1997-2003 — LEAPING TIGER

Running back Corey Dillon in action during the 1999 season.
Running back Corey Dillon in action during the 1999 season.

In 1997, the Bengals introduced alterations to their uniform which were termed "evolutionary, not revolutionary." While the helmet remained unchanged and the general look of the uniform remained intact, several modifications were made on the jerseys, pants and socks.

Perhaps the most notable of the changes was the addition of the team's new leaping tiger logo on the sleeves of the jersey. Because the new logo was placed where uniform numbers previously had been, the numbers on the sleeves were moved to the tops of the shoulders.

Also on the jersey, the black tiger- stripe patterns on the shoulders were simplified with wider stripes. The white jersey was altered further to include black trim on the sleeves and collar. And the letters on the nameplates of both the black jersey and white jersey were given orange outlines to match the jersey numbers, which had been given orange outlines in the uniform's 1981 redesign.

On the pants, the black tiger- stripe patterns on the sides of the legs were simplified with wider stripes to match the new jersey stripes. And, the orange-topped socks the team had been wearing since 1981 were replaced by black- topped socks.

Interesting facts from this uniform era:

• Another not so notice- able change was made in 1997: There was another alteration made with this Bengals uniform change — not in design, but in makeup. All of the jersey numbers and the letters of the nameplates were converted from printed images to stitched fabric. The stitched fabric process — called "tackle twill" — produced more vivid colors, and the result was much more durable. With the nameplate

letters and the jersey numerals altered to tackle twill, the black tiger-stripe pattern on the shoulders and pants were the only remaining printed items. The tiger stripes were not changed because the additional stitching required for tackle twill would have significantly reduced the elasticity of the ends of the shoulders and the sides of the pants. And, since those were considered high-stretch areas, the print process remained the better choice for the tiger stripes.

• Incorrect stripes were placed on 1999 pants: Two years after the Bengals made the 1997 alterations, a new manufacturer of the uniforms mistakenly produced pants with the previous tiger-stripe pattern that was used from 1981-96. The discrepancy was considered minor, since most of the 1997 alterations had occurred on the jersey. In fact, the mistake wasn't even noticed until after the 1999 season had started. Thus, the team wore the incorrectly-striped pants for the rest of the season, and the error was corrected for the following year.

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