Bengals seek to connect, past, future with new uniforms

Bengals safety Jesse Bates. CONTRIBUTED
Bengals safety Jesse Bates. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Aaron Conway

Credit: Aaron Conway

Updated look is first in 17 years for Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals pulled some inspiration from team founder Paul Brown while updating their uniforms for the first time in 17 years.

Brown designed the team’s black-striped helmet 40 years ago as an instantly recognizable distinction to the Bengals’ uniform, and according to his great granddaughter, Cincinnati Bengals Director of Strategy and Engagement Elizabeth Blackburn, the organization wanted to “match that level of simplicity and timelessness with a sleek, iconic design.”

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The Bengals revealed their new uniforms Monday after a select group of long-time fans received a special preview Sunday.

“It’s a design that connects our past with our future, and we’re really excited about it,” Blackburn. “There’s a quote somewhere floating around from Joe Mixon saying like, ‘Look good, feel good, play good.’ And we totally wanted to design our uniforms for our end user, our players. We want them to think they look great, and also feel great in them. … The players love them, and we hope (fans) do too.”

Most noticeable, the Bengals stripped out color blocks and emboldened the stripes on the jerseys. The pants feature a side panel with the thicker stripes in a more comfortable fit for the players. Brown’s helmet design remains untouched.

Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader. CONTRIBUTED
Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Aaron Conway

Credit: Aaron Conway

Among the finer details, the Bengals removed the “TV numbers” on the shoulders, replaced the “B” logo under the collar with the Bengals wordmark, replaced the drop shadow on the numbers with an outline instead and tweaked the number font in an “edgier” way that Blackburn said replicates the tiger stripes with smooth edges and jagged points.

“I think it’s fierce,” she said. “It’s meant to be fierce and intimidating. And we want our guys when they wear it, to feel that way as well.”

The number outline is a nod to the Super Bowl teams of the 80s, and perhaps the most interesting feature also ties the past with the present -- Brown’s signature is stitched into the back neckline.

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Nike brought in that element, and it was a unanimous – and easy – decision to include it.

“We have a great past,” Blackburn said. “I think it needs to get covered more and the story told more And so Paul Brown’s signature staying in our uniform, it’s remembering the past, and also setting the bar and high standards of excellence that he achieved through his coaching career.”

The Bengals took into consideration feedback from fans and players – especially when it came to removing an extra stich that wrapped around the front of the thigh that made the pants slightly uncomfortable. The white “color rush” jerseys were among the best selling items last year, so white became one of the four allowed jersey options, along with the home black and alternate orange.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon. CONTRIBUTED
Bengals running back Joe Mixon. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Aaron Conway

Credit: Aaron Conway

Cincinnati can do different color combinations with white or black pants and black, orange or white socks.

“I think I like the simplicity of it,” said long-time fan Zim Paskel, a D.C. resident who the Bengals flew in for the special preview Sunday. “The jerseys that we just came from, I thought they were like too busy and it had like extra areas of boxing and stuff like that. I think moving to a more contemporary jersey now, it’s just more 2021, super 2025 if you really think about it.”

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The Bengals first discussed new uniforms in the fall of 2018, and after 30 months of discussions with Nike and the league, tinkering with designs and finally settling on the finer details to complete the process last summer, the organization unveiled the final product with much fanfare Monday.

A change had been long overdue. There had only been four major style changes in the team’s 53 seasons and the most recent update came in 2004. From 1968 to 1980, the Bengals wore plain black and white jerseys with three regular stripes around the arms and down the pant legs. The tiger stripes came in 1981 and that first design lasted until 1996. A leaping tiger was added on the arm in 1997 and that stuck until 2003, after which the modern stripes were revealed.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow modeling one of the new uniforms the team unveiled Monday. Bengals photo
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow modeling one of the new uniforms the team unveiled Monday. Bengals photo

Credit: Aaron Conway

Credit: Aaron Conway

An orange alternate also was added in 2004, but the jersey style – other than the color rush all-white alternative that came into play in 2016 – had remained the same since then. Cincinnati was 129-139-4 in the previous uniforms.

“You want to give the fans what they’re looking for, and we heard a lot of blowback about the jerseys we were in,” Bengals Merchandise Manager Monty Montague said. “You look at the calendar, you go, ‘You know what, soon we are going to be in this jersey longer than any other version that we’ve been in. And it’s probably time to start the conversation.’ And luckily, we’re all on the same page and decided that it was the right time. So, 17 years is a long time, and we decided it was perfect to move on.”

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