Is Chicago’s flag “a much bigger deal than” the flags of other big cities?

Here is an argument for “why Chicago’s flag is a much bigger deal than any other city’s flag“:

As reporter Elliott Ramos suggested in a 2011 post for WBEZ, Chicago’s love affair with its flag seems to have taken off in the 1990s, with an influx of young adults into the city. Michael, a kickball player featured on the Chicago Flag Tattoos website, explains why he felt compelled to have the flag permanently emblazoned on his arm: “After moving to Chicago and living here for a few years, Chicago really kind of took a place in my heart, so I thought it’d be a good thing to do.”…

Symbolism aside, the flag’s simple, bold design is the reason it caught on. On his Urbanophile blog, Aaron M. Renn wrote: “In the United States, I’d have to rate Chicago far and away #1 in the use of official civic symbols (maybe the best in the world for all I know), and also note the overall high level of design quality of these objects … If you come to Chicago, you’ll notice that the city flag is ubiquitous.”

It’s enough to make you wonder: Is this a unique local thing? How do other cities’ flags stack up against Chicago’s?

Turns out, many are bland, and a few are downright appalling. Even the good flags aren’t necessarily well-known by the people of their cities.

When the North American Vexillological Association (vexillology is the study of flags) conducted a survey in 2004 ranking the nation’s best city flags, Chicago’s flag received a stellar 9.03 out of 10 possible points. But that was only good enough to land Chicago in the No. 2 spot. No. 2? Who could possibly beat us?

There is some limited evidence here: anecdotal tales that Chicagoans seem to display the flag often and the flag is rated highly by a flag group. But, there are several issues at work here. One, Chicago’s flag might be “better” than other flags. This is more of an aethestic or design consideration. This is where you want to appeal to outside, impartial groups like the North American Vexillological Association. Second, Chicagoans might like their flag or identify with it more than residents of other cities. Perhaps it indicates that Chicagoans have some decent levels of civic pride. This could be addressed by survey research. Third, Chicagoans might display the flag more often. This is probably the easiest to quantify and observational data could provide better evidence (perhaps easier to do these days with Google Street View).

Given the evidence presented in this piece, I’m not convinced any of these three options are true…

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