Nobody told me that Christmas got moved to March. I was minding my business, talking to a dear friend when I saw the news alert. A wave of emotion came over me. I needed to excuse myself.
Jeffrey Lurie had finally announced that the Philadelphia Eagles’ kelly green would return as an alternate jersey in 2023.
“It’s what our fans have wanted,” Lurie said Tuesday, “it’s what we’ve wanted.”
I’ve only waited most of my life for this. I called my grandpop. He’d already heard. It wasn’t our 2018 Super Bowl win, he explained, but in terms of happiness, this was close.
Let me be clear about something: With the NFL, I’ve seen too much that’s repugnant and shameful, whether we’re talking about responses to players with CTE, Colin Kaepernick, or the Eagles fans who fell when a guardrail collapsed at FedEx Field last season. Even with all my disgust for the league, I don’t actually know if I am able to detach the Eagles from my concept of home, my memories of family gatherings during football season, or from a love that’s too ingrained to be conditional.
Even when I don’t love the game, the Eagles represent Philadelphia. When the franchise changed its original blue and yellow colors that they shared with Philadelphia’s flag, they gave us a different kind of banner, one that would be seen more frequently in our homes, at our family celebrations and the bars where we bond with friends and strangers.
Since 1996, midnight green has been it. I remember the transition vaguely — 8-year-old me was ready for a new T-shirt. When I was child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but as I got older, I fell deeper in love in style and recognized that the situation was a travesty.
By my 20s, I let go of the notion that the midnight green meant well by me, and stepped into my truth to call that color by its true name: unfortunate. I stopped shopping for current Eagles apparel, and started buying vintage almost exclusively — paraphernalia from the Super Bowl winning season being the grand exception.
Every time I went to the stadium, wearing say, a sweater from the ‘80s or a Chuck Bednarik jersey, other Eagles fans would stop me and tell me I looked good. (Our fan base is more known for our hate than our love, but praise from Eagles fans is one of the sincerest and heartiest forms of affirmation I’ve ever known.)
To me, after swallowing the news of crisis after crisis every day, this is some of the best news in ages. I, like many fans, have been hoping for so long for the franchise to do the right thing. I don’t expect the Eagles to stop messing with my anxiety with how they play, but at least I now know the joy of our true colors coming back.
Peter Capolino, the former owner of Mitchell & Ness, is excited about the decision.
“When I first started making vintage NFL uniforms in 1999, all anybody wanted was the kelly green uniforms from that 1960 team, and again, that 1980-81 team,” Capolino said, who added that these jerseys continued to be popular, especially Randall Cunningham’s. “People liked the clean look of just the green jerseys, with the silver or white numbers on them, and not a fancy over-striped or over-logoed jersey … I think everybody’s had enough of the deep dark green.”
I understand why, considering the time, midnight green was considered an update. It’s sleek, it reads as serious, and paired with the black and gray, it’s as if it casts its own shadows. At the same time, the midnight green has the emotional range of a car commercial.
Modern for the ‘90s, sure, but our current green too quickly turned dated, not to mention out of step with the bright colors that have become trendier and that younger generations embrace. If we’re in a place culturally where wearing a bold color “can recharge your spirit” and convey a feeling, then the spiritual message of midnight green might be “We wanted to look more menacing, but didn’t care if we wound up passé. Grrrrrr!”
The Eagles have worn green since the mid-1930s. The “stronger” midnight green look, Jeffrey Lurie said at its unveiling in 1996, two years after he bought the franchise, reflected the need for a “new spirit for a new era,” according to The Inquirer.
The team made the million-dollar rebrand, per an Inquirer report, after NFL Properties conducted a focus group with local fans who weren’t fans of the kelly green and wanted more distance from the New York Jets green. Some people really do like current green, and … bless their hearts. But others blame Christina Weiss Lurie, Jeffrey’s then-spouse, who championed the darker shade.
“The main question I got on Twitter on Wednesday night was whether the Eagles now would go back to their traditional kelly green, the color Christina famously disliked,” Eagles writer Les Bowen wrote in 2012, directly after news spread that the Luries were getting a divorce. “She always portrayed it as both of them disliking it and preferring the midnight green she chose.”
I would say lol, but it’s not really funny or sensible to drop exorbitant sums of cash on a choice that leaves behind good taste in favor of vexing droves of fans for decades.
But, personal preference from the owner’s wife aside, kelly green has never been outdated. It’s eye-catching, versatile, distinctive. It works across seasons, shines with its typical silver, but can be easily styled in many other palettes. Even if we focus on the white uniforms over the years, the classic color way, in its crisp minimalism appears timeless. Look at this picture of Harold Carmichael. Don’t play in my face and tell me he didn’t look fresh.
Nevertheless, this is so much deeper than fashion. Who we are can’t go out of style. Kelly green has long been a core part of our identity, one that we couldn’t possibly ever forget.
So, Jeff, that’s why we’ve never stopped begging you. We’ve wanted to feel like ourselves again, and soon, at least on some Sundays, we’ll be able to see that on the field. Props. But you’re not off the hook, dude. Seeing our team in our classic colors should be our primary mode of existence. Make the new alternate our primary jersey, so, at least on this matter, we can finally know peace.