Vexillology, the study of flags, is a fascinating pursuit. The musician Frank Zappa once joked that you can’t have a country without a beer and an airline. What he left off was a flag—every nation in the world has its own flag, whether its independence is recognized around the world or not.
Many flags are simply arrangements of stripes running vertically or horizontally. The Nordic nations use crosses in different colors. But some flags stand out from the rest with their designs. Take a look at some of the world’s most interesting flags, often in some very interesting places.
Flag of Jamaica
The Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, le Tricolore: flags of three very different countries, but they all share a common color scheme of red, white, and blue. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a flag that doesn’t feature red, white, or blue. Give up? There’s one and only one national flag flying today that shares not a single color with the American, British, or French flag—the flag of Jamaica, proudly festooned in green, yellow, and black. Jamaica first raised this flag in 1962, after gaining its independence from the British crown. While the meanings of yellow and black have shifted, the green has been a constant symbol of the island’s lush Caribbean vegetation.
Related Read: Introduction to Kingston, Jamaica from a Local
Flag of Maryland
Most state flags in the United States follow a theme: a white or blue field with the state seal and its name: Wisconsin, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Kansas, just to name a few. What, then, to make of the flag of the state of Maryland, which looks like an exercise in modern art? In fact, it’s not modern at all. It comes from the 17th century standards of the Crosslands and Calverts—two founding families of the Maryland colony.
Flag of Nepal
Whether the ratio is 1:1, 2:1, 3:2, or something more specific, every national flag on earth is a four-sided shape—with one notable exception. Nepal, the home of Mount Everest, flies a twin-pennant flag whose sharp angles almost suggest the Himalayas themselves.
Flag of the Isle of Man
Off the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland lies a small island, home to a centuries-old parliament, a distinctly tailless cat, and a flag that’s sure to catch your eye. The Isle of Man is truly neither fish nor fowl: as a British dependency, its citizens are British, but it is not one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. The Isle flies its own flag, featuring a device called the triskelion, a three-legged wheel that has symbolized the Manx people since the 1200s. Renowned for its clean and starry night skies, stargazers can see the flag for themselves on a trip to the Isle.
Flag of Québec
One cross, two colors, and four symbols—how could such a simple flag engender such strong feelings? Le fleurdelisé, the flag of Québec, is among the world’s most interesting flags, not so much for its design but for its ubiquity. Throughout the province, the flag is flown in more places than the Maple Leaf flag of Canada, and the blue fleur-de-lis is found in countless applications as a symbol of French Canada. Vexillologists and geography enthusiasts alike are held in its thrall just as much as the Québécois themselves, with the design perennially topping lists of most popular flags. Though attempts to secede from Canada failed in 1980 and 1995, the fleurdelisé still captivates hearts and minds as an emblem of stalwart resistance to Canada’s English majority.