The New England Patriots Cheerleaders will debut their new signature uniform Sunday in their home opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
It features bold colors, Super Bowl symbolism, and is unlike any other uniform the Patriots Cheerleaders have taken the field in before. It may be brand new to their closet, but the concept for the uniform has lived in Cheerleading manager Alexandria Walker's mind for some time.
"Alex has all these amazing brainchildren in her head for things that she wants the team to do, whether it's uniforms to put us in or routines to have us do on the field," said captain and four-year squad veteran Driss Dallahi.
"I think for her, this is just going to be such a special moment for her to have this idea in her head for so long and then all of a sudden have it be real, on our bodies, on the field on game day."
Walker herself was a Patriots Cheerleader from 2012 to 2015 under the legendary Tracy Sormanti who passed away in 2020.
She fondly remembers being Sormanti's uniform model for new prototypes and talking over designs for previous uniforms with the longtime director of cheerleading. After retiring from cheerleading, Walker stayed on to be a dance trainer, spent some time cheering for the Dallas Cowboys, but not long before Sormanti's passing, was re-hired by the Sormanti and the cheerleading squad to coach.
Soon, the uniform Walker had been designing in her mind would actually come to fruition.
"Honestly, I've been dreaming up this uniform for years and years and years," Walker said. "Maybe eight years ago I started thinking about it and the elements that would make it special and unique, the symbolism with buttons and such. Right before Tracy passed she called me and talked about a new uniform – just the idea of it. I expressed to her, 'I have such a great idea. Don't worry about it,' and I think she would be so ecstatic about it."
Walker's vision was for a uniform that was unmistakably Patriots.
Other teams in the NFL may share the primary colors, but not the Patriots or New England region's rich history, which Walker wanted on full display.
Inspired by the cheer team's historically patriotic star-spangled uniforms, the six red stars on the bottom piece represent each of the team's Super Bowl championships. The militia jacket on the women's uniform has 11 buttons for each AFC title. Walker sketched up her idea with inspiration from previous years and traditional militiamen uniforms before turning to Angela King of Angela King Designs for her expertise.
"We reached out to a couple of different designers, but we had worked with Angela King before and she has a lot of experience," Walker said. "It's not so easy to create a jacket that's danceable, so that was the biggest hurdle. I thought in my mind, 'This would be so killer, but what kind of fabric would you use? How is this going to look in reality?' But honestly, (Angela) surprised us. The first prototype she showed us was absolutely perfect."
King, too, was an NFL cheerleader.
She was on the San Francisco 49ers' first-ever squad back in 1983 and those experiences with less-than-optimal uniforms inspired her to start her own business as a leading uniform designer for the last 33 years.
"I've been in business this long because I was a cheerleader and I understand," King said. "I was an NFL cheerleader and I understand what a cheerleader needs to feel, how they need to be able to move in their uniform for function, and what a team wants to portray. It's not easy, but it's something that I'm passionate about. For me, it's engineering with fabric to create a uniform that gives the exact vision of the team and allows a cheerleader performance value."
King specially sourced the material for the navy blue jacket herself, which isn't your typical, stretch fabric with a sheen to it. She added a hidden button so the jacket would stay in place but also be removed to show off the red top. For the cuffs on the jacket sleeve, white fabric was sent to a pleating house to be permanently pressed and all logos are embroidered with thread as opposed to silkscreen or sublimation. King personally oversaw each aspect of the hand-made uniforms and they boast the largest Patriots logo the cheerleaders have ever worn.
"I feel like the word that comes to mind is that it's iconic," said co-captain and five-year veteran Victoria McAleer after the cheerleaders were surprised on their recent calendar shoot in Aruba with the finished product.
"No one has worn this uniform yet. Alex completely designed it in her head. No other team in the NFL has a uniform that looks as iconic as this. It's super exciting to even be able to be a part of the team when this new uniform has been revealed. So I think it made me feel special and happy. And honestly, out of all uniforms I've put on, this has made me feel the most strong and the most beautiful. I think that's a lot of what Alex does. She makes us all feel so special."
For Dallahi, the uniform is a perfect marriage of old and new. Classic, in reference to the team's history and branding, with a sharp and modern twist. It's perfect timing, too, coinciding with the Patriots bringing back their red throwback uniforms this year as well.
But the uniform represents something much deeper for the squad.
"She's probably on cloud nine right now smiling down at us," McAleer said of Sormanti, who was the first woman enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame after losing her battle with multiple myeloma. "Alex has been amazing and we're so lucky to have her. Tracy knew that we were in good hands with her so I know that she is proud of us and she's looking down and probably beaming looking at these uniforms from above."
Dallahi jokes that Walker reminds him of Sormanti sometimes – in the way she wears her hair, her mannerisms, and her drive to push her squad to excellence.
To him, the uniforms are the perfect bridge to the new era of leadership for the New England cheerleaders.
"I loved working with Tracy, and I think she knew that I had an affinity for the squad and that I would always be there for whatever she needed," Walker said.
"It's funny because one of the last things I had talked to her about was the uniform, and she said, 'You know what to do. I trust you.' So it feels really good. I'm going to be so excited for the squad to take the field at the home opener. It's going to be a full circle moment."