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Ask the Washingtonologist: Are DC Flag Tattoos Cool?

Our local know-it-all solves your capital city conundrums

Illustration by Jenny Rosenberg.

Dear Washingtonologist:

Washington happens to have what I consider to be the country’s best city flag. As a proud native Washingtonian, I’ve long been drawn to the idea of getting a flag tattoo. The problem: A lot of people seem to believe these tattoos are cheesy (or at least overly prevalent). What do you think? Are DC flag tats timelessly cool or played-out and lame?

—Ink-Curious in Eckington


Dear Ink-Curious:

No one surpasses the Washingtonologist in terms of love for the District of Columbia. The only reason we never put a DC flag on our bicep, back, or butt is because we were born with one etched into our soul.

That said, we’re starting to worry that the flag-tattoo critics are right: Beautiful as it is, our municipal pennant seems to be everywhere. There was a time when it was brandished by dissident types eager to show their connection to what was then a shrinking city. It became part of the iconography of the 1980s hardcore—make that harDCore—scene. Now, as with so many other onetime bohemian symbols, the flag has bourgeoisified. These days, you can find it depicted on cans of pricey micro­brew, painted on the roof of a rowhouse in upscale Capitol Hill, and inked onto the right foot of the DC Council member from leafy Ward 3. There’s nothing wrong with any of this. Love for the greatest city in the history of the whole wide world shouldn’t be limited to hipsters. But it’s reasonable for District die-hards to worry that the flag has become a lifestyle totem for Washingtonians-come-lately.

The Washingtonologist, of course, loves all Washingtonians, native-born as well as newly arrived. And luckily, this is a city where the flag is hardly the only iconic symbol. The diamond-shaped map of the District is instantly recognizable. So is the map of the Metro (at least if you’re looking to show off regional pride rather than city-specific allegiance). So we suggest that if you’re really, truly over the two-bars, three-stars logo, come up with your own symbol of devotion. Or don’t. Maybe being overly prevalent isn’t such a bad thing? There are more than 700,000 of us, and given the state of our world, there’s something to be said for sticking together instead of seeking new ways to set ourselves apart.

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This article appears in the November 2021 issue of Washingtonian.