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Out with the Old (uniforms): Reviewing the Bengals’ ‘Modern Stripes’ uniforms

With the Bengals set to unveil their ‘New Stripes,’ we do a deep dive review in to the soon-to-be ‘Old Stripes’ to see where the New Stripes can improve.

Syndication: The Enquirer The Enquirer/Joseph Fuqua II via Imagn Content Services, LLC

If you were ever looking for a few thousand words on the Cincinnati Bengals uniforms, you found the right article and the right guy!

As long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with great jerseys. If a team has a cool or classic jersey, they can at least count on me to be a casual fan. Being born in the 80’s and growing up in the 90’s, the 90’s were my most impressionable years and when my love of jerseys began. And boy, were the 90’s a great time to be someone obsessed with jerseys, it was the heyday of a lot of sweetness all around! Starter and Apex jackets were a sign of your coolness, as were Zubaz pants, SurfStyle jackets, mullets with steps, parachute pants and MC Hammer music. Teams were experimenting with bright colors and cutting edge designs, and it felt like everyone was updating their jerseys. I can still remember some of my favorites. There was the Hornets, Bulls and Magic in the NBA. The Falcons and Broncos in the NFL. The Hurricanes in college football. The Mariners, White Sox and Marlins in the MLB. And the Blackhawks, Stars and Avalanche in the NHL.

Yes, I am a jersey nerd. I freely admit it. Always have been, always will be. I carry the designation with pride. I find few things to be more exciting in sports than a team with a great uniform and few things are more irritating than a team with bad uniforms. Hell, I get excited when any team drops new unis. When my favorite team is about to do the ‘dropping’ though? I can barely contain my excitement! That being said, when it’s my team, the excitement is equal parts giddy and equal parts nervous. After all, what if they’re terrible? Can you imagine being a Browns fan and seeing those 2015 jerseys drop? Or a Jaguars fan in 2013 and watching your players walk the catwalk on reveal night in a two-toned helmet? Good god - as if the teams themselves weren’t bad enough!

That leads us to the Bengals. I can remember their last jersey change back before the 2004 season. I liked the old jerseys. In fact, the Bengals late 90’s/early 2000’s uniforms were my favorite. The less subtle shoulder stripes, the stripes on the pants, and the leaping tiger on the sleeves to go along with the iconic striped helmet? Those were a good look! But, like many, I was ready for a new look. The team had just taken their franchise quarterback at No. 1 the year before. They had a loud and brash wide receiver and a dominating run game. It was time for a change and I couldn’t wait for the release of the new jerseys...until they actually released them.

For me, it was a record scratch moment. They were—and still are—terrible. They resembled more of a costume than a uniform, and I immediately wanted the old unis back. So you can say I’ve been waiting for Monday for a long time.

Before we see the new threads, let’s take a look back and score the Bengals longest standing uniform design before they are officially retired. Let’s also go over the criteria for what makes a great uniform.

Simple: When it comes to jerseys, less truly is more. This is where most teams fail on jersey designs. Remember to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!

Unique: All great uniforms are also unique. Simple and unique are not mutually exclusive and designers of the best jerseys walk this line perfectly.

Number font: Often overlooked, the number font is the second most important feature, especially on football jerseys where the numbers are so large and prominent. A bad font can ruin a good jersey

Nameplate font: Not nearly as important as the number font. Rarely can nameplate design help make a jersey better, but a bad nameplate can certainly take away from a jersey.

Use of logos: Use of secondary logos can add a lot to a jersey. To be effective, their use needs to be small and complimentary and not take away from the jersey itself.

Overall design/look/feel: How do all the elements fit together. With a great jersey, all of these elements fit together perfectly.

Below, I score each element of the Bengals soon to be retired jerseys on a scale of 0-10, where 0 = the worst in the NFL and 10 = the best in the NFL. For fellow jersey nerds like me, I hope you enjoy!

Black Jersey: 16.8/60

Overall design/look/feel: 1.3

When you have a busy helmet like the Bengals, the jersey needs to be simple. The current jerseys are anything but, and as a result, resemble a costume more than a jersey...and in no way is that a compliment. By my NFL jersey rankings, I have the Bengals home black jerseys ranked 28th out of 32.

Nameplate fonts/color: 5.0

It’s hard to mess up the nameplates, and the nameplates here are the least offensive thing about these Bengals uniforms. The nameplates aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible either. Nameplates shouldn’t draw your attention, and these do not, so in that regard, the nameplates are fine. 100% average.

Number fonts/colors: 1.0

Another swing and miss here with the current jerseys. The key to numbers is to keep it simple, don’t get cute, and don’t take away from the jerseys themselves. The numbers on the Bengals current jerseys are: not simple, they tried to get cute and they take away from the jerseys. Triple fail! The rounded font style looks cartoonish and the orange outlining is done in a way to make the numbers look 3-D. Both were massive design fails. In my NFL jersey rankings, I have the Bengals numbers in the bottom three.

