Bear Brothers Flag

The Bear Pride Flag is a symbol used by some "bears," gay men marked by an abundance of hair on their face, chest, and body. Bears also tend to be older, and perhaps larger or chubby. There does not seem to be one single symbol that represents bears in general. Rather, there are many symbols that have been adopted by local clubs, bars, and other bear groups. The most popular bear flag is this International Bear Brotherhood Flag, "designed with inclusivity in mind and represent[ing] the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world." Thanks to merchandise availability and word-of-mouth, this flag has became the dominant bear flag within the community. Early in 1996, Craig Byrnes, known to many Washington, DC-area bears as Mr. Baltimore Bear Cub ’93 and Mr. TBLC of Virginia ’94, began presenting area clubs and organizations with a new flag—the “INTERNATIONAL BEAR BROTHERHOOD FLAG.” The flag didn’t appear out of nowhere. In fact, this new symbol of bear brotherhood had an earlier, interesting development. Craig’s work towards earning an undergraduate degree in psychology involved designing a senior project that would explore and discuss the bear culture that has exploded since the early 1980s. As a member of the Chesapeake Bay Bears (CBB), he had become involved with first-hand experience of the growing bear movement. During the time of of his senior project development, Craig thought it might be fitting to design a flag that would best represent the bear community (since there is no “official” bear flag) and include it with the results of his research. Craig was encouraged by his ex-husbear Bob Nicholson, an Alumni Member of the District of Columbia Bear Club (DCBC). Bob bought a deluxe box of crayons for Craig's birthday, and Craig began his search of suitable colors for his flag. Craig constructed the original flag drawing from the colors he selected. After scanning the drawing, Craig enlisted DCBC member Paul Witzkoske to create four computer-generated templates from the original artwork made in crayon from which the four variations were sewing machine constructed of lining material. Bob spent several hours on a sewing machine making the first set of 3' x 5' flags out of simple lining material. Craig won approval to display the four prototype flags at the CBB “Bears of Summer” events in July of 1995. Bears were asked to put a quarter in the appropriate box to indicate which flag they thought would best represent the bear community and the proceeds were donated to CBB to add to its AIDS fundraising collections. The winning design is the one you find promoted here. It’s a field of simple horizontal stripes with a paw print in the upper left corner—a layout familiar to anyone who has seen the Leather Pride Flag. The colors represent the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world and was designed with inclusivity in mind. Craig at BEAR INVASION '96 Bob Nicholson stitched four copies of the winning design out of standard flag nylon. One was sent to a flag manufacturer for the possibility of mass production and distribution to the bear community. Another original was sent to Lurch in San Francisco as a memento of his visit to Washington, DC and his participation as Master of Ceremonies for the“Bears of Summer” contest. Paul was presented an original hand-sewn flag for assisting Craig in making his design into a computer generated graphic, and Craig and Bob kept the last flag as a reminder of the process. As Craig says, “The ‘INTERNATIONAL BEAR BROTHERHOOD FLAG’ is presented to the bear community with love and gratitude,” and he has been very generous about donating flags to bear clubs all over. But that’s not to mean that he isn’t serious about marketing and selling this new symbol. There are several other “bear flags” out there that have not gained as much recognition, and Craig can tell many stories about the reaction his new symbol has received. Craig is very serious about getting the flag out and visible. Founder of the company—Bear Manufacturing—has become the nameplate for a whole line of bear-focused products. Craig has also commissioned other Washington-area bears, including the very talented Dave Williams, to create new products for the company as well. Dave created the very popular “Flag Raisers” and “Bear Rip” illustrations which incorporate the INTERNATIONAL BEAR BROTHERHOOD FLAG in ingenious ways. The Bear Pride Flag is a symbol used by some "bears," gay men marked by an abundance of hair on their face, chest, and body. Bears also tend to be older, and perhaps larger or chubby. There does not seem to be one single symbol that represents bears in general. Rather, there are many symbols that have been adopted by local clubs, bars, and other bear groups. The Bear Pride Flag shown below is from Spags, a Seattle bear bar. The colors of the flag represent the earth and the various bears that live between the sky and the ground. The golden yellow paw shaped sun represents the spirit and brotherhood of bears all over the world. The blue stripe represents the sky; white for polar bears; black for black bears; brown for brown bears; and green for Earth. Another popular bear flag is the International Bear Brotherhood Flag, "designed with inclusivity in mind and represent[ing] the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world." Thanks to merchandise availability and word-of-mouth, this flag has became the dominant bear flag within the community. For more information, please visit the Bear Manufacturing web site. Note that this symbol is copyright 1995, Craig Byrnes/Bear Manufacturing VA763-760. It is provided on this site with permission and is intended for personal, non-commercial use only.