'From The Lou and proud': Cards City Connects a fresh take on iconic brand

May 20th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- Looking to tell the story of St. Louis’ history while also sticking to what made their famed “birds on the bat” logo iconic throughout all of sports, the Cardinals meshed those concepts to create a bold City Connect uniform.

A collaboration with Nike some 2 1/2 years in the works yielded the first red regular-season jersey in the 142-year history of the franchise. Those chain-stitched redbirds perched on the bat remain for Cardinals fans familiar with the team’s signature jerseys, but the nickname splashed across the front -- “The Lou” -- is a nod to Nelly, the St. Louis star who rapped that line about his love for his hometown.

Wavy red pinstripes, signifying the mighty, muddy Mississippi River that hugs St. Louis’ border, are inlaid on the jerseys. Another thicker stripe runs down the leg of the white pants, matching a red New Era-produced cap that features a block-lettered STL design. The font used for the cap logo harkens to 1921, the last year before the franchise adopted a birds-on-the-bat logo.

“This was a fun process, because the iconography of Cardinals baseball and its history is endless on what you can do, so narrowing it down was hard,” Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. “Having the story [of the uniforms] be new, but still kind of a flashback, is something we’re really proud of.”

The Cardinals will wear their City Connect jerseys in a game for the first time on Saturday against the rival Cubs. In all, the Redbirds will wear the new uniforms in 12 home games this season.

The jerseys and caps went on sale on Monday at the Cardinals team store, at Ballpark Village and at a popup merchandise trailer on Clark Avenue. The team and Nike will hold launch parties to introduce the new design to fans on Monday night and Friday outside Busch Stadium.

Though it might have seemed like a natural move, the Cardinals’ opting for a red jersey was a big departure from their traditional white and gray, DeWitt said. In their rich history, the Cardinals have worn red jerseys just once -- Aug. 28, 1999, as part of an MLB “Shirts Off Their Backs” promotion.

“We’ve never had a red jersey -- even though half of the [fans] have red on, but we’ve always focused on wearing that jersey in Spring Training and batting practice,” DeWitt said. “We’ve had everything but red on the field, so for me, going red was new. This allows us to be different with something we’ve never done, but also not so radical with a color that’s not a part of the family.”

DeWitt said the club benefitted from being later in the MLB cycle for City Connect uniforms, allowing them to handpick the elements they liked. Long a protector of the Cardinals’ iconic logo -- insisting for years that the birds on the bat be chain-stitched rather than a flat, graphic font -- DeWitt also held firm to the notion that the City Connect jerseys feature the team’s primary colors. Some franchises, such as the Red Sox, Phillies and Nationals, ventured completely out of their traditional color spectrum, but not the Redbirds.

“We did a bunch of iterations and Nike was pushing us to think outside the box, which is partly what this is all about,” DeWitt said. “There were versions of taking the birds on the bat off and all sorts of crazy things. [Nike] would probably admit to pushing teams further outside their comfort zones than many of them want, and we’ve seen that in certain franchises.

“I just didn’t feel like this franchise, given its special place in the hierarchy of uniforms, needed to do that.”

DeWitt is most proud that the team was able to partner with Nelly and borrow from his “Country Grammar” lyrics with “The Lou” splashed across the jersey. Nelly narrated the team’s hype video about the release of the new uniforms as only he can do, pouring his love for “The Lou” and the Cardinals into the final product.

“You see, we brought something new to The Lou.

Rich in tradition, and immersed in Cardinals red.

Representing the 314 with a fresh look.

Threads for those who are St. Louis material.

Doesn’t matter if you started here, or just arrived.

When you're part of Cardinals Nation, you're from here.

So, say it loud, I’m from The Lou and I’m proud.”