1. 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.

     
  2. 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.

     
  3. Indonesia, since 1945

    Indonesia’s flag had been used unofficially by nationalists inside and outside of the country since the 1920s, but it was first raised in an official capacity out front of Sukarno’s house on 17 August 1945. This original flag is called the Bendera Pusaka (“Heirloom flag”) and it was sewn by hand by Fatmawati, the First Lady.

     
  4. Grand Kru County

    I love Liberian county flags! So inventive and colourful. The pattern of gold and green stripes on the edge here is particularly unique.

     
  5. Charlottetown, since 1989

    I don’t know who was in charge of drawing all these rectangles but they have some serious explaining to do.

    (designer: Robert D. Watt)

     
  6. North York, 1972-1985 (top), 1985-1997 (bottom)

    The Borough of North York upgraded to the City of North York on Valentine’s Day 1979, and from then on it used the excessively cutesy motto, “The City With Heart”. Hearts featured all over official signage and whatnot, and in 1985 they finally made their way onto the flag.

    Unlike the Scarborough and East York, which still occasionally fly their flags in an unofficial capacity, North York dumped its flag when it amalgamated with the City of Toronto in 1997. Most people probably don’t even remember either of these existed.

     
  7. Ambassadors of Chile

    I imagine the Chilean Ambassador to Iceland must get a lot of confused looks.

     
  8. flaglog:

    Metropolitan Toronto (?-1997)

    Before Amalgamation, Toronto was a two-tier municipality, with Metropolitan Toronto being the upper level. Metro’s logo was made up of six interlocking rings, representing Etobicoke, YorkScarborough, North York, East York, and the old City of Toronto.

    I’m not quite sure when this flag was adopted, but I live like ten minutes from the city archives so I could probably figure it out if I wasn’t such a lazy jerk.

    Update! This flag was adopted in the year 1978. The more you know.

     
  9. Malaya, 1949 proposal

    Given how much the Malaysian flag looks like the American flag, it might surprise you to learn that its red, white and blue colour scheme was actually chosen before its American-style layout. The colours were selected because they were the most common ones in the individual sultanates (yellow was fourth). One popular element from the proposals that didn’t make it onto the final flag was a pair of crossed kris daggers.

    (Incidentally Wikipedia seems to suggest that the Malaysian flag is based on the East India Company flag, but comments from people involved with the creation and selection of the Malayan flag make it clear that it was based on the Stars and Stripes.)

     
  10. Rarotonga, c.1858-1888

    If you ask people to think of a South Pacific colour scheme, they’ll normally go to colours like turquoise and orange and green. But the flags adopted by the South Pacific kingdoms in the 19th century — designed in the shadow of French, British, and American imperialism — were mostly red, white and blue. (Red in particular was a sacred colour in Polynesia and used liberally there.) The kingdom of Rarotonga here became a British protectorate in 1888 (at which point it added a union jack to the top left corner of its flag) and then later became a colony called the Cook Islands Federation. The territory lost the right to fly a distinct flag when it was transferred to New Zealand in 1901, but this original Rarotonga ensign was still used until the death of Makea Takau in 1911.

     
  11. Amman, since 2009

    City flags aren’t very common in the Arab world, so it’s nice to see that the Jordanian capital has such a cool and unique one. It’s more logo-y than flaggy to be sure, but I think it works.

     
  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. Yugoslavia, 1918 proposal

    On 4 July 1918 a Yugoslavian flag was raised for the first time at the Agricultural Building in Washington D.C. At this point, Yugoslavia didn’t actually exist, and neither a national flag nor a state coat of arms had been selected for it. But the nascent country did have a royal coat of arms, and that was apparently what was used at the ceremony. A New York Times article about the flag raising describes a red-blue-white tricolour — like that used by Serbia or Montenegro — with an emblem that combined the arms of Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia on the blue stripe.

    When Yugoslavia’s national symbols were formally adopted later that year, the tricolour was blue-white-red and the Slovenian compartment of the coat of arms was a crescent and three golden stars instead of the blue Carniolan eagle.

     
  14. Pakistan, naval jack since 1960

    If Pakistan was a line of clothing this would be its attempt at an upscale rebrand.

     
  15. Balochistan

    Is it me or is that camel very precariously positioned?