Man who picked Calgary flag 38 years ago says maybe it's time for a change

With a new mayor in Calgary, some say the timing might be right to consider changing the flag that has represented the city for almost 40 years.

Bruce Lee chose the current flag in 1983, but does a cowboy hat still resonate?

Here's Calgary's current flag, chosen in 1983 by Bruce Lee. (City of Calgary)

With a new mayor in Calgary, some say the timing might be right to consider changing the flag that has represented the city for almost 40 years, and now you can add to that list the man who chose it all those years ago.

"Calgary has evolved, and perhaps it is time to look at creating a new one," Bruce Lee told CBC News in an interview Wednesday.

The topic gets people charged up on social media.

As a senior member of the North Calgary Junior Chamber of Commerce, Lee was tasked by city council with chairing the committee to invite submissions back in the early 1980s.

The committee rented a high school gym to display all the entries.

"All the walls and floors were covered with hundreds of pictures. I am pretty sure we had close to 1,000 submissions," Lee said.

Bruce Lee, back in the early 1980s, chaired a committee to find a new flag for Calgary. (Submitted by Bruce Lee)

But when the committee presented its top choices, the city struggled to pick just one.

"They couldn't decide on the winner, so I actually picked the winner," Lee said.

That entry by Yvonne Fritz, who would later become a provincial MLA, is the flag that still represents Calgary today.

Some have pointed out similarities to the branding of Arby's, the fast food chain. But the Calgary flag, according to an expert, is actually quite powerful.

This is Arby's icon, used in social media and other platforms. (@Arbys/Twitter)

"Calgary's flag is an effective flag design if you measure it by the five basic principles of flag design," Ted Kaye told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

He's with the U.S.-based North American Vexillological Association, a group that documents, celebrates and rates flags.

Those five basic principles include simplicity, symbolism that connects, no more than three colours, an absence of writing or seals, and a distinctive look that does not copy other flags.

"Calgary's flag meets nearly all of those. The question mark is whether the symbolism is meaningful today," Kaye said.

Ted Kaye is with the U.S.-based North American Vexillological Association, a group that documents, celebrates and rates flags. (Submitted by Ted Kaye)

That's the million-dollar question. And fresh research might be helpful in answering it.

A marketing professor at Mount Royal University says Calgary and Alberta have lots of room for improvement if they want to connect with younger folks.

"We are starting to see some incongruence with younger people not feeling that the broader values of the province or their city are aligned with their long-term social values and goals," David Finch told CBC News in a recent interview.

"That's important, because that's an intangible that will contribute to intent. Social values frame not only their life but their career prospects and decisions."

So does the white cowboy hat in our current flag still have meaning?

"I would safely say that back in 1983, it was very appropriate at the time," Lee said.

"That was really before the Calgary Flames became big, and when the Stampede really was a big deal."

But what about 38 years later?

"I don't think anybody has even complained about it, because they have kind of grown up with it," he said.

"I think we have grown used to it, for sure, and maybe it is time to revisit it and come up with a new one."

  • What do you think? Is it time to change the flag? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


David Bell

Web Journalist

David Bell has been a professional, platform-agnostic journalist since he was the first graduate of Mount Royal University’s bachelor of communications in journalism program in 2009. His work regularly receives national exposure.


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