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In with the New (Stripes): Reviewing the Bengals’ new uniforms

After 17 years of waiting, Bengals fans finally got a jersey release and like my boy Blue, they were GLORIOUS!

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As I said in my review of the out-going uniforms, I am a jersey nerd. So, needless to say, Monday was like Christmas morning for me!

Leading up to the release of the BengalsNew Stripes, I was nervous. I know there is a lot of new excitement around this team and the changes in the way it is being run—those changes are evident in their top notch twitter game—but this team and this organization have conditioned me (and many others) to expect the worst and expect to be disappointed. As Marvin Lewis famously used to say, “I see better than I hear,” and what I have seen from this organization the last 30+ years, is a history of poor effort, poor decision making, poor PR and a poor feel for the fans by the front office.

That being said, despite my initial thoughts on the leaked jerseys, I was cautiously optimistic... perhaps my initial reaction is one of many reasons I was not selected for a seat at the release!

As you very well may notice, my analysis of the new kits is dropping much later than most others, and that is on purpose. Before rendering an opinion or judgement—on anything—I believe it is important to collect information, digest the information and think it all the way through, and then render said opinion and/or judgement. I didn’t feel like an immediate reaction to the jerseys would be prudent. I wanted to soak them in, see them in different lighting, sleep on it, give them the opportunity to grow and me, and then figure out how I felt.

So, by design, I waited 24 hours before working on this piece, so I could render a well thought out opinion, rather than an emotional reaction. After sleeping on it, here are my thoughts on the New Stripes.

As a reminder, here is what I look for in 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 name plate 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.

Unlike the previous jerseys, all of the new jerseys are the same design, so I will score each element, and then the jersey as a whole. The scale is the same, 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!

Jersey Element score

New Stripes = 51.5/60; (Old Stripes avg. = 18.2/60) +33.3

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Overall design/look/feel: New Stripes = 9.0; (Old Stripes avg. = 2.2) +6.8

Overall, I feel like the new jerseys were a strong B+ / A-, and hence the 9.0 score. Other than the color rush jersey, the highest I scored any of the previous jerseys was 4.5 (orange). This is a massive upgrade! In my opinion, the Bengals went from the 30th best uniform in the NFL to a top-ten placement. The Bengals were able to keep the classic tiger stripes, and all three colors are simple and clean, yet unique.

Nameplate fonts/color: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 5.0) +2.5

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When it comes to name plates, a 7.5 is about as high as you can get. It basically means that the nameplate is not noticeable, which it shouldn’t be. The font is fine—it’s simple. They got rid of the outline on the lettering, which works, and most importantly, the nameplate doesn’t draw your attention away from the jersey itself, and that is a good thing. Good name plates are like good referees, you shouldn’t notice them.

Number fonts/colors: New Stripes = 7.0; (Old Stripes = 1.0) +6.0

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To the untrained eye, you may not see much of a difference here, but believe me, the number font is way better than the old jerseys. That doesn’t mean it is great though, it just goes to show how BAD the previous number font was! The font was bad and the attempt at 3-D lettering was abysmal.

That being said, I think they left a bit on the table here. Sure, I heard Elizabeth Blackburn’s explanation on the font; the curves for the tiger stripes and the sharp points to pull in elements of the stadium and tiger claw marks. It sounds like a lot of branding BS to me, and it certainly is not ‘intimidating.’ The font is simply... okay. It’s not great, it’s not terrible, but it could have been better. I like that they kept the outline, a staple as Elizabeth mentioned. When it came to the number font, they had nowhere to go but up, and they did that. It’s not great, but I will take the upgrade from a 1.0 to a 7.0. The key here, it doesn’t detract from the jersey design.

Use of logos (see above): New Stripes = 9.5; (Old Stripes = 5.0) +4.5

I really like the spelling out of ‘Bengals’ across the chest in the Bengals font! It is clean, subtle and it gets the job done. I even said in my piece on the outgoing jerseys.

