Outdoor Life-Utah’s State Flag Sucks

 

Utah’s state flag sucks. Now, you may be asking why
on earth I should care about our state flag enough to write about it in an
outdoor-recreation magazine. Well, because Colorado’s state flag is awesome,
and that pisses me off. Allow me to explain:

I’m a Colorado native, and lived around Colorado’s
flag from birth through college, so it’s pretty much burned into my brain. If
you’re not familiar with it, our neighbor’s flag is a simple design that
consists of three equally sized stripes of blue and white, with a large, red
“C” surrounding a gold disc. Blue symbolizes the sky, white represents snow,
while red is a nod to Colorado’s amber soil. As for the gold disc, it’s either
supposed to be the sun or, well, gold. Growing up, I never took much note of it
other than this piece of colorful cloth flew over state buildings and was used
to decorate CDOT signs along the highway.

After moving to Utah 11 years ago, I never gave that
flag another second of thought. But on a recent trip back to Colorado, I was
amazed at how pervasive their state flag had become. It was freaking everywhere. The flag was not only on
signs and buildings, but on shirts, key chains, biking socks, backpacks,
murals, business logos, bumper stickers, skis, snowboards, and even local beer
labels. Hell, I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without being face-to-face
with the flag painted inside the stall door. It seems the outdoor and business
communities in Colorado have adopted their flag and turned it into a genius yet
somewhat annoying marketing tool, and with glorious effect.

This recent phenomenon is not surprising. Coloradoans
can be a bit snobbish about their home state. I know, because I was once among
those Rocky Mountain dwellers who turned their noses up to Texans, Californians
and, yes, Utahns. Every green-mountain bumper sticker on a Subaru Outback with
the words, “Colorado Native” was a holier than thou message to any
out-of-staters who dared trample their pristine High Country paradise to “know
your status” as a non-native. Now, these same people have rallied around their
flag, using it as a logo to advertise their state pride, as if to say that any
product graced by the flag is somehow superior because of its association with
being born and bred in the Centennial State.

Colorado’s not alone. There are other examples of
flags that represent a certain state’s dignity. The Lone Star of Texas is a massively
well-known symbol that graces every object between their borders. Arizona’s
setting sun behind a copper star is a beautiful flag. New Mexico is a simple
yellow flag with a cool Native American symbol in the center. And how can I not
mention South Carolina’s palm tree and Alaska’s Big Dipper flags? But none of
these flags stick in my craw quite like Colorado’s.

Okay, so what does this have to do with Utah? Well,
we all know that Utah is better than Colorado in many ways. We have less crowds
and traffic, more beautiful red-rock deserts, and of course, the deepest powder
in the country that every Colorado skier is jealous of (even though they would
never admit it.) So why are Utah’s outdoor and tourism marketing efforts falling
short? Why does Colorado get all the outdoor recreation cred, while Utah is
still considered by many out-of-staters to be some weird, polygamous land with
nothing to see or do? Well, while there are many valid reasons, our state flag
sure isn’t doing us any favors.

Utah’s flag couldn’t be more boring. It’s just the
state seal on a blue background. The flag was adopted by the state legislature
in 1896 by what must have been a room full of bearded dudes who, tasked with
coming up with an official state flag, decided to throw the state seal on some
blue field and call it a day so they wouldn’t be late to a barn raising or hoe
down. Now imagine printing Utah’s flag on shirts or skis. Think anyone would
buy it? How about if you saw the Utah state seal on a beer label, would you drink
that swill? But if that same beer had a Colorado flag on it, then boy howdy
that’d be the tastiest beer this side of the Mississippi!

So what’s the solution? The answer is obvious: Utah
needs a new flag.

Utah’s flag should represent all that is good about
our fine state. It needs to convey not only a sense of history, but also give a
tip of the hat to our unparalleled outdoors. It should be iconic, enough so that
it can used as a tool to market our state and send a message to the world that
Utah is the central outdoor
destination in the country.

Now I’m no graphic designer, but I have envisioned
imaginary flags in my noggin for years. Geeky, yes, but now that I consider
myself a Utahn, I want a state flag to be proud of with a design that I
wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear on a bike jersey or baseball cap. Some ideas
include using one of Utah’s famous pictographs on a crimson cliff, representing
our red rock landscape and ancient inhabitants. Perhaps a large red “U” on a
flag would be appropriate while also sending a pointed message to BYU fans. Or
maybe we need to incorporate more recreation themes in a new flag, like a pair
of crossed skis over a white field of untouched powder.

But the phantom flag I see most when I close my eyes
is this: a banner split horizontally in half, the bottom filled with jagged red
mountains that symbolize both our northern peaks and southern desert, with a
white sky above representing the Greatest Snow on Earth. And in the middle,
there is a simple, gold aspen leaf that further attests to our outdoor
heritage, while not quite being a blatant rip-off of Canada’s maple foliage
symbol.

