon today has changed, and so have the materials from which it’s made. This short history will look at the different American flag fabrics that were chosen and used to help the Stars and Stripes withstand time and the elements.


Image of a wool American flag.

Early American flags were often made from a wool bunting material, as it would catch the wind more easily and didn’t fade as quickly as other materials. Oddly, the material was mainly produced in England. But in 1865, Abraham Lincoln decided that all American flag fabrics for federal use would be purchased from American manufacturers.


Although wool was the preferred American flag fabric, cotton was the most common material used for household flags because it was more accessible.


As a less popular option, linen was occasionally used in making Old Glory. However, because of linen’s strong threads, it was often used when making the stars.


Silk flags were only used during special occasions or for the military. This was due to the high price of silk, making it less available.

As time has progressed, so has the need for stronger fabrics to help flags fly. New materials can be made quicker and more efficiently, helping flag manufacturers provide more durable banners.


Image of an outdoor American flag.

Currently, polyester is used to make durable flags that can withstand the elements. Though this fabric is heavy, its strength helps outdoor flags endure heavy weather. Combined with cotton and other artificial fabrics, polycotton is used often with classroom flags.


Also utilizing current fabric technology, many flags today are made from nylon. Nylon flags are light weight, and also has a glossy finish for a shiny effect. These flags are most common for both indoor and outdoor purposes.

Source: Kansas State University

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