10 Best State Flags

For today’s Friday History List, I look at what I consider to be the best-looking state flags. While this list is not altogether historic, but there are historic elements here.

10. Oregon – This flag makes the list for two reasons: It is the only state flag with different images on each side, and one of those images is a beaver.

Oregon (front)

Oregon (reverse)

9. California – This flag has a bear on it, commemorating the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, which “liberated” California from the oppressive, distant, remote hand of Mexico.


8. New Mexico – There are two states with cool Indian designs. I prefer New Mexico because it just looks cleaner and classier than Oklahoma. Also, the state’s name isn’t on the flag, which is always a plus.

New Mexico

7. South Carolina – South Carolina has always had the palmetto tree association, so I appreciate the history. For some reason also, the palmetto tree is now very popular as a window sticker (are that many Marylanders originally from South Carolina?). Finally, blue and white are classy colors.

South Carolina

6. Alaska – What’s better than blue and white? Blue and gold! (Think Buffalo Sabres.) Add to that the very cool element of the Big Dipper, and I’m on board. (“Hey, Sarah! I can see your flag from my Mac!”)


5. Hawaii – This flag reminds me of the Grand Union flag from the American Revolution, which makes me biased, but it’s my list, so who cares? There are two American state flags that include the flag of an enemy nation. This is one; Mississippi is the other.


4. Arizona – Arizona’s flag reminds me of a psychedelic painting that might have hung in a college dorm room in 1967, or perhaps a scene from the director’s cut of Yellow Submarine. For such a conservative state, this flag is pretty far-out.


3. Wyoming – A classic color scheme (red, white and blue), the state seal, and yes, a massive bison. What more need I say?


2. Ohio – Ohio has the only state flag with an irregular shape. In fact, it’s shaped like a cavalry guidon from the 19th century, which is probably why I like it so much. There’s a big “O” in the center, the colors are good and the stars reflect the number of states in the Union when Ohio was admitted in 1803. Lots going on here.

1. Maryland – The only state flag with English heraldry, the Maryland flag is comprised of the heralds of the families of the founder of Maryland, George Calvert, and thus this flag’s design can be traced back to the 16th century. The black and gold coat of arms is from the Calvert family, and the red and white is from the Crossland family (Calvert’s mother’s family). Interesting, the red and white of the Crossland herald became associated with Maryland secessionists during the Civil War and was banned for the duration. Put it all together and you have what is clearly the coolest flag of all the state flags.


One final note: It is very disappointing to note the number of states who apparently all said the same thing: “Design? Just throw the state seal on a blue field and maybe put the name on the bottom. Who cares what the state flag looks like anyway?”


14 Responses to “10 Best State Flags”

  1. Sam Says:

    The Virginia has a boob and the girl is committing regicide with death to tyrants in latin. How is it not on here?

  2. connor Says:

    MD, No.1– fine choice indeed, my friend.

  3. Sean Williams Says:

    I live in California, but have actually just purchased the Maryland flag to put up because it really is the best looking flag and CA has sadly become to liberal to be cool anymore. Hopefully one day that will improve.

  4. Jake Says:

    My favorites are California, Arizona, and Colorado. Too many states put their seal and similar designs on their flags. That’s cool for an official letterhead, but we’re talking about flags here! Most flags mentioned looked alright, except for (ironically) Maryland. That flag is definitely not that cool looking and certainly doesn’t deserve number 1.

    • jordan smith Says:

      Jake, Maryland looks ALOT better flying than flattened on a computer screen, it’s less jarring and cross-eye inducing on a flagpole. But most of all it screams MARYLAND the instant you lay eyes upon it, and identification is the point of flags in the first place.
      The meaning is also great: the flag is a big happy group hug on a flagpole! Since Maryland nearly seceded, those who ended up fighting for the CSA adopted the cross, and at the time the official state was primarily (but not officially) identified with the black and gold. So combining the two symbolized that the state should be one again.
      So I disagree with you, Maryland is #1, but we all have our preferences. (Plus, as a Marylander, I am required to nearly worship that flag). I find Colorado’s flag to be unpleasant, California is definitely cool, and is one of the few flags that can pull off words, and Arizona is definitely great, though I think something else would be better in place of that star, which doesn’t contrast enough with the top half.

      I wish Alabama stuck with the flag theirs is based off of: look up the Cross of Burgundy Flag. It’s like Alabamas, but with serrated edges!

  5. Marie-Eve Pelletier Says:

    Terrible choices. Why do you find Colorado’s to be unpleasant? It is sublime.

  6. Daniel Says:

    Georgia’s flag *is* the flag of the Confederacy.

  7. Kolo Says:

    Oklahoma’s is really #1

  8. Xeron Says:

    how is Texas not here? Beauty in simplicity

  9. bob Says:

    Coming from a non-American who has never been to the USA before I think the Hawaiian flag is the best! 🙂

  10. Wesley Cragun Says:

    Louisiana’s flag doesn’t get so much as a mention? It’s not an ugly flag. Also, Alabama’s flag is very simple and there is beauty in simplicity. Oh well, it’s all opinion, I guess.

  11. Aaron Says:

    I mostly agree with this list. Flags that have a lot of intricate detail, have words, or use their state seal on the flag are fairly big deduction points, IMO. My top 10 would change slightly though:

    #10: Rhode Island- Nonconformist, and very “sea worthy”. Represents very clearly the state culture.
    #9: Colorado- Good solid design.
    #8: South Carolina- Also a solid design.
    #7: Alaska- Very representative of the location, clean, and simple.
    #6: California- One of the 4 flags that does not have the color blue. Good solid design. Agreed with the analysis on this post.
    #5: Oregon- Wins, because it’s double-sided. More flags should have obverse and reverse sides.
    #4: Arizona- Clearly shows the desert landscape, with the ever hot sun as a star. Well done.
    #3: New Mexico- Another non-blue flag, and it represents its native Indian roots. A flag that when waving, you know exactly what it is.
    #2: Ohio- I love to hate the shape. I hate it so much, it makes the 2nd to top spot. Awesome non-conformity.
    #1: Maryland- Wins, not only for its unique design that sets it apart, but the marriage of two ideals during the civil war- the Confederacy and the Union, demonstrating reconciliation.

    Honorable mentions: Indiana, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee.
    Flags with potential: Wyoming, Nevada, New Jersey, Washington.
    The worst: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin, any flag with a Confederate or British design.

    If you took the state seal out of the buffalo on Wyoming, it would be _much_ better, and would rank in my personal top 10.

    As a native of Utah, I’m disappointed in our flag. Utah completely misses the mark. Bees have so little to do with Utah’s history when you compare it to the Seagull. It’s the “beehive state”, because Brigham Young referred to Utah as “Deseret”. Besides, it’s just the state seal stamped on the flag. If it were to get redesigned, the Delicate Arch would be a good image for the flag, or snowy mountains, the Bingham Copper mine, or as already mentioned, the Seagull.

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