“I would have preferred they spell out ‘Bengals’ or ‘Cincinnati’ across the chest...”

I would like to see what it looks like with ‘Cincinnati’ spelled out, but I am nitpicking here. I like the orange element it brings to the white and black jersey and the more subtle black on the orange jersey. This is a solid use of a secondary “logo”.

Uniqueness points: New Stripes = 9.5; (Old Stripes = 4.5) +5.0

Like I said in regards to the previous uniforms, uniqueness can be a positive or a negative. The old jerseys were insanely unique, but it was a negative. These new jerseys are unique, but in a good way. They kept the iconic stripes, but toned them down a bit and made them more subtle. Paul Brown would still be happy though, because you will still be able to look down on the field and immediately tell who the team is.

Simple/Classic points: New Stripes = 9.0; (Old Stripes = 0.0) +9.0

These jerseys are everything the previous jerseys were not. They are simple and clean. They kept the classic stripes, but didn’t make them obnoxious. They also did away with the shoulder numbers, which I am ok with. I think the tiger stripes and shoulder numbers may have been too busy. Rather than force it, they left the shoulder numbers off, and it works.

Where they got it right

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  • The clean and simple look.
  • The Paul Brown signature. This is a phenomenal detail!
  • No more side panels!!!!
  • No more cartoon look.

This jersey update was about as good as it could get. The online reaction has been almost unanimously positive - which is essentially impossible these days! I wouldn’t say they got anything wrong so to speak, but I do think they left a few things on the table.

Where they went wrong

  • The number font could be better. It is a significant upgrade. It works. but it could be improved upon.
  • The Paul Brown signature should also be visible on the outside of the jersey. Two spots it could go:
  1. Just above the nameplates, right in the center.
  2. On the sleeves below the Nike logo.

This touch is too cool to have hidden in the collar where no one sees it.

Orange on Black Pants: 32/40 (Old Stripes = 25.3/40) +6.7

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Overall design/look/feel: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 3.3) +4.2

As I said with the old unis: “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.” Well, this version of the black pants actually looks good with all color combinations. They aren’t the best pants in the league, but they are far from the worst.

Pant stripes: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 5.0) +2.5

I wish they would have stuck with the old stripe shape which came across the knee. I thought that was a better look. However, they removed the white stripes at the top of the pants, so this is an upgrade.

Use of logos: n/a

Uniqueness points: New Stripes = 9.5; (Old Stripes = 9.5) push

As I said with the old pants, I think the uniqueness of the tiger stripes is a positive and probably the most unique in the NFL. As a result, they get a high score in terms of ‘uniqueness.’

Simple/Classic points: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 7.5) push

They basically took the horizontal Bengals stripes from the outgoing pants and added them to the full pant stripe of the classic Bengals pants. Personally, I liked the old pants better, but I can get behind the homage paid to the original pants stripe.

Where they got it right

  • They got rid of the white stripes at the top.

Where they went wrong

  • I think the old stripe pattern and stripe design which brought the stripe out over the top of the thigh was a better shape. I would have liked to see something similar with the new pants. I am nitpicking, but I do think they left a bit on the table with the pants.

Black on White Pants: 32/40 (Old Stripes = 29/40) +3

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Overall design/look/feel: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 7.0) +0.5

Clearly inspired by the color rush uniforms, they kept the orange from the stripe on this version. It looks great with the white roadies. It looks a bit odd with the black and orange home sweaters. I don’t hate it, but they are going to have to grow on me.

Pant stripes: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 5.0) +2.5

Again, I don’t dislike the simple white and black stripe, I just think it looks odd with the orange and black jerseys. My complaint about the stripe pattern and shape from above remains.

Use of logos: n/a

Uniqueness points: New Stripes = 9.5; (Old Stripes = 9.5) push

See above.

Simple/Classic points: New Stripes = 7.5; (Old Stripes = 7.5) push

See above.

Where they got it right:

  • They captured the popularity of the color rush pants.

Where they went wrong:

  • See above.

