Why Chicago's City Flag is So Great!


Chicago.  The City of Big Shoulders.  The Windy City.  The Second City (even though its been third for decades).  Now Chiberia.  Our home city is 177 today, and we’re celebrating with a shout out to our beautiful city flag.   


chicago flag sketch

[To share in the celebration, head to Daley Plaza for live music,  a Mardi Gras parade AND a flock of food trucks including Flirty Cupcakes, (who’s beautiful restaurant space moss designed two years ago) and Windy City Patty Wagon (featured in last week’s post on food trucks).  The Chicagoist has the breakdown of birthday events here.]

Chicago’s Grand Old Flag

Roman Mars’ fascinating and meticulous 99% Invisible Podcast (a moss office favorite) describes the Chicago city flag as, “a beaut: a white field, two light blue horizontal stripes and four six-pointed red stars across the middle,” and notes the flag’s “complete buy-in across the city” with a presence on every municipal building and every 20-year-old’s messenger bag.  The city flag is reverently placed on the caskets of fallen cops and fire fighters.  There’s a feedback loop between the love of Chicagoan’s for our city and our flag – each boosts the other more.

chicago flag sketch annotated

Symbolism: What DOES the Chicago Flag mean?

The white strips represent the North, West and South sides of Chicago, the blue stripes stand for our water bodies – Lake Michigan and the River North Branch in the top stripe, South branch and Canal in the bottom one.  The red stars (four with six points each) represent major city events: Fort Dearborn, the Chicago Fire, the Columbian Exposition and the Century of Progress Exposition (1993-4).  Each of the six points on the stars also has a meaning … look it up if you’re interested.

Certified and Demonstrated: Its one of the best! 

Chicago’s flag follows all five of the rules of good Vexillological (flag) design: it is Simple, Meaningful, uses a few basic Contrasting Colors, has No Lettering or Seals and is Distinct from other flags.  Unsurprisingly, it ranks highly on Buzzfeed’s list of 59 Interesting City Flags, although we would argue that we should be right at the top.  Durham, North Carolina’s is all right.  Metz, France’s is downright badass.  The North American Vexillological Association (say that three times fast)’s 2004 American City Flags Survey ranks Chicago second only to Washington DC, but we think Chicago’s is better …

… and we’re not alone!   Chicagoans display our city flag on everything:

chicago flag collage

images: tattoo via 993flz.com, iPhone case via 5cases, messenger bag via Zazzle.com, bike graphic via the chainlink, second city t-shirt via Zazzle.com, coaster  project via merrimentdesign

Flag Meaning … With a Twist 

Of course, a Chicagoan’s love for the city and the flag is always tinged with a touch cynicism by this point in the winter.  Here’s a humorous breakdown of the flag with alternate meanings, courtesy of David Paskey.

david paskey alternate analysis