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March 29, 2022

The history (and our takes) of the Eagles' alternate uniforms

With Kelly Green coming back, we take a look back at all the other alternate jerseys the Eagles have worn

The Eagles have never been that interesting of a team when it comes to uniforms. 

It's been the midnight green, white, and black combinations for the past 20 years with very little deviation. Most of it is Jeffrey Lurie and co. staying, arguably stubbornly, committed to the same branding he commissioned after he bought the team in 1994. But another part of it was that "one-helmet" rule, said to be in the name of player safety, that the NFL instituted in 2013 that made it difficult for teams to get creative with alternate uniforms.

Things look to be changing though. 

That stupid rule is gone, and on Tuesday, our own Jimmy Kempski broke that the Eagles will be adding a black helmet to their rotation for 2022, and then in 2023, will be bringing back alternate Kelly green jerseys and helmets

Long overdue, even if they're still a year out. 

Anyway, the Eagles haven't had many alternate uniforms, but there is a list. So, in light of Kelly green's announced return, we're going to use that as a chance to take a look back, and for Shamus Clancy and I to offer up our jersey opinions. 

Here's the history of the Eagles' alternate uniforms...

The '48 Throwbacks  — 1994 (NFL's 75th, Throwback Weekend)

The 1994 season marked the NFL's 75th, and to commemorate the milestone anniversary, each team wore a special patch that has since become an iconic part of football design history. The league also celebrated its past with a series of "Throwback Weekends," where teams dug their old looks out of the closet. 

In Week 3 at Veterans Stadiums, the Eagles and Packers took things back to the 1940s. Green Bay wore the Navy blue and yellow jerseys with the blank helmets and tan pants, a look it kept along as an alternate until last season.

The Eagles, who had exclusively worn silver pants since the mid '70s by that point, broke out green ones. They wore a design calling back to the 1948 championship team, which consisted of a white jersey with two green stripes on the sleeves, green pants, and a green helmet with a thick silver stripe across the top. 

Reggie White's first visit to the Vet since joining the Packers was the big storyline going into that game, but it ended with a second-half push and a 13-7 win for the Birds. The '48 throwbacks went back into storage just as soon they were taken out. 

Nick's take: As a one and done, these were fine. Not one of my favorites, and judging by how little they seem to be brought up, not really anyone's favorites. At the time, I can imagine the green pants were a nice change of pace. But the thick stripe on the top of the helmet? That was a look meant for old-school helmets, not modern ones. 

Shamus' take: These are literally Jets uniforms. That's an issue I've had times with Kelly green at times. They're great, but not wholly unique. I'm a pro-midnight green guy. I know it had been done previously, but an Eagles helmet should always have wings on them, not this striped getup. Hard pass.

The Yellow & Blue  — 2007 (Eagles' 75th Anniversary)

When you think Philadelphia Eagles, you think green. What shade of green probably depends on who you ask, but green nonetheless. But in Week 3 of the 2007 season, the Eagles celebrated their 75th anniversary by wearing yellow and powder blue uniforms, the colors they originally wore when the franchise was established all the way back in 1933. 

Historically accurate? Yes. Jarring? For sure. "Nothing wrong with your television. Those are the Eagles," Fox's Dick Stockton joked to open the broadcast that Sunday afternoon.

Maybe there was some magic in them though. The Eagles crushed the Detroit Lions, 56-21

Nick's take: Again, fine as a one and done. I did not think these uniforms looked great back then, though weirdly they seemed to make Brian Westbrook look way taller. I don't what it was about them. 

The thing is, even though I wasn't a fan, they did score 56 in them. The 13-year old version of myself figured just keep wearing them until the points run out. 

Shamus' take: Am I going to contradict myself about what I said about the Eagles' helmet? Yes, but at least these are a tribute to a pre-Eagles team. These are in "they're so bad that they're good territory" and are about 10 years away from having a renaissance at Mitchell & Ness. Book it. 

I copped a Kevin Curtis Reebok version of this last year. No Eagle will be more famed in this look than Curtis, who had a mind-blowing 11 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns that day. I wore that jersey to the Eagles-Chiefs game this past season. There was a drunk Chiefs fan in the bathroom yelling at me asking why I was wearing a Chargers jersey. I said... some things to him... they were well received by the other Eagles fans in the bathroom. 