Orange with Black Stroke Pants: 25.5/40 (Old Stripes = 29/40) -3.5

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Overall design/look/feel: New Stripes = 6.0; (Old Stripes = 7.0) -1

I am still digesting these. My initial reaction was ‘these are terrible!’ However, I am starting to come around a little bit. I know one thing for sure, I like the other pants better, so my score for these drops.

Pant stripes: New Stripes = 5.0; (Old Stripes = 5.0) push

These may end up growing on me, but for the moment, they feel a little loud to me—they are a little Zubaz pant-like. I won’t be surprised if they change these in the upcoming years. My complaint about the stripe pattern and shape from above remains.

Use of logos: n/a

Uniqueness points: New Stripes = 9.5; (Old Stripes = 9.5) push

These are definitely unique! Since I don’t hate them, I am counting it as a good unique and scoring them accordingly

Simple/Classic points: New Stripes = 5.0; (Old Stripes = 7.5) -2.5

These are anything but simple and/or classic. These are bold.

Where they got it right

  • They made a statement with these. This was the only place I think they took a risk on the New Stripes - and I don’t mean that as a negative.

Where they went wrong

  • I don’t think they did anything wrong so to speak with these, but I would have also liked to see a version of the pants with the classic orange and black stripes on the white pants. My complaint about the stripe pattern and shape from above remains.

Lastly, as I did with the ‘Old Stripes,’ I rank every combo. With three pants, they have nine potential combos, but, looking at the voting on their website, it looks like they are keeping it to seven combos. Here is my initial thoughts on the combos without seeing them on the field.

1. All white

The color rush uniforms were an immediate fan favorite and it is clear those uniforms were used as an inspiration to all of the redesigned jerseys. The white on white roadies look a lot like the color rush giddyup from the Old Stripes and they are simple, clean and sharp!

2. Creamsicles

While I am still up in the air on the orange with black stroke pants, I still like the “Creamsicle” look!

3. Black on black

The black on black jumps up to number three in my rankings with the new uniforms mainly because I think the stripes on the black pants mesh with the black unis better than the stripes on either of the white pants.

4. Halloween look

With the Old Stripes, I hated this look. My main beef was the white side panel and white in the pants really stood out in this combo. With the white side panel gone and the simpler pants, this combo works.

5. Black with black on white pants

I really like the classic black top and white pants look for the Bengals. That being said, both redesigned white pants simply don’t mesh well with the black jersey. The black and white striped pants seem a bit mismatched in this combo.

6. White tops, black pants

This combo only moved up a spot, but I went from hating this combo, to liking it...just liking it less than the other combos!

7. Black tops, white pants with orange stripes

Again, this is my lowest ranked combo, but I don’t dislike it, I just don’t know what to make of these orange striped pants with the black stroke. The pants just seem off with the jersey. Maybe my tune changes when I see them in action, but for now, this is my least favorite combo.

Final thoughts

  • I would have liked to see the Paul Brown signature visible when the jersey is being worn. I would have put it just under the collar, on the back of the jersey, just above the nameplate. It is such a unique element, it should be seen.
  • I am one of the many fans who love the striped helmet and was ecstatic that they weren’t changing it, but I would have loved to see the Bengals go with a matte orange helmet with matte black stripes and matte black facemask.
  • Once the NFL removes their nonsensical rule of one helmet color, the Bengals need a white helmet with black stripes (matte of course)!
  • Overall, the new uniforms are a home run. They went from loud, busy and cartoonish to sleek, simple and clean. They went from third worst jersey in the NFL to inside the top ten. That is a big win.
  • The reveal was great, the release video was great (my kids loved it, especially when Chad asked “where’s Burrow?”), the lead up was great, the fan involvement was fantastic and from all reports, the event was first class. They knocked this release out of the park!
  • Regardless of what you think about this organization and their ability to build a championship team, one thing is clear, the Bengals are truly making an effort to show their fans that they are changing their stripes. This is not the ‘Same ‘Ol Bengals.’