Proper Golf attire has been one of the emphases in the game more than any other sport in the world. From eighteenth-century rural Scotland where Golf has its origins to the modern courses of today, Golf attire has a long and interesting history that has been dictated as much by function, as style. It’s been shaped by various factors such as weather conditions where the game is played, the season of the year, and the motivations of the players – love for the game, or business interest. Today, both golf clubs and championship tournaments have strict dress codes for a player, which has evolved with the times and trends.
Given its origin in the cold, rainy and wind-swept links of Scotland, Golf attire was largely designed to guard against such weather. Players wore full suits with either pork-pie shaped hats or wide-brims, or they wore thick tweed jackets and sometimes a waistcoat on top of that. For the lower half, they wore knickers which resembled knee breaches of English courts or riding breeches worn by horsemen. Inside, they wore formal, collared shirts with neckties However, the multiple layers, the necktie and thick tweeds restricted their shoulder movement and hence swing. Although a toned-down version of such attire can still be seen in parts of the UK, proper golf attire has evolved significantly in the US.
1920s - 1960s
By the turn of the nineteenth century, Scottish settlers in the US had popularized the game enormously and turned into a game for the classes. Rich and affluent players who wanted to stand out from the crowd started wearing plus-fours, or knickers that were four inches longer, two-toned shirts, and sometimes a tie. In colder weather, they either wore knitted woolen-cardigans or Norfolk jackets. Some players wore trousers instead of knickers, while some did away with neckties.
In 1933, the US Open was played in the summer, so players had to choose lighter attire. They either wore white or gray short-sleeved, knitted shirts or slacks in different colors on the inside. On the outside, they wore either the Eisenhower jacket with a firm waistband or cardigan sweaters with bell-shaped sleeves. Both options made it easy for players to swing the ball. For hats, pork-pie-shaped and wide-brims were acceptable. Instead of simple leathers, players started using sturdy leather shoes with spikes. For the lower part of the body, they either wore trousers, plain shorts or checkered Bermudas. Celebrity players like Arnold Palmer popularized the khaki trousers, collared, cotton slack T-shirts and stylish shoes, a trend which endures till date.
1960s - 2000
From the 60s onwards, golf attire started becoming more colorful. The dull gray, white, beige, tan and khaki were soon being replaced by greens, blues and reds in either pastel or dark shades. Dark and bold-colored tops were being contrasted with lighter-colored trousers or shorts for a striking effect. Casual players like President John F. Kennedy popularized the ‘Go to Hell’, a colorful, lighter and shorter trousers in pleasing colors. Seeing the popularity and variety in Golf attire, many brands such as Footjoy, Adidas, Nike, Polo Golf Ralph Lauren, and Ashworth among others launched their own line of Golf attire. While celebrity players also wore these brands of attire, they rarely endorsed them openly in print or TV ads.
By the late 90s, Golf had become one of the top sports in the US along with baseball and basketball. Large tournaments and million-dollar endorsements of golfing brands by players such as Tiger Woods became order of the day, even as hundreds or thousands of golf clubs sprang up all over the US. The stakes were higher now, so players had to perform at a higher level than before. Athleticism, precision, speed and skill were the new emphases of the game in contrast to the casual and leisurely approach to the game previously. So Golf attire too had to evolve, becoming more light-weight, comfortable and elegant, all at the same time. Colorful and collared cotton T-shirts became the norm and were paired with tan or khaki shorts or trousers. Pork-pie shaped and baseball-hats are more common, while wide-brims are rare. While leather shoes are still popular, trendy sports shoes from Nike or Adidas are more common.
It’s exciting times for Golf attire manufacturers. With Golf becoming more popular around the world and being played all through the year, we can see more trends and styles emerging in Golf attire in the coming years.
So while you are picking out that outfit to hit the course, take a tour of Plymouth Country Club golf course and start dreaming about Spring Golf!