Pacific Sunwear is facing public outcry during the Memorial Day weekend, as a photo circulating wildly online reportedly depicts a store product display featuring a mannequin wearing a men’s tee shirt bearing an inverted American flag. Patriotic posters tag the Pac Sun upside-down tee as offensive. Throughout the Memorial Day weekend, the PacSun Facebook page overflowed with heated comments and re-posts of the PacSun inverted United States flag tee display photo, marked as taken at a PacSun store at the Tangers Outlet Mall in Foley, Alabama.
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As of Monday, May 25, the upside-down U.S. flag tee was still available on the PacSun website. The black-and-white short-sleeved men’s graphic A$AP T-shirt (from A$AP Worldwide), made of imported cotton, retails for $23.95.
What does an upside-down American flag mean?
Displaying the star spangled banner in the upside-down manner is considered an official signal of crisis. Members of the U.S. armed forces unilaterally recognize this. The U.S. Flag Code offers this clear guideline for display: “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
Perhaps the PacSun inverted flag tee shirt is intended as an edgy political or socioeconomic statement of ideological alarm, but patriotic shoppers seem to interpret it as direct disrespect and desecration of the honored American symbol.
This isn’t the first time folks’ hackles have been raised over inverted American flags.
Hostile forces internationally have been known to create such displays, waving or putting up upside-down American flags as a means of declaring their opposition to the U.S. Political demonstrators have occasionally waved or shown inverted American flags in protest. In the U.S., such a gesture has often led to legal action or at least critical response.
A Duncansville, Pennsylvania , man was charged with flag desecration after hanging up an inverted flag at his home in May 2014. That particular flag was spray-painted with lettering to make a different political statement.
In November 2012, customers were irate over such a display outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Follansbee, West Virginia. Staffers apparently claimed the flag cable broke, causing the banner to wave upside down. The mistake was quickly remedied.
No stranger to fashion controversy, PacSun may or may not remove the offending upside-down American flag tee. Either way, the Memorial Day display seems likely (based on the multitudinous public comments) to be sufficiently memorable to deter plenty of patriotic shoppers from patronizing the merchant.