Use of logos: 5.0

I am not a huge fan of the ‘B’ logo as a whole, but I like the way they incorporated it on the chest. In my opinion, it is the best part of the current jersey. Personally, I would have preferred they spell out ‘Bengals’ or ‘Cincinnati’ across the chest, but the ‘B’ works. In my NFL jersey rankings, I have the Bengals smack in the middle in terms of use of a secondary logo on the jersey.

Uniqueness points: 4.5

Paul Brown once said that you should be able to look down on the field and immediately tell who the team is. Well, the Bengals accomplished that with these uniforms, and if that was the goal, they hit that one out of the park. That being said, ‘unique’ can be a good or a bad thing. Hell, the El Camino, was unique but that wasn’t a good thing. That is how I feel about the Bengals jerseys. They may be one of the most ‘unique’ jerseys in the NFL, but like the El Camino, that’s not a good thing.

Simple/Classic points: 0.0

Safe to say, the Bengals current jerseys have absolutely nothing about them that is simple OR classic. Complete whiff here.

Where they got it right

  • The designers didn’t get much right with the home blacks. I like the logo on the chest and I like the idea of the shoulder stripes, I just think they did too much with the shoulders and stripes.

Where they went wrong

  • Where to start! The numbers are terrible, the shoulder design has just too much going on, between the numbers and the stripes, but the most egregious part of these jerseys is the white side stripe. It servers zero purpose, breaks up the look and causes a bunch of issues, including an inconsistent look among jerseys depending on the cut...like nails on a chalkboard for me. Just one more feature which made these jerseys look bush league.

White Jersey: 16.2/60

Overall design/look/feel: 0.7

The only reason the Bengals away whites are not the worst uniforms in the NFL is because of the terrible redesigns dropped last year by the Falcons and Jets. The full orange shoulders are just too much and it results in a terrible look in the back with the orange coloring just coming straight across the back. From the back, I would think these were arena league football uniforms. By my NFL jersey rankings, I have the Bengals away whites ranked 30th out of 32.

Nameplate fonts/color: 5.0

See above

Number fonts/colors: 1.0

See above.

Use of logos: 5.0

See above.

Uniqueness points: 4.5

See above.

Simple/Classic points: 0.0

The away whites made me seriously debate using negative numbers. I decided against it. But they earned this 0.0.

Where they got it right

  • They camouflaged the white stripe into the jersey. Seriously, that is all they got right with these, and it was probably an accident.

Where they went wrong

  • Like the black jerseys, the numbers are terrible and the shoulders have too much going on. The white jerseys don’t have the side panel, but the complete orange shoulders make for a very disjointed feel to the jersey in the front and a very arena league feel in the back.

Orange Jersey: 21.5/60

Overall design/look/feel: 4.5

Of the Bengals three ‘regular’ uniforms, the orange are my favorites. They suffer from many of the same design mishaps as the white and black, including the white side panel (again, why?), but they feel and look a bit cleaner than the white or black version. By my NFL alternate jersey rankings, I have the Bengals orange jerseys right in the middle.

Nameplate fonts/color: 5.0

See above

Number fonts/colors: 1.0

See above.

Use of logos: 5.0

See above.

Uniqueness points: 4.5

See above.

Simple/Classic points: 1.5

The orange jerseys are not simple or classic, but they are simpler than the white or black version, and as a result, they get 1.5 points here (call them pity points).

Where they got it right

  • There really isn’t anything the designers got right so to speak, it is simply that the orange coloring makes some of the failures less noticeable and less offensive.

Where they went wrong

  • The side panel and the numbers. Get rid of the side panel and go with a basic font for the numbers, and these would be a top five alternate jersey. W.

Black Pants: 25.3/40

Overall design/look/feel: 3.3

I am not a fan of black football pants. The Bengals’ black pants, by themselves, are ok. With the black jerseys, they look pretty good. But when paired with the white or orange jerseys, I hate them. As a result, I have the black pants ranked in the bottom half of the league.

Pant stripes: 5.0

I like the use of the Bengals stripes on the pants. The original design on the stripes when these uniforms dropped in 2004 was brutal and looked like someone had simply traced a few of Tony the Tiger’s stripes. However, the redesign of the pants a few years back brought in a more natural looking tiger stripe and brought the stripes around to the front of the thigh—a solid update. My only issue with the stripes go back to the stupid white side panel! Because of that side panel, the designers made the inexcusable decision to start the stripes at the top of the pants as black and white before transitioning to black and orange. Because of that decision, I rank the Bengals pant stripes right in the middle of the NFL.

