If you’ve been thinking the Bengals have been looking good off the field this season, there is a Cincinnati man to credit.
During the 2020 season, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow showed up to almost every game in a custom-designed suit from local Hellman Clothiers. While Burrow isn't a client this season, he has referred other Bengals players to the downtown shop (located in Carew Tower), where owner Chuck Hellman has been making sure they look their best.
You probably remember many of these suits, some made famous on social media because of the homages to SpongeBob SquarePants — a character Burrow has often mentioned an affinity for (a scene from the cartoon is actually Burrow's Twitter header). One that sticks out is a custom navy suit with purple pinstripes that Burrow sported along with a purple-and-gold silk tie and SpongeBob pocket square before a November 2020 game against the Washington Football Team (known as the Washington Commanders as of Feb. 2).
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?🍍 pic.twitter.com/GXVch2u1xm— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) November 21, 2020
After a successful run (outfit-wise, not so much on the football field) last season, Hellman says Burrow was looking for something a bit different, but highly recommended him to the rest of the team.
Hellman says he’s seen nearly a third of the Bengals this season, fitting many offensive linemen for pants. Last week, he fit backup quarterback Brandon Allen, running back Chris Evans, star kicker Evan McPherson and others for their entrances to Super Bowl LVI. Hellman recently posted a photo of Allen in a floral shirt, saying it’s just “part of the (Super Bowl) look."
“When the Bengals players come in, it’s a fun day. We talk about fashion, I learn more about them — how they want to feel how they want to dress. I love sports and I love this city, and they know that,” Hellman says.
A Cincinnati native, Hellman spent more than three decades working in apparel in New York City for companies like Macy's and Robert Graham, where he was CEO, before returning to the Queen City and opening Hellman Clothiers in 2017. (Hellman also owns and operates Blaine’s Fine Men’s Apparel in Montgomery, where he was previously a partner before buying the company in 2014.)
Hellman Clothiers specializes in suiting, but also has the stated goal of “meticulously craft(ing) men’s wardrobes with garments of style and character,” per the shop's website. The store carries jeans, outerwear, sweaters, button-downs, shoes, boots and a slew of accessories, from ascots and ties to cufflinks, even sweatpants. All of it ranges in cut and color from the classic to the bold and unexpected.
While Hellman is popular with local and national sports stars — a scroll through his shop's Instagram shows photos with everyone from Reds outfielder Jesse Winkler and Reds Hall of Famer Barry Larkin to Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman and Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Harrison — his bigger audience is somewhere else. Currently, Hellman Retail Group’s TikTok, run by social media editor Christian Barker, has over 4 million followers.
At least once a week, the account posts a video of a suit inspired by various themes — mostly fictional characters, but Hellman's team also has done professional athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo and celebrities like Elon Musk.
“We follow what the audience wants” says Hellman.
Typically filmed in an alleyway between 4th and 5th streets behind their boutique downtown, a TikTok shot always opens the same way and shows Hellman introducing a mannequin (and sometimes a human) dressed in a themed suit. Hellman says he has a large international audience who waits with bated breath to see what he comes out with each week.
Almost every video is in response to a comment requesting a specific theme. Hellman says his audience loves video games and anime. You can see with the 24.2 million views on his Naruto suit and shocking 38.1 million on his Rick and Morty design.
Hellman says he wants the outfits to evoke what he imagines the characters would wear. For example, his Harry Potter suit is designed with a fitted navy jacket, Gryffindor-colored striped tie, Marauder's Map pocket square and snitch pin. Other recent posts show a purple Willy Wonka-style suit with a sparkly golden bow tie and top hat, and a Darth Vader suit, complete with helmet, lightsaber pin and Star Wars-inspired tie.
Though Hellman didn't dress the Bengals for Monday's pep rally, the team looked put together as they showed up at Paul Brown Stadium for their send-off. All of the players wore white tracksuits and received massive applause in the excitement of their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1989.
@hellmanretailgroup Reply to @chantal.naggi2 Harry Potter inspired suit ⚡️ What should we make next? #harrypotter #suit #suits #fashiontiktok #mensfashion ♬ original sound - xxtristanxo
Bengals nation is patiently waiting to see what outfits the men wear while in Los Angeles and, oh, what happens in the game on Sunday.