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Folktales: Common Threads

The Cardinals have had their look evolve over their 100-plus seasons

Common Thread redo

When the Cardinals host the Giants this Sunday at State Farm Stadium, there will be a lot of red on the field.

Cardinal red, to be specific.

"We weren't going to be anything other than Cardinal red, and that's what Chris O'Brien said when he bought the used jerseys from the University of Chicago Maroons," Michael Bidwill said. "This isn't maroon. This isn't burgundy. This isn't red. This is cardinal red, and we'll call ourselves the Cardinals from here forward."

Bidwill, the Cardinals team owner, said it's a pretty unique story that encapsulates the origin of the clubs name and colors.

What uniforms looked like back then, more than 100 years ago, colors were near the only parallel.

"In the very beginning, you'd see people playing football dressed like we are, with just shirts, no protection, no helmets," said Joe Ziemba, an award-winning author who wrote multiple books about the Chicago Cardinals.

Sometimes, Ziemba said, a player might use some cardboard to use as head protection. And even as uniforms developed, they were made of heavier material, in large part to withstand the rigors of a schedule as the lone outfit for each player. Replacements were rare.

What is for certain is that the Cardinals brand is iconic, being the NFL's oldest franchise, even after going through multiple iterations over the years.

As the seasons have passed, the look has evolved.

  • In 1922, stripes were featured on the sides of the sweaters.
  • Numbers were added to the front of the jersey in 1931.
  • 1960 was the first season the Cardinal bird logo was painted on the side of the helmet.
  • In 1994 the Arizona state flag was printed on the sleeves.
  • 2005 was when the Cardinals upgraded to a higher quality jersey that featured side panels and weren't monochromatic.

Over the years, some Cardinals fans wanted to see the 2005 uniform design updated. Bidwill said he heard it all.

Still, the team took its time as the process to change and create a new jersey spans over a number of years.

It was important to Bidwill and the Cardinals to unveil an on-field look that doesn't only represent the present but also recognizes the past.

"We give a nod to tradition, this striping pattern (on the pants) is one that the team has worn off and on for years and I think it's a nice nod," Bidwill said. "It was important to me that we honor the history of the team and some of the tradition, but also evolve this uniform into something that's going to be embraced by our fans, by our players, and by everyone."

Nike and the NFL weren't the only ones that were a part of the process of identifying what the final product would be. Bidwill sought feedback from their very own.

"I relied on senior leadership here and we involved Kyler Murray in it early on and wanted Kyler's input," Bidwill said. "I know that he was all for a clean look. The red-on-red was something that not only Kyler loved, but my father loved. My father loved when we wore red-on-red, dating back all the way to Sun Devil Stadium."

The all-white road uniforms have received a lot of love on social media with Bidwill adding that the combination is also "so clean and so crisp."

Fans have had the opportunity to see the Cardinals don their home uniforms throughout the preseason, but Bidwill is excited to see those red-on-red uniforms run out of the State Farm Stadium tunnel for the regular season.

"I'm excited for our fans to see this and our players to play in it. I think this next generation of this uniform is going to be one that's filled with excitement, and I can't wait to have JG (coach Jonathan Gannon) get this team on the field in this new uniform, and really get this thing rolling."

Images of the Cardinals' jersey transformation through the years