Cincinnati is turning over a new leaf, and from the cover of the jungle emerges a new Bengal.
The Bengals released their new uniforms on Monday morning, completing a process the team has teased for months after wearing the same set since 2004.
"Our fans have wanted new uniforms for many years, and today represents the start of an exciting new era in Bengals history," Bengals director of strategy and engagement Elizabeth Blackburn said in a statement. "Our new uniforms are bold, sleek and iconic. We designed them to be recognizable and timeless, like the Bengals helmet."
The new uniforms follow a recent trend in design across the NFL, with many franchises forgoing busier looks for cleaner, simpler sets. The Bengals have done away with features that were prominent in the first decade of the new century, ditching colored shoulder yokes, side panels and outlined nameplates for a toned-down appearance that leaves the team's trademark stripes as its most prominent feature.
The home black jersey features three orange Bengal stripes on each shoulder, with white, rounded numbers outlined in orange featuring sharp edges intended to mimic the architecture of the team's home, Paul Brown Stadium. The orange jersey, presumably to be used as the alternate top as the Bengals have done since their 2004 redesign, follows the same pattern, using black stripes on the shoulders and white numbers with black outline. These jerseys can be worn with either white or black pants, giving Cincinnati options for when it wants to wear its alternate jersey. Each jersey displays the team's Bengals nickname on the chest below the collar and above the numbers, replacing its striped B logo that had been worn in the same place since 2004.
The road uniform is the most significant change, and demonstrates the team's open ear to its fans' desires. After rolling out an all-white Color Rush alternate set in 2016, Cincinnati's supporters quickly scooped up the alternate white top, which featured black shoulder stripes similar to the new look and black, block-font numerals. The pared-down approach resonated with fans, and Cincinnati has made the updated version of it a key part of its new look, which also displays the team's Bengals nickname on the chest in orange and will be paired with their pair of white pants with matching black stripes down the side of the pants.
In an interesting approach, Cincinnati has chosen three sets of pants, but two with the same base color of white. While the white pants with black stripes can be paired with the white top to make a clean, sleek set that stands as an evolution of the popular Color Rush uniform, the team also introduced a pair of white pants with orange stripes that can be used with the home black jersey and the alternate orange top.
Another combination follows Cincinnati's occasional decision to go with a monochrome look and could emerge as a new favorite of fans. Modeled by edge rusher Sam Hubbard, the Bengals released an all-black uniform that includes the black top with orange stripes and black pants with matching orange stripes. The white jersey can also be worn with the black-orange pants, creating a stark contrast that popped when modeled by running back Joe Mixon for the team's promotional photo shoot.
While seemingly creating a uniform pairing that can only stand alone in the white top and white pants with black stripes, Cincinnati also released photos of players wearing the black tops with the white-black pants, creating a black-dominant look that is unquestionably sharp. Likewise, the white-orange pants work seamlessly with the orange top, giving the Bengals a potential of seven uniform combinations, all to be worn with the team's unique striped helmet.
That is the only part of the uniform that remains unchanged. The rest is a simplified, cleaner look that relies on the team's stripes as its most dominant feature.
The Bengals began their participation in the NFL in 1970 with a style that was intentionally familiar when owner Paul Brown thumbed his nose at the team bearing his name up north by dressing his new squad in similarly simple duds. Instead of donning the five-stripe sleeve pattern alternating between brown and orange worn by the Cleveland Browns, the expansion Bengals wore three stripes alternating between black and orange. The helmets were similarly orange and plain, though Brown's new club didn't wear a stripe, instead slapping BENGALS across the sides of the helmets. The list went on, and while the uniforms didn't last forever, Brown's legacy remains with his signature stitched inside the collar of every Bengal's new jersey.
After a decade of simplicity, the Bengals became intentionally unique, first covering their helmets in their now-trademark stripes and slapping those same stripes on their shoulders and pants in 1981. The stripes have remained in some capacity since then, and with a desire to modernize while also simplifying, they're again the leading feature in a uniform that should quickly become popular with those who spend their Sundays chanting "who dey!"
The Bengals kept their traditional nickname wordmark, displayed across the chest of their uniforms, as well as their striped B logo, while pairing the uniforms with sock options of solid-colored orange, black or white. The rest, though, is changed for the better. With the return of franchise quarterback Joe Burrow from ACL surgery -- his fresh scar from the operation could be seen in shots of him sitting atop a stone throne surrounded by foliage creating a jungle scene -- anticipated this fall, the new leaf looks to be promising, and in these new duds, potentially beautiful.