I have a treat for NFL fans today as we dive into the Cincinnati Bengals helmet history, which is one of the most unique in NFL lore. For one, like the Browns, Steelers, and Ravens, the Bengals’ helmets have changed just once since their inaugural season in 1968. Yet it’s the team’s helmet history that sparks interest in many NFL historians.
From the Browns to the Bengals
Paul Brown, who saw success with the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1962 lobbied the NFL for a new franchise, refusing to take part in the “inferior” AFL. Yet upon learning of the NFL-AFL merger for the upcoming 1970 NFL Season, Brown founded the Bengals, who took the field in 1968.
Brown, despite his falling out and subsequent firing with former Browns owner, Art Modell, still owned the equipment, so he took it with him to Cincinnati to start the Bengals, changing the brown on the jersey to black. In fact, the Bengals’ helmet was almost the exact same shade of burnt orange the Browns used at the time.
The only difference in these helmets were the BENGALS wordmark on the sides plus the absence of a stripe down the middle.
The Bengals wore their Cleveland-like helmets and jerseys from 1968 until 1980, when they finally overhauled the look.
Note, that this could never be done in today’s NFL, however some college teams like the Iowa Hawkeyes and Duke Blue Devils have modeled their own uniforms after NFL teams, with Iowa taking the Pittsburgh Steelers’ look and Duke’s primary uniform set resembling the Indianapolis Colts.
While the Bengals have modified their uniforms over time, the helmet has remained the same, featuring tiger stripes and a black facemask. Like division rivals Browns and Steelers, the Bengals’ helmets are also unique in that their logo wraps around the top of the helmet from one side to another, reminiscent of tiger stripes.
Some consider this an actual logo while others do not, claiming the helmet is simply multicolored, as stripes are on a tiger.
I’ve always been enamored by the Bengals helmet and next to the Browns’ logoless look and the Steelers’ one-sided logo, I consider it the most unique in football. Even more interesting is the fact all three teams play in the AFC North and are bitter upon bitter rivals.
No team out there plays down and dirty like the Bengals while the Steelers are known for their hard-hitting and the Browns have gained a reputation lately of playing with swagger and cockiness, especially with the addition of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Three timeless, unique helmets, three heated rivalries, six new chapters each season.
May the Bengals’ helmet remain unique….but they should probably look into changing the jerseys and pants.