Of the three couples who made it out of the pods in season 5 of Love Is Blind, only two of them survived the fateful Mexico trip, where the new fiancés are meant to get to know each other physically after weeks of only talking from behind a wall. The couple that didn’t survive—Jared Pierce (JP), a firefighter, and Taylor Rue, a teacher—burned out in such spectacular fashion that it makes you wonder what they even saw in each other in the first place. After an awkward reveal, during which JP looked like he had never interacted with a human woman in his entire life, things only became progressively more uncomfortable, until finally he admitted that he was finding it difficult to communicate with Taylor because he didn’t like the makeup she wore at the reveal. (Huh?)
Yet throughout each increasingly excruciating scene—from their first pod meeting in episode 1 to their final goodbye in episode 6—JP reveals a personal style quirk far more sinister than heavy makeup: the man is obsessed with American flags. This includes but is not limited to: American flag socks, T-shirts, button-downs, basketball jerseys, bathing suits, sneakers, and—our personal favorite—an American flag handkerchief that he snots all over and then proceeds to politely fold and gingerly place atop the couch pillow, as if he didn’t just blow his nose into it.
JP’s obsession with the American flag isn’t just an affectation played up for the show. According to his Instagram, his love of America is not just a style choice, it’s a lifestyle. Here he is at the beach with red and white stripes down his back, wearing American flag swim trunks and an America baseball hat. Here he is posing his dog next to a red, white, and blue fire hydrant. Here he is going skiing for the first time in a star-spangled snowsuit. His friends even threw him a “surprise America party” for his 30th birthday.
Love Is Blind fans across the internet appear to be equally baffled by JP’s style choices, particularly those who aren’t American. “JP seems to wear a lot of flags. He’s either wearing a shirt with stars, stripes, both or it’s red, white and/or blue. It’s in every episode which is odd,” wrote one Redditor. “Granted, I’m not from the U.S., so this could be just a standard styling choice that a lot of people employ to show their patriotism. Is this abnormal? Do people carry flags? What’s going on here? Would love some context from someone local.”
But even Americans are confused. “This is weird af, right? I’m an East Coast black male and we don’t really do the star-spangled thing,” another Redditor wrote. “That said, what kind of nutcase owns that much flag stuff? Before anyone says it, I am well aware of the MAGA crazies. I just assume they have other kinds of clothing to cycle through…”
American flag clothing has a complicated history; for some, donning stars and stripes is the ultimate symbol of pride for one’s country. For others, turning the flag into something to wear can feel disrespectful. Since the middle of the 20th century, the American flag has been worn as both a sign of protest and a sign of national support. In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, the flag served as an emotional symbol, meant to unify a grieving nation. But after the 2016 election, the American flag has become seemingly inextricable from Donald Trump and his flock of MAGA followers. As The New Yorker put it, “To some, the American flag represents freedom, but the nation’s most enduring symbol is taken on partisan significance.” This partisan affiliation with the flag hasn’t been lost on internet commenters: “Someone needs to find out where [JP] was Jan 6th,” quipped one Redditor.
Whatever JP intended to communicate with his stars and stripes getups, he’s stayed largely under the radar since his breakup with Taylor aired last week. Taylor, meanwhile, has spoken out about how much his comments about her makeup upset her. “It was hurtful,” she told USA Today. “I was also really confused, because I don’t know how you can completely change because of the way someone looks.” This season, it seems the show has finally answered the question its title poses: Love is not, in fact, blind. But it is patriotic.
Jessica Roy is the former Digital Director of ELLE.com. Prior to that, she worked as the News Editor of The Cut. She likes baking, running, and Instagrams of your dog.