Remember this outfit? The game of golf has changed and refined during the many years of its existence. Knowledge of areas such as sports science and how our bodies work have allowed many things to change and improve.
The level and standards of courses have increased, making them more demanding. Accompanied by that, professional golfers have added another level to the game entirely. As the game has evolved over the years, so too has the golf fashion – again for both style and practical reasons. Here’s our Fore Management reflection at golf fashion through the years.
No-one knows for certain where the game we know as golf originated but the first recognisable game can be seen in 15th century Scotland. Here was a game that we could recognise in some way – although the first records were when James II banned the game in 1457 as an ‘unwelcome distraction to learning archery’. James IV lifted the ban in 1502 because he was a fan of golfing himself and the first reference to golf clubs came the year after. So I suppose we all have good old James IV to thank for us enjoying this wonderful and crazy game we all love today!
The oldest course is often believed to be St Andrews Old Course which existed in at least 1574 and probably before this. So, what did this mean for golf fashion?
There’s a good chance that the original golf fashion attire involved a kilt and probably some animal skin furs – in other words, what the Scottish people that invented the game wore. As the nobility came to appreciate the game, the course fashions followed their fashions – knee-length breeches over stockings, ruffled cravats at the neck and tailcoats.
Early 20th century
By the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century, men’s trousers crept down the leg and became more the length we are used to today. But golfers were a little unsure about this development, so their solution was to tuck their full-length trousers into their long socks! What is truly amazing is that if you were on the course in 1910 or 1920, you would have seen men wearing full morning suits with jacket and tie – I am not sure if that kind of golf attire would work in countries such as Thailand!
Scottish inspired plaid was a strong trend on the course and this can still be seen in fashion in golf today. Sturdy shoes and a tweed cap were the perfect finishing touches for these men as they tackled their 18 holes.
With fashion in society becoming less stuffy and uptight, you would have expected that golfers would do the same but that was not the case. Despite the change in fashion, this was slow to come with the sport of golf. Men did start to get rid of their heavy formal jackets, but ties were still required and that unusual habit of tucking trousers into socks remained.
Part of the reason for the formal attire was that it was a game played mostly by ‘gentlemen’ or those who were better off than the masses. Their style on the course was an extension of their separation from the rest of society.
As the years went by, things did start to eventually change. It was in the 1930s, where ‘knickers’ started to be ditched in favour of flannel trousers, usually grey or white. This was because many men went straight from work to play and didn’t need to change. Due to extreme temperatures being common in some US states, neckties were the next item on the way out as the 1933 US Open saw men playing without them for the first time.
By the 1940s, styles were becoming more familiar with what we are used to seeing today. Short sleeve knitted shirts with a longer tail and trousers made from lightweight material in various colours were common as were sturdy shoes that had spiked soles. Jackets were worn and were often on the baggy side to allow movement while the cardigan was often seen on the course for added comfort. It was the first time that golf shorts also became acceptable, usually in khaki or tan shades.
Arnold Palmer was considered to be the main reason for the big change of golf fashion in the 1950s with his Oxford shoes, cotton shirt and tan trousers. The knitted golf shirt he wore was based on the Lacoste design for tennis players and began to appear in eye-searing colours.
1960s onwards – Welcome colour!
Bright colours were now a part of golf attire and the use of clever manmade fabrics first started in the 1960s. Players began to be known for what they wore as much as their game with nicknames such as the ‘Peacock of the fairways’ for Doug Sanders with his matching socks and shirts.
The turtleneck and mock turtleneck appeared on the course during the 1970s while the trend of eye-searing colours continued. TV started to show golf tournaments, and this meant amateur players around the world started to emulate the fashion of their professional heroes.
The 1980s saw those manmade fabrics start to become smarter and more useful for the golfer – stretch fabrics and moisture wicking were examples while waterproof leathers were also seen for the first time. Greg Norman was the classic style icon and was the first major professional golfer to create his own range of clothing.
In the 1990s, sponsorship and branded clothing began to feature everywhere on the course as professionals signed big money deals with companies such as Nike. Other revived the traditional Scottish elements such as the legendary Payne Stewart with his tartan sweaters and knickers. Despite being considered to be almost too traditional at that point, his performances on the course certainly did the job of keeping many critics off his back.
Golf clothing gets clever
Since the turn of the millennial, golf fashion has continued to develop along the same lines with the development of clever clothing that helps the golfer’s game is at the heart of golf fashion. Products such as fitted polo shirts show that golf clothing can now be very stylish but also help the player.
Alongside the clever clothing is the development of the understanding of how to wear golf clothing to help your game. Gone are the days of the baggy jacket but instead well-fitting clothes are used – because too much material just gets in the way of the swing. Similarly, trousers are fitted to ensure there is no extra material flapping around the legs. Brands such as Fenix XCell are constantly bringing out new collections to meet demand and set new fashion trends, their new Tropical collection bringing something extra special to golfers who like a bit of colour and comfort all in one.
Fashion in golf will remain a big part of the sport for years to come and this is for two main reasons. The first is because players want to look good but also wants to play at all times of the year and that means wearing practical as well as stylish golf clothing. From hot weather golf polos to quarter zip jackets, golfers want to play in comfort and that will never change.