Get­ting into the swing of fash­ion

Irish Examiner - County - - Sport - Diarmuid Shee­han

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.

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