We were approached by the Editor & Publisher of Caddie Magazine to write about the history of golf fashion for their style issue. What ensued was this retrospective; albeit slightly op-ed article. After passionate research pouring through the decades of trends here are the lessons we have learned.
Golf is a sport that prides itself on tradition and unspoken etiquette. It doesn’t change much and it certainly doesn’t change fast. Therefore, classic is always a wise choice. This need not be bland or boring. As we consider golf fashion through the decades and how it has reflected both the norms of the time and the game, we are left with a compelling question: why have certain designs worked forever, while others only survive for short periods?
The lesson is this: transcend the trends, remain classic and stay true to your personal style.
In the early part of the 20th Century, a great deal of effort and thought went into the details for course design and highly formal aesthetic presentation in general. See Dorothy Campbell below.
Male golfers wore tweed wool jackets with ties. Women wore corsets with jackets, and skirts to the floor with bustles. The layers and textures of fabric and accessories such as the ubiquitous knickers, oxford saddle shoes, boater hats and ivy caps were deliciously rich.
Men and women wore their everyday clothes to play sports. This was extremely constrictive – but it is an important concept that we see in peak periods over time.
Perhaps golf fashion is better when one can truly carry their day-to-day style onto the course. That should be something that comes through no matter what the activity is.
Sweaters became the new jacket. Starting in the 1920's until about 1940 women's sweaters had coat buttons and belts and were worn with ties. More modern version on Glenna Collet-Vare below.
The gradual revealing of skin according to societal expectations had women's shirt sleeves inching to the elbow. Rayon Swing Flex dresses were all the rage with the ladies and the hem crept up to the more playable, practical length of the ankle – on the course as it was off the course. As an added practical benefit, ladies no longer had a predictable inch of mud around the bottom of their skirts.
Miss Diana Fishwick pictured below had incredible talent, charm and style. Nicknamed the ‘Goddess of Golf’ in 1927 at age 19 she won the British Women’s Championship.
The trend arriving at the course in the 1950s and ‘60s was more relaxed and athletic, but retained a noticeable degree of formality and elegance. Collars were crisp and starched. Pants were tailored. Elegance and attention to detail remained.
The advancement of technology as it applied to fabric brought us windbreakers, waterproof leather shoes and lightweight nylon bags, but the aesthetic quality of refined style remained.
For women, the revealing trend of shorter calf or knee length skirts or culottes continued. A nod to natural fabrics remained, with classic cotton shirts and turtlenecks – but again the progression of style off the course was reflected through shorter sleeve and skirt lengths, and the garments were becoming far less detailed. Loud, attention grabbing styles in the 1970s & 1980s brought reflected a fascination with newness and irreverence.
During this period, tech-sweat wicking tees and tanks, sleeveless polo shirts, mock turtlenecks, tight undergarment-looking tops with long sleeves, mesh panels, fleece, sweatshirts and zippers. Farrah Fawcett brings a sporty fun look to both tennis and golf in this era.
The athleisure trend has become widely accepted in the Modern Era. Current styles for women include leggings, short and tight skirts, low-cut tech fabric shirts and revealing tank tops. Some well done examples of talented golfers with classic style are above. As so often happens when athletes turn pro their tastes morph and reflect the needs and wants of apparel sponsors, not themselves.
The LPGA recently amended their rules on attire due to this pervasive trend. We have listed the rules at the bottom of our article.
We believe, and generations of golfers have proven, that elegance and comfort can be achieved simultaneously. Timeless designs that fall within the attire regulations of private courses or tour events can still reflect respectable, classic style.
Golf is an elegant game that is steeped in respect. Golf fashion, at its best, should reflect that. We strive to help you feel beautiful in your golf attire, and in turn bring confidence to your game. Being true to yourself is timeless and this essence will shine through no matter what you wear.