Our Chat with Cards’ President Bill DeWitt III About New City Connect Uniforms – SportsLogos.Net News

Our Chat with Cards’ President Bill DeWitt III About New City Connect Uniforms

The St. Louis Cardinals brand new Nike MLB City Connect uniforms will be making their on-field début this afternoon. The red jerseys with “The Lou” scripted across the chest, inspired by the hit song from Nelly, were unveiled on Monday to an overall positive reaction from fans and media alike.

Shortly after the uniform was revealed, SportsLogos.Net was fortunate to chat with Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III about what went on when it came to developing the club’s City Connect uniforms.

During the thirty-minute call, DeWitt discussed the whole process, from the beginning when Nike approached the Cardinals about the City Connect project to considering red pants and how they were able to keep their classic chain-stitched lettering on the uniforms.

SHOP: St. Louis Cardinals new City Connect jerseys, caps, shirts, and more are available right now, right here

The St. Louis Cardinals new Nike MLB City Connect uniform was unveiled May 20, 2024

“It goes back a couple of years. Nike was going from team to team, working through various teams’ schedules to unveil the City Connect series, and we chose to opt in,” DeWitt explained. “We had a pretty good portfolio of home, road, and alternate uniforms that I was already happy with. So, City Connect was more of a challenge in the sense that we had to rethink the overall portfolio of the team’s look.”

The decision to opt in was voluntary, as DeWitt clarified. “It wasn’t like you have to do this, or you’re not going to get your Central Fund revenue. We had the option of opting in. The A’s aren’t doing it for obvious reasons, and the Yankees haven’t yet done it.”

Nike’s “four plus one” approach required teams to consolidate their uniform sets, which meant the Cardinals had to make some changes to their five-uniform set. “Nike made teams go to the four plus one approach. We already had four, and the Spring Training was red. The practical reality of opting into City Connect was to eliminate the Spring Training jersey, put City Connect in place, and then wear the white and gray uniforms in Spring Training,” DeWitt detailed.

“The Lou” chain-stitched across the river-pinstriped jersey, inspired by the Nelly song “Country Grammar” from 2000, in which he sang, “I’m from ‘The Lou’ and I’m proud”

Did eliminating the red Spring Training set play a role in choosing red as the City Connect uniform colour? “Maybe that was a factor, but more of a factor was the fact that we’ve never worn a red jersey [regularly] for the regular season. It’s a primary team colour. It struck us as an opportunity where we could stay true to our colour portfolio and still do something different. That’s what we settled on pretty early.”

The absence of a red Cardinals uniform over the years seems surprising, given its natural fit with the team’s name and colour scheme. “Well, it wasn’t a natural fit until around 2000, when it was still pretty much home whites and road grays [across the league],” DeWitt explained. “Teams started doing these alternate tops of darker colours, primary colours. We resisted that trend. My dad used to say that it looks like a softball team. He grew up in the game in the ’40s and ’50s. That’s a generational opinion, and I maybe inherited a little bit of that.”

Bill DeWitt III has been President of the St. Louis Cardinals since 2008

Balancing tradition with modernity posed its own set of challenges. DeWitt acknowledged the delicate nature of altering the Cardinals’ iconic look, including the usage of the scripted “The Lou” across the front of the uniform. “There was definitely some apprehension, but also some excitement to be able to play around with the uniforms a little bit.”

“Anytime you’re messing around with the Cardinals’ logo portfolio, you’re playing with fire. It’s such a great iconic look. Why would you ever draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa? The modern baseball team has a lot of different looks, and I like it when they all tie together and feel like they’re part of the same family, even with City Connect. Trying to do something different and push it a little was fine, but there was a limit based on my feeling about the Cardinals’ look and what they stand for.”

Several options were considered during the design process, including coloured pants. “We did look at an all-red uniform, and a couple of the players I talked to were like, ‘Do it! Come on, this is gonna be cool!” We mocked them up, but not to the point of actually creating a physical set of red pants. I looked at a couple of college teams that are all red. I Googled their action photos, but at the end of the day, it’s just a lot of red. The word pyjamas comes to mind. Every time I would look at it, toggling between the red and white pants, the white just looked better. Aesthetically, that’s what drove that decision.”

