It's no secret. I don't love the St. Louis flag. Now I am in the minority on this, and it is very popular in and around STL. So in the video above, I visit St Louis and see if there's anything I can find to help me fall in love with it's big red wavy flag.
St. Louis Flag History
The red flag we see today began in late 1962 when Mayor Raymond R. Tucker appointed a five-member committee to design a new flag for the city’s upcoming bicentennial celebration in 1964. The flag was ultimately designed by Professor Emeritus Theodore Sizer, Pursuivant of Arms at Yale University. He was the one non-st Louis resident on the committee.
Sizer was an expert in heraldry which is the ancient art of coats of arms and such, and it makes sense why heraldic elements made their way into this flag when it was officially adopted in 1964.
St. Louis Flag Symbolism
The flag of St. Louis starts with a solid red background, or “field” as we call it in vexillological terms. It then has two white and blue wavy bars coming from the top and bottom corners of the hoist edge toward left center where they join and then continue as one towards the fly edge. This represents the confluence of the Missouri River into the Mississippi river which occurs just north of the city.
Over the point of confluence is a round golden disk with a blue fleur-de-lis. The disk represents the Louisiana Purchase. In Heraldry, a golden disk or Bezant, is usually used to represents a coin or purchase. The Fleur De Lis represents the French background of the early City and specifically, St. Louis of France, the namesake of what we American’s call, Saint Louis.
The way Sizer defined the colors is interesting because each one doesn’t represent something specific. Instead, different combinations of colors do, and I’ve never seen another flag do this. For instance, the red and gold represent Spain, the white and gold represent Bourbon France, the blue, white and red are for Napoleonic and Republican France and the red, white, and blue United States of America.
That brings me to one of the major things I don’t love about this flag. The colors reference all of the previous colonizers of this land and there’s no representation of the rich indigenous history. For a town nicknamed Mound City because of the ancient Cohokia mounds and other indigenous settlements, the flag doesn’t represent those things at all.
The Design Things That Bug Me
If you’re wondering “But follows all the flag design rules, Michael! Why don’t you like it?” Well, I think the thing that bugs me the most is the wavy lines. As a designer my eye is drawn to the curves and distance between peaks not being consistent. The waves also don’t go to the corners which makes a weird negative space near the hoist.
How I'd Fix St. Louis' Flag
To fix the visual things that irk me about the St Louis Flag, I decided to first move the waves directly into the corners. That eliminates the thin red negative space and creates a nice simple chevron shape in the red.
Next I basically zoomed in. By eliminating the number of waves (which are never officially defined anyway), the visual balance feels a lot better. There is much less visual noise and it feels more balanced on the whole.
So is the STL flag "good"? Of course it is! But I give it a solid B+ or A-. As I’ve explore the city, I definitely don’t see as many flags as I have in Chicago or DC. Gift shops sell the flag, but aren’t selling many shirts and hats with it on it. You do see it used creatively by businesses and that adds a lot to adoption.