The Reason You Almost Never See Purple on National Flags

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Plenty of countries have added creative elements to their flags, whether it's in the form of a dragon, a machete, or a two-headed eagle. But a design you likely won’t find no matter where you are on Earth is one that includes purple. It’s not because the color is considered universally unfashionable: Its absence from flags has more to do with practicality.

In this video, the educational YouTube page After Skool breaks down the history of the glamorous hue. The first purple dyes were almost entirely sourced from one species of sea snail harvested from a small part of the Mediterranean. It took 10,000 of these snails to produce just a single gram of dye. For this reason, purple was worth more than its weight in gold prior to the 19th century.

While purple garments did exist, they were mainly worn by the supremely wealthy and members of the royal family (hence the term “royal purple”). Though it would have made a bold statement, incorporating purple into flags just wasn’t worth the cost.

The color’s status was forever changed in 1856, when a British university student named William Henry Perkin discovered a way to make purple dye synthetically. It became much more accessible in the years that followed, which is why the handful of flags that do have a splash of purple were all designed after 1900.

Check out the full story from After Skool below.

[h/t After Skool]