1. Colombian Air Force, ensign

    Bet you can’t guess Colombia’s national colours.

  2. 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.

  3. Amazonas Department, since 1974

    The flag of this Colombian department perfectly captures the eternal struggle of Man vs. Jaguar. There they sit, immortalized, each preparing to kill the other, but neither ever reaching their prey. What majesty. What ferocity. What grace. Also there’s a star on it.

  4. Chaco Province, 1995 proposal (top); since 2007 (bottom)

    The ’90s were an… interesting time for flag design. This is one of the more out there flags I’ve seen from that decade, and it came very close to being adopted. The design won a provincial flag contest, beating around 120 other proposals (I can only wonder what they must have looked like.) But as soon as it got out there, it was utterly blasted by the public. The outcry was so total that the province passed the flag off the Association of Ceremonial Professionals of the Argentine Republic, who decided in 1997 that it was not appropriate for use. A new contest was eventually arranged, which led to the adoption of a much more traditional-looking flag ten years later.

    (designer: Jorge Alberto Esquível [top], Mario Orlando Gadotti [bottom])

  5. Governor of Oklahoma, since 1957

    The Governor of Oklahoma will not rest until Puerto Rico becomes a state and this flag has the correct number of stars.

  6. Governor General of the Belgian Congo, 1936-1960

    Now this is an interesting reversal. Normally the colonizer goes on the top left and the colony goes on the bottom right, not the other way around.

  7. Iraq, 2004 proposal

    A new flag for a new Iraq, or so the Americans thought. Turns out most Iraqis didn’t appreciate this total break from their national tradition. No pan-Arab black, green, or red, but tons of blue. The flag was roundly rejected and quickly abandoned, and manufacturers who had made thousands of new flags and patches were left with an unsalable stockpile. 

    (designer: Rifat Chadirji)

  8. Salesópolis, since 1952

    Hoo boy, are you ready for this? Green for forests and meadows, yellow for wealth, white for peace and harmony, red for blood spilled in defense of democratic principles, blue for hospitality. The 26 stars on the white band represent the neighbourhoods of the city, the gold star represents the state of São Paulo, and the map of Brazil represents “feelings of Brazilianness”.

    You know, sometimes simpler is better.

  9. Washitaw Nation

    If you’ve ever seen this flag anywhere, there’s a good chance it was on a fraudulent document or license plate. See, the Washitaw Nation is big on the whole sovereign citizen thing — the quite inaccurate idea that any individual can declare independence from their home country and live under their own separate sovereignty. If you’ve heard of “freemen on the land”, it’s basically the same deal. 

    The Washitaw claim to be a sovereign Black (or as they say, Moorish) Native American nation, a claim that has been roundly rejected by the American court system. They also claim that they’re the world’s oldest indigenous ethnic group, that they’ve been registered as such at the United Nations, that they’re descended from the inhabitants of the lost continent of Mu, that they built the mound city of Cahokia, and that the Atlantic Slave Trade either didn’t exist or actually went in the opposite direction. But hey, at least they’ve got a nice flag.

  10. Peru, 1825 proposal

    The Peruvian Congress put forward five proposals for a national flag before the current one was adopted in 1825. They all had a circle of eight somethings (for eight provinces) surrounding a different something. That central something was usually a sun but on one of the flags it was replaced by a Phrygian cap and on one of the flags the sun was on fire. (Try and figure that out.) The eight somethings were either stars or roses.

    In the end Simón Bolívar rejected the lot and a design almost identical to the existing flag was adopted. But the proposal above came back around a decade later to inspire the flag of the short lived Republic of South Peru.

  11. British Windward Islands, 1903-1958

    It seems like the original intention behind the badge of the British Windward Islands was to have a shield with four quarters for Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, and Grenada. But for whatever reason this was never done and the colony was left with basically a blank shield. 

  12. Curaçao, since 1984

    July 2 is the 30th Birthday of the flag of Curaçao. The blue background actually has two meanings: the bit above the yellow line represents the sky, while the bit below represents the sea.

    (designer: Martin den Dulk)

  13. Lesser Poland, since 1999

    Hey, don’t get so down on yourself. You’re just as good as regular Poland. 

  14. Southern Province, Sri Lanka, since 1987

    Like someone took the lion from the Sri Lankan flag and pushed it off a cliff.

  15. Val di Fassa, unofficial

    The Fassa Valley is the Ladin-speaking part of the Italian province of Trentino, and the locals there sometimes fly seven-striped flags. The colours are consistent from flag to flag, but the order of them isn’t. Not sure what they represent. The seven municipalities of the valley maybe?