The most important thing, is that a new Utah state
flag should be even more awesome than Colorado’s. They’re already jealous of
our snow, so we might as well give them even more to be envious about. But
whatever our Utah state flag may someday become, let’s refrain from painting
the flag inside bathroom stalls.

6 Responses to “Outdoor Life-Utah’s State Flag Sucks”

  1. Utahs flag is just fine why dont you go back to colorado.

  2. I really think you are on to something. What a novel idea that a state flag is a marketing tool. However, maybe part of what has kept Utah such a treasure is that so few people know about it. Great post.

  3. Utah’s flag IS awful and I agree. The North American Vexillological Association (They look at flags) is actually meeting in Utah in October!

    http://www.nava.org/content/annual-meeting

    They have a flag design for their own meeting that is better than ours! Utah’s official website claims our flag is clearly different from other flags — a lie if ever I saw one — and this organization of flag lovers makes one for the meeting that is better than ours! They bring up several interesting points in their description of the flag which I will copy below:

    “Reminiscent of the Association’s flag, the design inblue and white features a golden beehive for Utah, the Beehive State. Many early Utah flags used blue and white in their color scheme. White and blue are colors that visually describe the host city, white for salt and blue for the waters of the Great Salt Lake. The white cut “V” also symbolizes the valley between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges.

    The beehive is the single most important and recognizable symbol of the state as it has been from pioneer days. Like beehives, the early settlements of Utah were founded as self-reliant communities sustained by the united work of their inhabitants.

    The two arcs of stars with four stars above and seven stars below symbolize that the gathering is the Association’s 47th annual meeting. By coincidence, 47 is a significant and recognizable number in Utah, commemorating the year 1847 when Utah’s pioneers arrived in the Great Basin.

    The large star below the beehive signifies the “Rising Star of Deseret” shown on many early flags of Utah history. It is rotated with a point down placing it in a rising attitude. As Utah’s star rose to join the other stars in the blue union of the Stars and Stripes, NAVA 47 represents the Association’s growing membership in Utah as the state rises to take its place among the other states and provinces from which the Association draws its membership. This rising star thus points to growing participation of Utah’s NAVA members.”

    I say go to this meeting if you feel strongly, I have no idea how. And I agree. Native Utahan, Colorado School of Mines for college, now working in South Carolina. They incorporate their flags into EVERYTHING and they can because they are simple, beautiful designs. Utah’s looks exactly like Wyoming, Minnesota, and whoever else. The only flag this is arguably just as terrible that comes to mind that ISN’T a “Seal on Blue” clone is Oregon’s.

    I have been saying this since my freshman year of college but haven’t lived in Utah and have never explored channels to do it. All good Utahans would agree with this when shown any other state. Why? Because Utah has no idea what it’s missing out on. They are used to no good flag.

  4. WOW! You really need to get a life! Who cares about a flag!

    Sounds like you are just jealous of Colorado and have to put it down to cheer yourself up. You have it backwards in your description of Colorado VS Utah. Utah residents are the snobs and constantly bash Colorado (You’re a prime example of this), while most Colorado people are always complementary of Utah and admit that the skiing at Snowbird is the best (not sure why you aren’t aware of this)! Also which state is “Better” makes no sense, they are both beautiful with very diverse geography, neither state has everything the other has plus more!

    If Utah wants to make a new flag then they should, but stop blaming Colorado for Utah’s lack of creativity, what does Colorado have to do with any of this? Utah needs to make up their mind, they want everyone on earth to know about them, yet they don’t want people to visit! You can’t have both situations DUH!

    By the way Utah is not an ignored and misinterpreted state, most of the country knows all about the beauty of Utah and what it offers. Colorado is actually mostly ignored when compared to Utah and other western states, so go buy yourself some tampons and stop whining!

  5. Hey Bill,

    I find your comment hilarious. If you would have read my column more closely, you would see that I am a Colorado native, born and raised, and love both states. Apparently, you can’t recognize sarcasm and light humor even if it’s right in your face.

    I am mystified that you think I’m bashing Colorado, when in fact I’m bashing Utah’s flag and am actually quite complimentary about Colorado.

    Well, thanks for your response. I’m happy that I got a rise out of you. It made my morning.

    Cheers!

  6. Ha Coloradans are almost as bad as Canadians–but can you blame them? Little late to the table…but this Ted Talk from 2015 is applicable:

    https://www.ted.com/talks/roman_mars_why_city_flags_may_be_the_worst_designed_thing_you_ve_never_noticed?language=en?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread

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