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James, Jack and the Jubilee


Whether your celebrations include a screening of Derek Jarmans 1978 cult classic, a good old-fashioned street party or simply a long bank holiday, the Union Flag will be the inescapable emblem of your weekend. Next Wednesday as bunting is stowed and flags are furled the unpatriotic will appreciate a short respite, but it will all be up again for the Olympics, and if Team GB strikes gold a few times it may never be taken down.

It’s our opinion that doing any job to a reasonable standard for 60 consecutive years absolutely deserves some flag waving. If the focus of celebration is head of state of the UK and Commonwealth then there is only one flag to wave.

The Union Flag was created in 1606 by James I, the name Jack was derived from Jacobus, Latin for James. The original design was an effort to unite his English and Scottish Kingdoms, this amalgamated the flags of those countries only. James also declared himself King of Great Britain and introduced the Unite, the first currency recognised in both countries. The Cross of St Patrick was added to the design in 1808 under the reign of Queen Anne and created the current Union Flag.

The flag has been appropriated in numerous ways over the centuries. It became the pattern of John Bulls waistcoat, Jamie Reid subverted its meaning whilst retaining its impact in his Sex Pistols cover artwork, and Stella McCartney deconstructed and recoloured it for the 2012 Team GB kit. If the team underperforms in July that’s down to the lack of red in the strip according to some sports psychologists.

The Union Flag doesn’t appear in the CHERCHBI identity. This is partly because we’re interested in the British Isles as a whole, our boundaries being geographical rather than political. Partly because the flag is used so frequently elsewhere without any standard, in some instances it’s boldly appropriate, in others it’s the opposite, yet neither end of this spectrum suits us. Despite being obviously proud of our Britishness, the Union Flag isn’t the emblem to reflect this. Instead we blind-emboss the words BRITISH MADE in 2mm Gill Sans into the English saddle leather of our bags, an unambiguous understatement.