US national flag made by Johnin
Folding the American Flag serves more than one Purpose
In a practical sense, a proper flag fold goes a long way in terms of flag care, maintenance, and storage.
You may not have occasion to fold a flag very often. But, it is Army and Navy custom to lower the flag daily, at the last note of retreat. The flag is then folded in a triangle shape.
It is said the shape is similar to that of hats worn by the colonial soldiers. Is the shape a coincidence, or intentional? We'll see.
As a symbolic gesture, flag folding plays an important role in showing respect for the flag and what it represents. It is a moving and meaningful part of many ceremonies, including funeral services and burial rites.
Knowing the basics and a little bit of history will serve you in many ways.
What is the proper way to fold the American flag?
For starters, there is no "official" way to fold the American flag.
The U.S. Flag Code is the first place to look for flag display and etiquette. It is full of rules governing when, where and how to display the US flag, but there are no guidelines on folding.
One reason is because flags vary in size. There is a standard ratio for government flags, but in practical use not all flags maintain the same ratios. Common flag sizes are 12x18", 2x3 Ft, 2.5x4, 3x5, 4x6, 5x8 and bigger.
Interment flags used for burial services are 5'x9.5'.
Not every flag will fold into the same shape with the same number of folds.
Since the flag code leaves us searching or answers, we turn to the branches of the Military, the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs), American Legion, VFW, and the Boy Scouts of America.
Even the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard all have their own unique variations for handling the flag. (more on that later)
Our conclusion is that there is no "proper" or "correct" way to fold the American flag. But there is a model and best practice to follow.
Showing respect for the flag and what it represents is what really matters. The actual details leave room for interpretation.
Step by Step: How To Fold the American Flag
Hold the flag stretched out and parallel to the ground
(it helps to maintain tension between the two ends)
1. Fold in half lengthwise
2. Fold in half again
3. From the fly end, fold a triangle from the folded edge to the open edge
4. Repeat triangle folds toward the canton
5. Continue triangle folds
7. There are 13 folds in total so keep going
8. Getting close to the end
9. Whatever excess remains will fold into the triangle
This is the most common and basic way to fold the American flag.