A full uniform redesign appears to be coming for the Eagles in 2023. While this may seem like a bold prediction to some, the developments of the 2022 offseason provide ample evidence to suggest that new uniforms are more likely than not.
First came the news early this offseason that, thanks to the repeal of the one-helmet rule, Kelly Green uniforms would be returning in 2023. Speaking to the media in March, Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie announced that the alternate uniform in 2023 would be a throwback to the late 80s/early 90s set worn by the team immediately prior to Lurie's arrival in Philadelphia.
Amidst the excitement over Kelly Green's return, one key question was left unanswered: what will happen to the black alternate?
When the one-helmet rule was initially overturned, the Eagles stated that Kelly Green could not immediately return since the black uniforms had already been designated as the team's alternate for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. It seems only natural to conclude that a switch to Kelly Green would similarly preclude the Eagles from wearing black.
Decade of Dominance
After first making its debut in 2003 as an alternate top worn with Midnight Green pants, the black uniform became a twice-yearly staple after it was first worn with black pants in the infamous "blackout" 2014 home beatdown of the New York Giants.
As predicted by an officially sanctioned Halloween-themed cartoon in which "Little Eli" was frightened to tears by an all-black clad Eagles defense, the hapless Giants QB Manning was sacked 6 times (and his backup Ryan Nassib sacked twice), resulting in a final score of 27-0 and the only Eagles shutout of an opponent since in 1996, the season that Midnight Green itself made its debut.
Following its 2014 reintroduction, the black uniform has not faded from popular imagination. To the contrary, the black uniform's cultural cache has never been stronger. At QB Jalen Hurts’ urging, black pants were worn with white jerseys for the first time in franchise history at multiple junctures during the 2021 campaign.
And although Kelly Green would not be back in time for the 2022 season, the team has announced plans to take advantage of the newly liberalized helmet rules in the coming season by pairing a black helmet with the all-black combination that has become a favorite of fans and players alike.
As if to underscore the prominence of the color in the Eagles zeitgeist, Torrey Smith, the retired long-time NFL receiver who had a star turn in Philadelphia following his heroic contributions to the Eagles' championship 2017 run, on Twitter recently went so far as to refer to the team by its colors as "Green and Black."
Given its ever-increasing prominence, the notion that the black uniform would simply disappear following the 2022 season strikes this reporter as hard to believe. So, what will become of the black alternate?
Simply put, it will cease to be an alternate. As part of a comprehensive uniform design prior to the 2023 season, black will be promoted to primary color status - an option that can be mixed interchangeably with its Midnight Green and white counterparts.
The Other Shoe Drops
The Kelly Green announcement was not the only piece of information we learned this offseason that may have inadvertently tipped the Eagles' hand when it comes to future uniform plans. The other key news item was released in a Friday news dump heard 'round the world, when the Eagles shared their new word mark design.
While the arguably bland and uninspired design was generally panned by fans, some raised questions as to what motive spurred the branding update.
One popular theory is that the new word mark works better with the Kelly Green color, and would serve to integrate Kelly Green and Midnight Green colors into one cohesive uniform design (an idea which some have previously proposed).
While this theory is plausible, it seems difficult to reconcile with the statement made by Lurie that the Kelly Green uniform would not be an updated reimagining, but rather a throwback to a specific design, intended to be as authentic as possible.
Regardless of whether or not the new mark will be featured on the throwback uniform itself, Kelly Green may have played some role in its development, albeit in indirect fashion, as the need to preserve the black uniform is what could trigger an upcoming 2023 redesign.
From the team's perspective, a uniform refresh would have provided the perfect opportunity to revisit the word mark, along with other elements of team branding. For better or for worse, what was considered state-of-the-art in the era of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and D-Generation X no longer conforms to modern design trends.
While we are told the new mark will have no impact on the on-field product in 2022, its announcement would seem to usher the current jersey design off the stage posthaste. After all, the now-outdated Eagles word mark appears as an insignia below the neckline of the current jersey!
The astute reader might wonder how four uniforms would be possible in a league that only permits each team a home, away, and alternate jersey.
As of 2020, however, this no longer appears to be the case. The Los Angeles Chargers sport powder blue and white tops, which can be worn with either white or yellow pants, along with all-royal and all-navy getups.
And the Chargers aren't the only ones to get in on the quaternary fun. The Los Angeles Rams have announced an impending fourth uniform to stand alongside their existing royal blue, modern throwback, and dreadful "bone" fits.
For the sake of fairness, one hopes these rules do not solely apply to teams attempting to curry the favor of the lucrative Los Angeles market.
When Kelly Green was officially announced for 2023, the future of the black uniform was thrown into doubt, a development which was at odds with the color's ever-increasing prominence. The revelation of a new word mark that would necessitate a uniform overhaul seems to provide a potential solution to this conundrum. And the recent allowance of a fourth uniform lends credence to the idea that the Eagles could move forward with both Kelly Green and black options in the wardrobe.
As the off-season marches forward, it seems that the 2022 season may well be the last gasp of the current design regime that has been in place for almost thirty years. One can only hope that if the current uniforms are on their way out of Philadelphia, that Nike's abominable "midnight cyan" hue will follow them across the Ben Franklin Bridge.