The American flag has been—by everyone from Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to Phat Farm and numerous others—co-opted as a style icon of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. (Perhaps no one did so better than Mick Jagger in his Altamont era.) Jasper Johns even painted it (more than once): perhaps its most beautiful rendering.
The flag—along with the Union Jack, which among world flags is perhaps the only other style icon—does lend itself to design, and the stars and stripes also send a message: not just that America is a superpower and carries weight (and burden), but also that it is a concept; flawed certainly, and not always living up to its ideals. That concept, a nation “out of many”, still holds appeal the world over, however, and the flag, in various forms and interpretations, continues to be emblazoned on chests everywhere from Tehran to Timbuktu, although not always to stylish effect.
Happy Birthday, America. May you have hundreds more, but may you also live up to your ideals, one day.