A closer look at the river-inspired pinstripes on the Cardinals City Connect jersey

One of the standout features of the new uniforms are the river pinstripes, symbolizing the Mississippi River, and the sleeve patch incorporating the Gateway Arch and fleur-de-lis. “I love the river pinstripes. I thought that was a great idea. I don’t remember who came up with it; it might have been one of the Nike designers. I’m surprised another team hadn’t thought of it. The Cardinals haven’t traditionally done pinstripes, but we have them deep into our history. I thought that was a cool element for us to bring back and add that twist.”

The Arch/Fleur sleeve patch aimed to encapsulate St. Louis’s heritage. “The sleeve patch was a way to combine some St. Louis symbols into one design. Once we decided to stick with the birds on the bat on the front, it left us without an expression of other city symbols. The patch was a way of combining iconic symbols, reflecting a lot of French heritage. Combining those two and adding the ‘STL’ was another way of tying it back to the Cardinals and the city to unify it all.”

With “The Lou” on the chest, the Cardinals needed a way to incorporate St. Louis into the jersey, the new sleeve patch did that while also incorporating the new cap “STL” logo

Even the cap was designed with a nod to tradition. “We tried some things. We looked at using the sleeve patch as the cap logo, and that was cool, but I’m more of a cap purist. I’ve always loved it when it’s the city’s initials. There were opportunities to do a million different things with the cap, but using the same font as the ‘STL’ on the patch and the jock tag created a common theme around the style of the Cardinals’ alphabet from the 1920s, which I really liked.”

Including “The Lou” on the front of the jersey sparked some snickering around social media due to its, uh, other meaning in British slang, but DeWitt was unfazed. “Unfortunately, that word has a meaning in Great Britain, but I keep coming back to the Country Grammar song by Nelly where he says, ‘I’m from The Lou, and I’m proud.’ This is about connecting with a younger group or more progressive fans. The word can have multiple meanings, and just because one has that meaning somewhere else doesn’t mean it has to have that here. It does have a reasonable amount of vernacular usage. It’s out there.”

The “STL” on the red cap was chosen instead of the sleeve patch logo because of a preference for city initials on a cap. The lettering is based on the 1920 Cardinals uniform

One of the most beloved aspects of the Cardinals’ uniforms is the chain stitching, which fortunately was retained in this City Connect design and the new set of Nike uniforms introduced earlier this year. The Cardinals are the only club that avoided using Nike’s new, lighter fabrics for their uniform logos.

“It started at an owners’ meeting about five years ago when they announced that Nike was taking over the program. Nike had a display at the owners’ meetings with each team’s proposed jerseys. Our jersey had all the Nike features, including the birds, but the birds were in this new fabric. In and of itself, I didn’t have a problem with it, but in context, we’ve had a chain-stitched embroidered jersey since 1922, over 100 years, and here we were, taking it off for no apparent reason. Nike focused on performance with lighter-weight fabric that’s more performance-oriented and stretchy, which is fine, but I didn’t think we’d hit fewer home runs if we had chain-stitched birds… I’m being facetious, of course.”

A close-up look at the chain stitching detail of the Cardinals jersey logo: the Cardinals have used chain stitching on their uniforms since 1922 and convinced Nike to allow them to continue to do so with the new uniform style introduced for 2024

DeWitt also emphasized that keeping the chain stitching helped differentiate Nike’s “Elite” and replica jersey styles for fans. “I was concerned at the retail level that there wouldn’t be much differentiation between the elite jersey and the replica. The replicas are probably 80% of the sales because they’re reasonably priced, while the ‘Elite’ jerseys are $400-plus. We worked with Nike to retain it, which required them to retool everything. They were under a lot of pressure to get 30 teams, times four plus one, into the retail pipeline, that’s a big proposition, even for Nike. They were doing things like this to streamline and simplify, but we still managed to maintain the chain stitching, which was great.”

SHOP: St. Louis Cardinals new City Connect jerseys, caps, shirts, and more are available right now, right here

Fans will get their first look at the uniform DeWitt, the Cardinals, and Nike put together on the field this afternoon when they take on the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. The Cards will wear the new set a dozen times between today and the remainder of the 2024 season. You can learn more about the new uniform here.