Who is that man in the suspenders holding a foam axe? Who is the guy with the big character head always on the sidelines or parading down the field to hype up the team and the crowd?
Like the origins of a modern-day superhero, Louie the Lumberjack has a story that deserves to be told. A story that ties beautifully with the school and its changes throughout the decades. What could be more important to a university or a student body’s identity than that?
According to a timeline provided by Cline Library, the story of Louie goes all the way back to the years of the 20th century, when NAU was still called Arizona State College. Around this time, Louie wasn’t even called Louie, he was just a nameless lumberjack. It wasn’t until almost 70 years later that the lumberjack started appearing in sporting events or was given a proper name. In September 1985, there was a contest held to name the mascot and the name “Bad Axe” was proudly given to him by the young and verbose students for whom he was meant to represent. Three years later, his name was changed to “Louie” after a song by the band The Kingmen, and with a new name came a new look.
Previously, the mascot had a costume and identity that was incredibly simple. It consisted of a student wearing sunglasses, a jersey, a beanie and a fake beard. The actor would strap on 3-feet tall stilts. The look was effective but somewhat dangerous. This costume, like the previous name, was later replaced with updated attire. Thankfully, the next costume didn’t involve stilts, but Louie did finally get a foam head. This costume didn’t have a beard or sunglasses, but it did keep the beanie and added the suspenders. The jersey was a shirt that looked like a mess of a chessboard plastered onto some fabric.
With the changing of the decade, NAU said goodbye to the ’80s and welcomed the ’90s with yet another new Louie. The new redesign wasn’t all that drastic. The checkered shirt was replaced and Louie was given another odd combination, a mix of the past and the present. Like one of the cool kids of the ’90s, Louie wore a plaid shirt under his jersey that had a No. 1 plastered on the front and the beard returned.
This probably won’t be the last change for Louie. His image is not stagnant, it evolves to fit current trends and culture. A new look might come sooner than later.
“I think that it should stay the same because, the one in the middle [the old Louie] looks kind of mean and not kid friendly if families come to games,” said sophomore Racquel Carpenter. There’s no doubt the current Louie is family-friendly. He even used to be accompanied by Mike, a Saint Bernard. Junior Lukas Hollatz thought bringing Mike back as Louie’s companion would be a unique update.
“I think it will be good, not as a replacement, but as a supplement as it seems. It would make it complete,” Hollatz said. “It would pay more of a tribute to how the mascot was before. It will also be more approachable.”
Before the Louie and Mike combination, the school symbol was just an object. It was a copper axe that is displayed in the Cline Library to this day.
Sean Evans, a specialist at the Cline Library, unraveled the idea of a mascot. It wasn’t just a person in a suit at the sporting events. He explained it’s an identity and a representation of what the university is.
“The mascot has taken on a new meaning,” Evans said.
He spoke about how Mike the Saint Bernard brought together a perspective that the mascot means more than the shallow layer of being a halftime jester.
“We refer to the axe as a mascot. I don’t think that’s what it was referred to back then. It was a symbol of the campus. It was a symbol of institutional history,” Evans said. “But, the mascot kind of evolves into something else. Of course when you think about the Lumberjack statues ... Well, they aren’t mascots in that living, breathing sense. They’re symbols.”
He’s a symbol, and you might ask yourself what that means to people who don’t go to sporting events or who don’t care about things like lumberjacks or Saint Bernards. Louie isn’t just a mascot, he’s also a representation of how Flagstaff and NAU’s history’s came together. In a sense, Louie isn’t just the mascot for NAU, but for Flagstaff too.