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The International Bear Brotherhood Flag

Sexual Orientation Flags

Last modified: 2015-06-27 by randy young
Keywords: bear | footprint | fur | paw | byrnes (craig) |
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IBB flag
image by António Martins, 03 Feb 2001
See also: Other sites:

Introduction

The Bear Flag (“bears” being gay men with an appreciation for hirsute partners) is displayed more discretely than the Rainbow Gay Pride Flag. They are usually seen tacked to the wall or flown just inside the door at bars, nightclubs, and conventions which cater to that type of clientele.
Steve Kramer, 29 Nov 2000


Description and origin of the flag

The flag consists of seven horizontal stripes (a reference to the Gay Pride flag?) of supposedly ursine colours: brown, light brown, very light brown, very light yellow, white, grey and black; on the upper hoist, a bear pawprint spanning over four stripes.
António Martins, 03 Feb 2001

The Bear Pride Flag is an idea from the USA, as many gay symbols. It symbolizes the different colours of bear furs. The bear paw in the left upper corner makes additionally clear, for whom the friendship and affection is. Also in Europe the Bear Pride Flag prevails more and more.
Marcus Schmöger, 26 Aug 2001,
translating from this page

This flag seems to be the most popular of the “bear pride flags” now. I saw it in Munich, during the CSD (Christopher Street Day) Parade.
Marcus Schmöger, 24 Aug 2001

The newer flag with black paw mark on canton of a striped flag of seven “bear colors” seems to have replaced it and all other variants and proposals.
António Martins, 13 Jun 2006

Byrnes Craig’s undergraduate degree in psychology involved designing a senior project about the bear culture that has exploded since the early 1980s, of which he had first-hand experience. Craig thought it might be fitting to design a flag that would best represent the bear community and include it with the results of his research. Four variations were sewing machine constructed and Craig won approval to display the four 3’×5’ prototype flags at the Chesapeake Bay Bears «Bears of Summer» events in July of 1995.

The winning design is 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.

Marcus Schmöger, 26 Aug 2001,
quoting from this page

At this page another story about the origins of the flag is presented by Paul Witzkoske, the man who was asked by Craig Byrnes to create the templates for the four original proposed variants of the International Bear Brotherhood Flag. According to Witzkoske, Byrnes' original idea was a flag with six stripes only and a brown paw print on green canton, while Witzkoske has derived it into four variants, all with seven stripes in the following colors (names as given by him): brown, rust, gold, cream, white, gray, and black. On two variants, the color order was as given above, both with a black paw print, one of them putting it on a green canton. The other two variants have had the opposite color order, one with a black paw print on a green canton and the other with a brown paw print over the stripes only. These four images are also shown on the Bear Manufacturing company website but there is also a photo of all four prototypes hoisted together for voting, which shows that both flags with the green canton were eventually created with the brown paw prints, not black as were originally meant. Curiously, that photo is preceeded by the images of all four variants, where black paw prints were shown on green cantons again. Neither of the pages says nothing about that change nor the reasons for it, although it obviously must have been done just before the tailoring part of work. Considering all that, it is obvious that the complete story of the flag origins is yet to be compiled.

Tomislav Todorovic, 01 Apr 2012


Color shades variations

The color shades of the International Bear Brotherhood Flag seem not to be entirely fixed and they do vary somewhat. It partly depends on the material on which they are applied, as seen on the Bear Manufacturing company products [1].

The color which varies the most is cream, which sometimes looks like very light yellow [2], but may also be almost as dark as gold [3]. Cream color is very frequently substituted with "skin color" - that is, a pinkish shade which is typically attributed to the Caucasian people's skin [4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14] and rendered in heraldry as "carnation". In some cases, the color shade does deserve to be described as "cream" [8, 9], but it may also be almost indistinguishable from white [10, 11] or or resemble the sand color [12]. Gold color may look as it is supposed to [3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14], or incline towards orange [6, 9] or very light brown [2, 12] or even ochre [10].

Rust color sometimes looks as such [11, 13, 14], but often inclines towards orange [3, 4, 5, 6, 8] or light brown [2, 7, 9, 12]. Topmost stripe is rather consistently shown in a dark shade of brown, while gray varies from dark [3, 4, 8] through intermediate [7, 12] to light [2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14].

IBB flag variant #1
image by António Martins and Tomislav Todorovic, 01 Apr 2012

The lighting conditions at the time and place of the photo making do play a significant role in these differences, but they are certainly not the only reason for them. With all this in mind, the most frequent color combination found on the Web, especially for the images generated by the computer, might be as follows: (dark) brown, rust (light brown), gold, skin/carnation (replacing cream), white, (dark) gray and black. It shall also be noted that Paul Witzkoske, while calling the fourth color "cream" (see above), is showing a shade in his images that looks more like the "skin/carnation" color, just like all of the said images, which are obviously modelled after his image.

IBB flag variant #2
image by António Martins and Tomislav Todorovic, 01 Apr 2012

A peculiar variant which has appeared in Finland at the Helsinki Pride 2009, has the "skin" color even darker than gold, the opposite of the usual practice. The flag was photographed alone [15], but together with the "usual" variant flags as well [16, 17], which confirms that this was not just an error in the photo making. While all other variants of color shades still make minor differences, this one differs from the others enough to deserve a separate description and depiction.

Sources:
[1] Bear Manufacturing company website (check the main menu for different products)
[2] Outwords Books, Gifts & Coffee website
[3] International Bear Brotherhood Flag at Ebay
[4] Flickr - the flag at TC Pride 2011, Minneapolis, on 2011-06-25
[5] Flickr - the flag at TC Pride 2011, Minneapolis, on 2011-06-26
[6] Flickr - the flag in Oberhavel, Brandenburg, Germany, on 2007-06-09
[7] Flickr - the flag in San Francisco, on 2006-08-19
[8] The Complete Bear website
[9] Flickr - the flag at the Berlin Pride, on 2008-06-28
[10] Flickr - the flag at the Berlin Pride, on 2009-06-27/
[11]
Flickr - the flag in San Francisco, on 2012-03-03
[12]
Flickr - the flag at the San Francisco Pride, on 2008-06-29
[13]
Flickr - the flag at the Helsinki Pride, on 2009-07-01
[14]
Flickr - the flag at the Helsinki Pride, on 2009-07-01
[15]
Flickr - the flag at the Helsinki Pride, on 2009-07-01
[16]
Flickr - the flag at the Helsinki Pride, on 2009-07-01
[17]
Flickr - the flag at the Helsinki Pride, on 2009-07-01

Tomislav Todorovic, 01 Apr 2012


Rejected proposals

At the Bear Manufacturing company website, a photo is shown from the voting for the flag adoption, which displays all four proposed variants. Unlike the adopted flag, all three rejected proposals have had the bear paw print in brown.

IBB flag, rejected proposal #1
image by António Martins and Tomislav Todorovic, 26 May 2015

First of these has also had the reversed order of stripes, with black at the top and brown at the bottom.

IBB flag, rejected proposal #2
image by António Martins and Tomislav Todorovic, 26 May 2015

The second of rejected proposals has had the same order of stripes as the adopted one, but the paw print was on a green canton.

IBB flag, rejected proposal #3
image by António Martins and Tomislav Todorovic, 26 May 2015

The third rejected proposal has also had the paw print on green canton, but the order of stripes was reversed.

Tomislav Todorovic, 26 May 2015