When Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters earlier this month, he was handed a crisp green blazer with gold buttons to mark the achievement. Given that the sport’s highest honour is a rather jazzy bit of tailoring, it’s ironic that golf attire at a professional level is so achingly bland. And yet, it’s a different story at amateur level where a new wave of high-profile celebrity players and upstart brands are making golf sartorially interesting for the first time in decades – so much so that it’s starting to spill over from the fairway into real life. Norm- “FORE!” has arrived.
To a non-player, the last time golf felt cool was the middle of the 20th century when the Rat Pack were hitting up Palm Springs fairways in zingy striped chinos and artfully oversized V-necks. In much the same way, the men leading this new movement are an American “Rap Pack” of amateurs: Tyga, Schoolboy Q and Macklemore – the latter has just founded his own, 70s-inspired golf line, Bogey Boys. On the course, all these men take their style cues from streetwear, not the game’s professionals: tracksuits, jazzy patterned slacks, bucket hats, sneakers.
“There are more rules about how to dress for golf than most other sports, and yet it’s the worst dressed sport on the planet,” says Michael Williams, a keen golfer who founded the cult American menswear blog A Continuous Lean in 2007. Recently he founded ACL Golf for amateur golfers who are interested in looking good on the links. “No one wants to look like professional golfers any more; we want to look like ourselves while playing the game.”
Whether celebrities or not, many of these new wave brands have people connected to the fashion scene behind them. In the US, Erica and Stephen Malbon of Malbon Golf own Frank151, a street style magazine and creative agency. In the UK, one half of the duo behind Sounder Golf was the founder of workwear label Folk. These disruptor brands are taking their cues from what’s happening on the style scene, not the professional golf scene. And while streetwear-inspired brands such as Eastside Golf and Whim have been grabbing column inches in the golfing press for their rebellious deployment of (gasp) branded hoodies on golf courses across the world, others such as Manors Golf and Gatsby Golf have attracted customers looking for something more tailored, concentrating on trim fits and luxurious fabrics that are just as wearable off the course as on.
“Because of these new brands, golf gear is starting to become part of my day-to-day wardrobe,” says Lauren Prince, 30, an amateur golfer based in Bath who regularly showcases her on-the-course style and love of new wave golf labels on her instagram @guiltyofgolf. “What’s really important is having clothes that allow you to play, then go out afterwards to the pub and not look like a numpty!”
And it’s this non-numptiness that is giving these new wave brands crossover appeal. In the same way you don’t have to be a skater to wear Supreme or a mountain climber to wear The North Face, by avoiding sporty tech fabrics and not being slaves to course dress codes it ensures you don’t need to know your way around a nine iron for these brands to appeal to your style sensibility. That is unless you have a penchant for green blazers – you’ll still have to win the Masters for that.