Getting into the swing of fashion
BE under no illusion, golf attire and golf fashion is taken as serious by some in the golfing world as Milan Fashion Week is by fashionistas and trend setters – and Cork golfers are as keen to impress on and off the course as much as any of their counterparts from around the globe.
Golfers in the Rebel County have as much access to the global trends through a wide selection of sports shops and golf shops in the county as well as through thousands of online stores with names like Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler not only modelling the new designs but playing a major part in the clothes designs.
Golf fashion has come in for much criticism over the decades which to be fair is quite understandable considering some of the ridiculous outfits worn by professional golfers, which often found themselves on amateurs the world over. The issue surrounding golf clothing even had the great Tiger Woods all at sea in his early days which manifested in his famous comments on the issue.
“Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed as black pimps.”
While I like to think I am clued in for all things golf I concede the ground to local fashionista and journalist Briona Gallagher who has gone through all things golf fashion.
“Golf has a long and checkered history with fashion which stretches back centuries. It is generally accepted that Scotsmen founded the sport, playing the stick and ball game in their native wild highlands as far back as the 1400s. These early golfers swaddled themselves in animal furs before braving the unforgiving conditions to tee off.
As time progressed so did fashion and by the 1900’s long trousers had become the trend du jour. Whether it was due to practicalities or an early sign of golf’s trailblazing approach to style, golfers of this era tucked their trousers into long, thick socks. Dark, neutral shades were also replaced by brighter colours. Some say this began as a way to alert passers-by to the dangers of flying golf balls.” Unlike many other sports, women were welcome to play golf in many quarters long before equal rights were introduced.
“The ladies of the sport were more restricted in their attire than men and the Victorian outfits consisted of full skirts with multiple petticoats and ankle-grazing hemlines. Heavy blouses were worn beneath tailored jackets that had tight sleeves which prohibited a decent swing.
“Thankfully attitudes progressed with the times and women were playing in more form fitting clothes that allowed for greater movement. Instead of stuffy blouses with confining sleeves, they were allowed to wear light-weight cardigans and jackets.
“Menswear proceeded with a penchant for polo shirts and sweater vests. By the 1960s, colour continued to feature but neutrals were also popular at this time especially navies and browns. Knickerbockers or threequarter length pants are the one item that remained popular throughout the years and are still regarded as the most widely recognised style representation the sport.
“During this era and onwards, slacks, particularly with a centre crease also became synonymous with golf, for both men and women. Accessories have always been prominent components of golf, again for both male and female golfers with hats, gloves, collars and ties all co-ordinated to match every outfit.”
It’s been said that the 80s were the decade that fashion forgot, but the impact that the decade had on style is nonetheless remembered quite fondly across all areas of popular culture.
“Golf was no different. The rich green courses became a complementary backdrop for the iconic colour scheme and patterned outfits of players such as Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Steve Ballesteros. There was a surge of shades like orange, blue, pink which were derided by some, celebrated by others.
“It was during this time that the undisputed poster-boy of golf fashion began his successful with a career. Payne Stewart’s graceful and stylish golf swing became secondary to his trendsetting attire.
“Stewart blended traditional pieces with modern elements seamlessly. Tailored breeches or baggy knickerbockers in bold patterns like tartan and stripes were teamed with flat-caps, bow-ties and argyle socks. His fearless approach to clashing colours and mixed print were present in every outfit and he quickly became the sporting style icon he is still remembered for today.” Golf seemed to grow up in the noughties and the style at the start of the 21st century was more sophisticated than ever before.
“Tiger Woods became a household celebrity name and many credit him with making the sport more accessible to the masses. His aesthetic is reflective of this time. Plain, monochromatic outfits, discreet patterns and sharp silhouette were the modern, albeit slightly safe, sign of the times.
“Today golf has settled into pole position in the sporting style stakes. The contemporary aesthetic has reached a point where elements of bygone eras have crystallised with modern trends and the result is cool, confident and very current. Form fitting long-sleeved thermal tops are increasingly being worn under traditional polo shirts as an alternative to bulky sweaters or cardigans.
“This clever layering even looks like a nod to the hipster revolution that is seen across the world. Boo Weekley pushed the boundaries even further when he raised eyebrows at Carnoustie in Scotland by wearing a realistic tattoo print top.
“These days colour is as important as ever however this too has generally evolved. Colour blocking or popping in subtle details such as piping and stitching seem to be a current way of working the look.
“But of course, every golfing generation has its clothes horse and right now we have Ricky Fowler, the prolific social media user and McIlroy who is always well turned out from head to toe in some sort of sponsored attire.” ORIGINALLY, golf was pretty much man, ball, sticks, and the odd hole.
But in the last 10 years there have been huge technological advances.
Just 20 years ago, the most impressive accessory was a battery-powered trolley.
The introduction, and now proliferation of the GPS range finders has been the biggest advancement in amateur golf. There is barely a man, woman, or child on the courses of Cork these days without some form of locationidentifying device, either in their pockets, attached to their bag, or around their wrist.
It seems to be an imperative for players to know exactly where they are on a course in relation to the hole, to the nearest inch, at any time and the technology world is only too willing to provide the answers.
Shane Lowry spoke recently, in America, about why Ireland produces such talented players.
Work ethic, of course, is key, but Lowry extolled the virtues of just playing the game.
Learning the shots, learning how to get yourself out of trouble, and learning how to play the game the feel way.
These days, many club players are either unwilling or unable to work out the distance to the hole, from the centre of the fairway, on their own course — despite the fact that distance markers are usually provided.
Players will lose the ability to work out themselves what they need to do, if they continue to exclusively use technology to get them around the course.
While all this technology is obviously innovative, it seems to have done little to actually bring the game forward. Golf, despite all the advances, is getting slower.
Players, in general, don’t seem to be getting better than the generations that went before, despite having much more opportunities to play and learn.
So what can be done? Well, as Lowry states, golfers need to go back to the basics. Players need to just hit the ball, get up to it, and hit it again.
Golf clubs throughout the county, as well as in the rest of the country, have the right to bring in local rules to deal with issues like the use of range finders, and so on.
While they obviously are not the devil incarnate, they do provide an advantage to the players who use them, over players who don’t, but, more seriously, they take away a player’s ability to get the feel of their distance, and that is a problem that can’t be overstated.
Payne Stewart always wore eye-catching gear on the course, including this at the 1990 Open.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy starred in a Nike Golf ad together.