Why Are Purple Flags So Rare?

Isaiah McCall


It’s easy to forget, but a flag’s design is of the utmost importance. Color, layout and creativity all go a long way to inspiring the citizenry or, conversely, making them ashamed that this was the best their government came up with.

Take Tampa Bay, Florida’s flag for instance (No, not a country but God is it a monstrosity). It wasn’t even designed by a graphic designer, but by an accountant. According to the Tampa Bay Times, most Tampeños have no clue the city even has a flag. Those who are aware aren’t very happy.

“I was proud to carry it because I’m proud to represent our city. But I’m not proud this is the flag that represents our city,” said one city council member, who served as a flag bearer in a relatively recent public event.

Now, look at the Albanian flag. Its bold red background makes it easily stand out. Moreover is has a dark silhouette of a double-headed eagle plastered on the front symbolizing the Byzantine Empire, which Albania once belonged to. It’s so cool. 

However, there’s one element in modern flags you are sure to never find and that’s the color purple. In fact, only three countries of the 195 have ever used purple in their flags.

Why aren’t there more purple flags?

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0Z7yfm_0YzQBheE00The flag of Nicaragua has a splash of purple in its rainbow (photo by Wikipedia)

Believe it or not, the reason there aren’t more purple in flags is primarily due to sea snails. By the 19th century, the only way to produce purple dye was from an esoteric species of sea snails found only in a small part of the Mediterranean. It took 10,000 of these snails to produce just a single gram of die. A single pound of purple dye was equivalent to $56,000 today. 

How’s that for a terrible get-rich-quick scheme?

Purple was a color worn only by the wealthy elites and royalty. Queen Elizabeth herself forbade anyone except close members of the royal family to wear purple. Interestingly enough, this is still what the color symbolizes today: Royalty. You’ll still see members of the British royal family frequent purple attire.

The Japanese christened it “Imperial Purple.” And a third-century Roman Emperor wouldn’t allow his wife to buy a shawl made from tyree and purple silk because it was too expensive

It wasn’t until 1856 that purple made a major breakthrough. 18-year-old English chemist William Henry Perkin accidentally synthesized a purple compound while trying to create an anti-malaria drug. He quickly patented the dye and became very rich. 

As purple dye mass-produced the idea of it solely representing royalty soon faded away forever.

The other reason why there are no purple flags

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2bt3Ei_0YzQBheE00Flag of Second Republic of Spain (photo by Wikipedia)

There’s one more reason why there are hardly any purple flags around today: the color represents mourning or death to many around the world. 

The United Kingdom, Italy, Thailand and Brazil, for instance, all have a solemn view of purple. Italian actors to this day don’t wear purple on stage. It’s considered bad luck in Italy because of its association with funerals.

To some extent, we have this melancholic feeling of purple in America as well. The “Purple Heart” is awarded to veterans who were wounded or killed in combat.

Final Thought

We often take flags for granted as we see them around so often, but we forget how important they really are. 

Could you imagine WWII U.S. Marines raising the Tampa flag on the beaches of Iwo Jima? Or Buzz Aldrin planting the Tampa flag on the moon after pronouncing this is “one small step for mankind?” I couldn’t — I know I wouldn’t feel proud.

Anyway, I digress, purple has a very rich history. In fact, I’d consider it the most controversial color that ever existed (rivaling only pink).

Purple will likely always remain absent from national flags, but hopefully, you now have a greater appreciation for the color and flags in general. 

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USA Today Reporter and Ultramarathoner. I write about Cryptocurrency, Fitness Hacks, and Greek Philosophy. Also a diehard Trekkie | mccallisaiah@gmail.com

Jersey City, NJ

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