When the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Miami Dolphins in an NFL fixture airing on Sunday evening (or in the early hours of Monday morning, if you’re watching from the UK), the team’s uniforms will have a nostalgic significance.
When they take to the field, the Eagles will be wearing their classic Kelly green outfits for the first time since 1996. The mid-green “Kelly” shade is a brighter and bolder hue compared to their now-customary midnight green shirts, which are closer to teal in colour.
In the early Nineties, the late Princess of Wales started to adopt a more casual, low-key style when she was off-duty, swapping the puffed sleeves and pie crust collar blouses for graphic sweatshirts, cycling shorts and sports-inspired outerwear.
One of her favourite pieces was a bold green and white varsity jacket, with the Philadelphia Eagles’ distinctive logo on the back, which she wore on the school run and on a trip to Alton Towers with sons William and Harry.
According to Diana’s former bodyguard Ken Wharfe, who worked as her personal protection officer between 1988 and 1993, the princess favoured the laid-back jacket because it made her feel like “a normal mother” – and because William and Harry preferred it when she dressed down at the school gates too.
A jacket fit for a Princess👑
The story of the iconic @Eagles jacket Princess Diana wore in the 1990s — and why it meant so much to #FlyEaglesFly fans that The People's Princess donned the Kelly Green
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— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) October 21, 2023
“Diana always craved the normalcy,” he told ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown in an interview celebrating the return of the “Kelly Green” uniform.
“By being a member of the royal family, that was almost impossible,” he explained. “Neither William or Harry, when they were kids, wanted their mother to sort of dress in her finery, [to] take them to school. So all Diana would do is be as casual as possible.”
“She wanted to be seen as a young mother that was, you know, ‘with it,’” he added. “Diana loved to be different, this was her style. It sort of showed the public and her children that she was a normal mother in a style that people liked.”
So how did a piece of NFL merch end up in Diana’s wardrobe? Apparently, it’s all thanks to a chance meeting at the funeral of Grace Kelly, later Princess Grace of Monaco, who originally hailed from Philadelphia.
Diana attended Kelly’s funeral in 1982 on behalf of the British royal family, and met the Eagles’ statistician Jack Edelstein at the event. When he learned that her favourite colours were green and silver, the Eagles’ team shades, Edelstein offered to send Diana some branded t-shirts.
At the suggestion of the Eagles’ then-owner Leonard Tose, he also gave her “a beautiful Eagles jacket, made for her”, Edelstein recalled to the Philadelphia Daily News after Diana’s death in 1997.
The princess, he added, “sent [him] a very nice note” to thank him, telling him “how she’d been wearing [the gifts] around”.
According to her biographer Andrew Morton, Diana liked the piece for purely aesthetic reasons, rather than any particular affinity to the Eagles. “She wears these things because they create a look,” he told the Daily News in 1991. “She knows very little about English sports, let alone American teams.”
The jacket was a one-off, custom made just for Diana, but the princess certainly helped to boost the popularity of this all-American style in the UK and beyond. She was such a fan of the look that she was later photographed wearing similar styles, like a red bomber jacket with leather sleeves.
While many pieces from Diana’s wardrobe are owned by private collectors or kept by members of her family, the whereabouts of her Eagles jacket are currently unknown. But with Diana’s off-duty aesthetic still inspiring runway collections and street style looks, its influence still lives on.