Another note... how killer of a name was the Frankford Yellow Jackets? They were the NFL team that preceded the Eagles in Philadelphia and first used these colors. A specific neighborhood got a team named after them! When will we get the Grays Ferry Wolverines?

The '60 Throwbacks  — 2010 (1960 Eagles' 50th Anniversary)

The Eagles, under Lurie's ownership, always seemed averse to bringing the fan-favorite Kelly green back into the picture. But for the 2010 season, the team finally cracked. The Birds wore Kelly green throwbacks in their Week 1 opener against Green Bay to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1960 club, which beat Vince Lombardi's Packers for NFL Championship and became legendary in Philadelphia sports lore. 

The Eagles lost, 27-20, but marked the start of what would be an insane comeback year for Michael Vick, who took over at QB after Donovan McNabb's original successor, Kevin Kolb, went down with a concussion. 

Nick's take: These were awesome. It's a simple design, but a striking and easily recognizable one. I wish the Eagles kept them around, and until the helmet rule came along, I had no idea why they didn't.

Shamus' take: These felt too watered down. Great concept, but the execution left me wanting a little bit more. Perhaps it's because the Randall Cunningham-era uniforms were better than the Chuck Bednarik-era ones. Through no fault of their own, these uniforms stood as a huge tease for Eagles fans who've desperately called for Kelly green throwbacks in the years since. 

Black  — 2003-Present (Lincoln Financial Field's Inaugural Season)

When the Eagles moved into Lincoln Financial Field way back in 2003, they made some slight tweaks to their look. They added a stroke of gray between between the base of the numbers and drop shadow behind them to make things stand out more, they also added the gray to the striping on the pants and altered the Eagles wordmark to look more even. Finally, the Eagles added a black jersey to their uniform rotation, though it was pretty much just a color inversion from their primary green one. 

It's stuck around though, and has seen different combinations come and go through the years. There was a short-lived run with the midnight green pants. Then the black jerseys with the white pants became the go-to alternate for about a decade, even serving a brief run as the actual home jersey because Nike had a production issue making the Midnight green ones

During the Chip Kelly era, the Eagles got matching black pants, and that combination has been the main alternate ever since. The 2021 Eagles especially took a liking to the black pants in the latter half of the season, and now there will be a new black helmet to go with the uniforms, though we don't know what that looks like yet. 

Nick's take: These were made in a time where it felt like every team in professional sports had a black jersey in their rotation, and all things considered, a black jersey is pretty hard to screw up (unless you're the New York Islanders. What was this?). Still, I've always liked the Eagles' black jerseys, more than the primary midnight greens, honestly. To me, the player just looked way cooler whenever they wore them. And when they started wearing the black pants with the white jerseys this past season, that's easily my favorite combo they have going right now. The idea was, indeed, sick. 

Shamus' take: These are so early 2000s that it hurts, but I cannot properly illustrate how cool these seemed to a nine-year-old Eagles fan. My parents got me a black Brian Westbrook jersey for Christmas that year and it remains one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. I was actually at the first game they wore them. It was a loss (naturally) against the 49ers in what was, coincidentally, Terrell Owens' last game for San Francisco before he became an Eagle. 

Anyway... I think I'm in the minority, but I do love the black jerseys and always will, even if they get phased out in the next couple of years. The "blackout" games with all-black uniforms that started in the Chip era were so fun. Maybe it was more the atmosphere of going to a primetime game where the whole crowd was wearing black and the team was too, but that's part of the energy and why I loved the black uniforms' vibe. 

Just wait until 20 years from now when people are calling for black throwback uniforms. Fashion goes in cycles...

The '90s Throwbacks?  — 2023 

After word broke that Kelly green was coming back in 2023, the Eagles confirmed it themselves with social media posts that pointed to the specific era they have in mind. 

Randall Cunningham-era '90s throwbacks? Hopefully. 

Nick's take: FINALLY.

Shamus' take: They won't be able to print enough Jordan Mailata and DeVonta Smith jerseys. Will Jalen Hurts still be around? He'd instantly be the coolest-looking Eagle since Randall if he was in a Kelly green throwback set. 

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