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We need to talk about the Los Angeles city flag

Michael Juliano

With all the talk about flags lately, we’ve been thinking about our own. No, not the handsome California Republic banner, but the city of Los Angeles flag. You’re not alone if you’ve never even noticed it before, so allow us to burn this into your retinas:

Los Angeles city flag

Drawing: Mysid/Wikimedia

Now you know why you've never seen it before. To borrow a few phrases from fellow Time Out staffers, it’s “like an African dictatorship” or “a Rastafarian clipart nightmare.” How could a picture-perfect city of mountains and ocean, Hollywood history and aerospace innovation, come to adopt what looks like a cheap-looking party favor as its official flag?

The “Fiesta Flag,” as it was dubbed, first began flapping in 1931. Designed by Roy E. Silent and E.S. Jones for LA’s sesquicentennial, its name comes from the 1931 revival of La Fiesta, an annual cultural fest from the late 1800s.

We can understand how the zigzag pattern must have looked “fun” and “exotic” in the ‘30s, in the same way that your mom thinks it’s “exotic” when she orders Chinese food. We can even stomach the cheeseburger topping palette, which takes its colors from both the Spanish and Mexican flags. But the city’s explanation behind those color choices is where you lose us:

“The red represents the vineyards, the golden-yellow depicts the orange groves, and the green symbolizes the olive trees.”

Either Southern California looked a lot different in 1931, or these colors are all off by a shade or two—we always thought of olive trees as more dusty green than Jell-o green and oranges as, well, orange. The trio of crops finds its way into the city seal, as well—which 99% Invisible listeners will recognize as just about the worst thing you can tack on a flag.

Here’s the thing: We don't think we could do any better ourselves. Our best attempt at a flag would probably look something like the Dodgers logo pinned onto a parking ticket. But we have a city full of talented graphic designers who could. So please, LA, adopt a flag that we want to tattoo on ourselves, just like those crazy Chicagoans.

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