Use of logos: n/a

Uniqueness points: 9.5

As always, unique can be a good or a bad thing. For the pants, I think the uniqueness of the tiger stripes is a positive and probably the most unique in the NFL.

Simple/Classic points: 7.5

Nothing about tiger stripes is ‘classic’ so to speak, but the stripes are ‘classic’ for the Bengals.and the current pants pull in that classic tiger stripe element in a cleaner and more stylistic design.

Where they got it right

  • The shape of the tiger stripes and curving the stripe up over the top of the thigh, just above the knee is a strong design and looks good.

Where they went wrong

  • Starting the stripes white and black on the hips before transitioning to orange and black was a bad design decision, but one which was made to try and blend the stripe into the massive design blunder on the jerseys—the white side panel.

White Pants: 29/40

Overall design/look/feel: 7.0

With the exception of the one or two white stripes at the top of the pants, I really like the Bengals white pants.

Pant stripes: 5.0

See above.

Use of logos: n/a

Uniqueness points: 9.5

See above.

Simple/Classic points: 7.5

See above.

Where they got it right

  • See above.

Where they went wrong

  • See above.

Color Rush Jersey: 49.5/60

Overall design/look/feel: 9.5

These are sharp. Simple is the key to these jerseys, and as a result, these immediately became a fan favorite. The simple white and black of the jerseys makes them look clean, and the replacement of the cartoonish numbers with a more simplistic number font lands these jerseys as a fan favorite and in my opinion, the best color rush uniforms in the NFL.

Nameplate fonts/color: 7.0

The nameplates have orange outlining black font and while the slight bit of color has its moment, in my opinion, there shouldn’t be any color on these jerseys. I don’t hate it, but simple black names would have been better.

Number fonts/colors: 8.5

There isn’t anything to the numbers on the color rush jersey... and therein lies the beauty! Simple is better. The numbers shouldn’t take away from the jersey, and here, they do not.

Use of logos: 7.5

I actually like the tiny hint of color with the logo more than I do with the nameplates, but again, they missed an opportunity here to make these jerseys a perfect 10 by adjusting the ‘B’ on the jersey and making it strictly black and white as well.

Uniqueness points: 8.5

See above.

Simple/Classic points: 8.5

The beauty of these jerseys is indeed the simplicity. The only thing keeping them from a perfect 10 in this category is the odd decision to have orange outlining the names and not using a white and black ‘B’ logo.

Where they got it right:

  • Hands down the Bengals best jerseys and should have just replaced their road whites the past few years. If only the NFL would allow the Bengals to roll with a white helmet with black stripes, these would be a perfect 10 and the best uniform, head to toe, in the entire NFL.

Where they went wrong:

  • The orange outline on the names adds nothing, and in fact, takes away from the jersey. They should have stuck with simple black names.
  • They missed an opportunity with the logo on the front, it should be a black and white version of the ‘B’.

Color Rush Pants: 37.0/40

Overall design/look/feel: 9.5

The Bengals pants have a strong design in general and the simplicity of the white and black stripes looks good.

Pant stripes: 9.0

These are perfect - good shape, good design, and most importantly, no color transitioning of the stripes!

Use of logos: n/a

Uniqueness points: 9.5

See above.

Simple/Classic points: 9.0

The simple white and black stripes, like the jerseys, looks clean.

Where they got it right

  • They kept the design and removed the white/orange color transition in the stripes.

Where they went wrong

  • Nowhere. They kept it simple and didn’t get cute...and surprise, surprise, it works!

As the end of an era comes to a close, we take one last look at all seven uniform combos and rank them one to seven:

1. Color Rush

Hands down the Bengals best uni combo. They hit this one out of the proverbial park and should have implemented this as their only road unis.

2. Creamsicles

My personal favorite. Most fans either loved or hated this one. Few were in the middle. I was in the camp which loved the ‘Creamsicles’!

3. Black tops/white pants

I liked these slightly better than the black on black look, mainly because this is the bengals original look and my distaste for black football pants in general.

4. Black on black

Not a bad look. The only look I like with the black pants.

5. All white roadies

The least offensive of the Bengals road duds and the classic color combo for the Bengals road look.

6. White top/black pants

Just brutal. This combo should have never been let out of the bag.

7. Halloween costumes

These just look like a Halloween costume. I would expect to see this look at a high school game on Friday nights, not at an NFL stadium.


And with that, we send off the ‘Modern Stripes’ and prepare for the release of the ‘New Stripes’ in less than 24 hours. Like most of you, I cannot wait! Make sure to check back later this week for the equally in-depth breakdown of the new uniforms. Here’s to hoping they look better on the players than they do on hangers.