Cincinnati clothing brand sees dream come true with Bengals collaboration

Fans, players wear 'Stripes Don't Come Easy'
Black Owned Bengals sweatshirt
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 18:20:03-05

CINCINNATI — Many Cincinnati Bengals fans packing for Nashville have already won big — it is literally in the bag.

More than a few plan to carry items from a nearly sold out line of Bengals' jackets, sweats and shirts designed by a local brand seeing a dream come true.

From Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd and Ja'Marr Chase to superfan of the year "Bengal" Jim Foster, the brand Black Owned's Bengals collaboration is in demand and creating almost surprising bonds for founder Means Cameron.

"You can feel that we are united through this collaboration," Cameron said. "I think that tells a story of where we're headed as a city."

During a summer of protests in 2020, the West End-raised designer who once used his business partner's apartment kitchen as his store got the attention of Cincinnati's professional football franchise. They wanted Black Owned Bengals' t-shirts, jackets, sweats and hoodies.

"I'm kind of a picky Bengals clothes wearer," Foster. "It's got to fit me."

Foster bought "Stripes Don't Come Easy" hoodies and shirts for his family.

"When you got multi-billion dollar businesses like the NFL and the Cincinnati Bengals partner with a small minority-owned business right here in our city, that's important to me as a fan," Foster said.

As the team won its first playoff game in 31 years, sales soared. The Bengals Pro Shop has no more Black Owned goods in stock.

What is left lies on racks in Cameron's downtown store. Black Owned used to cater to streetwear lovers. Now, it is a magnet for people like Autumn Laird looking for Bengals swag.

"We're driving down from Louisville where we live to Nashville to watch the game on Saturday," she said.

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The list of repeat customers includes former and current Bengals' players.

"As soon as we dropped the collection, CJ Uzomah bought every piece in the (collaboration) and that's important," Cameron said. "It's like, we want you to be successful."

Cameron said he is not sure the franchise would have made this move 20 years ago. However, he savors the moment and what it means for the city's new stripes.

"We wanted to find a way to bring people together and football does that," said Elizabeth Blackburn, the Bengals' director of strategy and engagement. "But this partnership with Black Owned amplified that point."

Cameron said the brand, its collaborations and success transcend race.

"In order to have a healthy city — a thriving city, Black creatives, Black owners, Black entrepreneurship is necessary," said Cameron.

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