1. Los Angeles County, since 1967

    LA County has a pretty excellent seal, but that flag, yeesh. Light blue over greenish-blue just ain’t a good look.

    (designer: Kenneth Hahn)

     
  2. Maori people, since 1990

    This is the Tino Rangatiratanga (or “absolute sovereignty”) flag of the Maori contest. It was selected after a 1989 design contest. The black and red represent the heavens and the earth, with the white standing for the physical world of light. 

    (designers: Hiraina Marsden, Jan Dobson, Linda Munn)

     
  3. Mali, 1959-1961

    The first modern state to bear the name Mali was the Mali Federation, a union of French Soudan and Senegal. Senegal broke away shortly after the union gained independence in 1960 and it replaced the stick figure with a green star. The Soudanese Republic kept the old flag and on 22 September 1960 it officially exited the moribund Federation and changed its name to the Republic of Mali.

    In 1961, the black kanaga effigy in the centre of the flag was removed at the insistence of Muslim fundamentalists, who objected to having a depiction of the human form on the national flag. This left it with a flag that was not only super similar to Guinea’s, but actually identical to one that had just been adopted by the soon-to-be-independent Rwanda

     
  4. Bamileke National Movement, reported circa 1996

    This is a pretty slick flag, but comments on Wikipedia from actual Bamileke people make me think it may not actually exist. Or at least, it may not be as common as a google image search for “Bamileke flag” would suggest.

     
  5. Bong County

    Another great Liberian flag here. Orange and pink are rare colours on their own and the two of them together are even rarer. Here the pink half is in the shape of a mountain range, giving the flag the look of a rugged landscape at sunset. The shield with the tools is a bit unnecessary but overall it looks great. 

     
  6. Bonaire, since 1981

    Bonaire’s Flag Day is September 6, even though the flag was adopted on December 11. Not sure how that happened but whatever. The blue, white, and yellow parts of the flag represent the sea, sky, and sun respectively. The six points on the star represent six regions (villages?) of the island, and it lies at the centre of a compass to represent people who have come there to Bonaire from around the world.

    There are some pictures from last year’s celebration on this blog.

     
  7. Saint Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard, since 1967?

    St. Kitts has a designated “naval ensign”, but no navy per se. The coast guard flies it instead, and even then only on the two largest of its five vessels. So I guess that means there are only two of these flags flying in the world?

    The design is on the model of the British white ensign: White field, red cross, and the national flag in the top left quadrant. This stretches the national flag out to a kind of ridiculous 4:9 ratio, which kind of messes up the star placement.

     
  8. Afghanistan, 1992-2001

    Afghanistan has only dispensed with its black-red-green tricolour a handful of times since it was first adopted in 1928. There was Bacha-i-Saqao’s unusual red-black-white tricolour from 1929, the red flag of the Khalq government from 1978, and then this flag, which was adopted by the Islamic State of Afghanistan in 1992. The green stood for Islam, the white for purity, and the black for the country’s dark past. Once the Taliban took over they started flying white flags, and after they were forced out of power the old black-red-green was restored.

     
  9. Afghanistan, 1929

    Amanullah Khan introduced the Afghan tricolour in 1928 as part of his modernization program, but his reforms were far from universally accepted. The next year, a Tajik rebel named Bacha-i-Saqao (“Son of a Water Carrier”) usurped the throne and installed a new reactionary government.

    Sources are conflicted about what flags he used during his brief rule. Some say he restored the old 1919-1928 flag while others say he adopted this unusual red-black-white tricolour, allegedly based on colours used by the Mongols in the 13th century. The tricolour also looks suspicious similar to a flag attributed to Abdul Rahim’s largely autonomous government in Herat, which was black-red-white with a white crescent in the centre. And that flag may have actually been the flag of Purdel Khan, a former supporter of Bacha-i-Saqao who led a Tajik revolt in 1930. It’s difficult to sort it all out, and the lack of pictures of flags from this very short period doesn’t help any.

     
  10. President of Malawi

    Malawi’s Presidential Standard seems to be based on the old British-style Governor-General’s flag, but with the stuffy old British lion replaced with the more dynamic one from the Malawian coat of arms. Nice upgrade.

     
  11. Leeward Islands, French Polynesia

    Someone on Wikipedia has incorrectly labelled this as the flag of the Society Islands, but if they had been an attentive French speaker they might have recognized that ISLV stands for “Îles Sous-le-Vent”. The Leeward Islands are the western half of the Society Islands chain, where Bora Bora is. The other half is the Windward Islands (“Îles du Vent”), which includes Tahiti.

     
  12. Crown Prince of Iraq, 1930-1958

    I have no idea how you would even describe the shape of this pennant. “Pants-shaped” perhaps?

     
  13. Vanuatu, since 1980

    Vanuatu has what’s known as a “flag of convenience”, meaning its national ship registry is open to foreigners that want to avoid higher fees or stricter regulations in their home countries. A full 94% of ships registered in Vanuatu are from overseas, most notably the QE2.

    Vanuatu became independent from joint Anglo-French rule on 30 July 1980.

    (designer: Kalontas Mahlon)

     
  14. Guinea-Bissau Armed Forces

    Man, once you take away those yellow and green stripes, the flag of Guinea-Bissau flag looks a whole lot more sinister.

     
  15. Russia, 1858-1883

    It’s hard to imagine (non-communist) Russia using anything but the current flag, but they actually had quite a different one for a while there in the 18th century. The black and gold colours came from their coat of arms, and the white stripe was added to distinguish it from what was then the flag of Austria. The flag was designed under German influence and never really caught on with the Russian public.

    The old tricolour (often called the “Tsarist” or “Romanov” flag) is probably way more popular now than it ever was back in its heyday. Hardline radicals and nationalists have embraced it as some kind of symbol of Russia’s glorious past or something. There’s even a proposal to restore the flag to its former status as the national flag. Probably won’t go anywhere, but it’s certainly a sign of the times.