Color Story: Kelly Green

Kelly green is a pure green. It’s the go light on a traffic post and a green screen you can project your fantasies onto.

Key Takeaways

  1. Big silhouettes and bold tones hit the racks, but one particularly optimistic colorway seemed to dominate our feeds—a color best described as “Kelly Green.”
  2. In 2008 “Shady Glade,” a true green that I would call Kelly, made its way onto Pantone’s fashion trend report. It was a hue on the Lanvin runway courtesy of Alber Elbaz.
  3. Kelly green is an overwatered lawn during an LA drought, the color of shady payday loan enterprises, and the African emeralds that allegedly made Elon Musk’s father wealthy.

This spring, when a powerful vaccine promised to free us from the grips of a global pandemic the fashion industry poised itself for a comeback. Magazine editors celebrated the rise of the “Roaring ‘20s” while luxury brands promised to revitalize custom couture. Big silhouettes and bold tones hit the racks, but one particularly optimistic colorway seemed to dominate our feeds—a color best described as “Kelly Green.”

Kelly green is a pure green. It’s the go light on a traffic post and a green screen you can project your fantasies onto. It’s the hue of a lucky four-leaf clover or the greener grass on the other side. It’s a welcoming shade, symbolic of both health and optimism—the perfect color for a post-pandemic world.

Vico Magistretti, Vicario armchair, Artemide, 1970.


Lately, we’ve seen screams of green on high-priced leather accessories from brands like Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, but this supernatural hue has also had a comeback in the form of popular vintage furnishings (like the Chiclet sofa by Ray Wilkes, and ABS plastic chairs by Vico Magistretti). Kelly green is evergreen. It re-emerges each year around Saint Patrick’s day, and trickles through trend cycles almost just as frequently. But the last time I remember the color having a major moment was around the time of the 2008 recession, when the election of Obama elicited a feeling of collective hope, and an ironic take on fashion proliferated by blog house-loving hipsters had officially permeated the mainstream.

Lanvin by Alber Elbaz, Spring 2008

In 2008 “Shady Glade,” a true green that I would call Kelly, made its way onto Pantone’s fashion trend report. It was a hue on the Lanvin runway courtesy of Alber Elbaz, and a questionable sartorial selection in the form of an American Apparel deep V-neck worn by a guy I had regrettable sex with. Both then and now “Shady Glade,” or “Kelly Green,” or “Parakeet” (as Bottega Veneta calls it), is a loud choice for both fashionistas and bold men with family money who prefer to sleep with their mattresses on the floor and philosophy books piled high beside them. Today, as then, the tone can come off as offensive, particularly when found in the form of high-priced accessories from luxury brands at a time when so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet.

Ray Wilkes, Chiclet sofa, Herman Miller, 1970s. Photo courtesy: Bi-Rite Studios.

Kelly green may be named after the lush Irish countryside but it’s also the color of artificial turf. It's a happy hue, but it can also be a fake one, favored by fashion-forward people who have no problem hiding behind a cheerful facade while a global crisis rages on. Kelly green is an overwatered lawn during an LA drought, the color of shady payday loan enterprises, and the African emeralds that allegedly made Elon Musk’s father wealthy. Kelly Green is a royal green, and it's also the color of envy. It’s the reason why some of us scoff at those rich enough to attain Bottega’s boldest accessories, while the rest buy their knock-offs from Zara.

Bottega Veneta, Green Teddy Shearling Robe. Photo courtesy: SSENSE

It may be early August, but with endless east coast rainstorms and roaring wildfires, it feels like the summer is already coming to a close. Just as the optimism that promised a post-covid boom starts to fade, so too is the polish on my cheap Kelly Green acrylic nails. On ssense.com, Balenciaga’s turf-inspired accessories are already on sale, priced perfectly according to impending covid closures, and a late summer stacked with vengeful retribution from mother nature, who threatens to eliminate our favorite luscious green hue altogether.