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Innovations in Golf Apparel: A Brief History

 
Updated: Oct 16, 2014

In 1744, the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith created a list of golf rules that is now the earliest surviving record of its kind. There were rules regarding “holling” and “lyes” but no regulations regarding attire. The same clothing was generally worn for all sports, and that usually consisted of suits and skirts. In the 1900s, some golfers wore the short, loose pants commonly referred to as “knickers”, but that’s about as daring as it got. Two decades later, however, athletic clothes started its transition into more practical and casual designs. Golf apparel soon established its own place in the fashion world, though like any fashion style, it continues to change with the times.

1920s-1940s

By the 1920s, sweaters had replaced jackets on the golf course and women began playing in skirts with shorter hemlines. Glen Echo SW-1120 Sweater The earliest depiction of a woman playing golf in knickers appeared in 1921, but that would not have met the approval of most country clubs. Country clubs’ dress codes also required men to wear collared shirts. That led to the rise of the polo shirt in the 1930s, as it mimicked the lightweight, movable knit of a sweater but still had the necessary collar.

Modern Versions:

Glen Echo SW-1120 Sweater

SunIce Clinton Sweater Vest

Ashworth EZ-Tech Pique Polo

Ladies Oakley Tourney Sleeveless Polo

1950s-1960s

For women, golf apparel changed dramatically during the 1950s and '60s. More and more golf clubs allowed women to wear Bermuda shorts and sleeveless shirts. Khakis and Bermuda shorts began to take over men’s golf apparel as well, thanks in part to professionals like Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Modern Versions:

Ladies Oakley Tourney Sleeveless Polo

Ladies Nike Dri-Fit Novelty Skinny Long Shorts

Arnie Hole Out Flat Front Shorts

1970s-1980s

Golf clothes entered a color explosion in the 1970s. Jack Nicklaus, Steve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and other professionals showed up on tour wearing brightly colored sweaters, socks, polos and pants. Argyle and plaid patterns in clashing hues were now fashionable.

Loudmouth Grass Shorts

The over-the-top trend earned a backlash in the late 1980s. Ashworth Golf was established in 1987 precisely to fulfill the need for more subtle and versatile golf clothes. Nike started producing its own golf apparel around the same time. Curtis Strange showed off the brand’s sleek approach to golf wear when he won the U.S. Open championships in 1988 and 1989.

Modern Versions:

Loudmouth Grass Shorts

Ashworth EZ-Tech Dot Panel Print Polo

Nike Dri-Fit Jersey Swoosh Polo

1990s-2000s

The 1990s and 2000s was a period of corporate change in the golf world. Nike Golf reached a turning point in 1996 when it signed an endorsement deal with an up-and-coming golfer named Tiger Woods. As Woods’ success skyrocketed, so did Nike’s. Woods quickly gained his own line of Nike golf apparel and equipment. Other general athletic brands introduced their own golf apparel. One of these was adidas. The brand offers its own line of clothes and accessories that often use its trademark ClimaCool technology, but adidas Golf became more notable in 1997 when it bought golf equipment maker TaylorMade and licensed its name to golf hats and other accessories. A year later, the popular golf shoe company FootJoy added shirts, outerwear, and socks to its own market.

Nike TW Dri-FIT Ultra Light Pants

Golf apparel companies continued to change hands in the next decade. Callaway licensed its name to Ashworth to create Callaway Golf Apparel in 2002. Ashworth was then bought by adidas-Taylor Made in 2008. However, the new millennium began with a surprising return to the past. Loudmouth came onto the scene in 2000. The company both paid tribute and parodied the flamboyant golf pants of the 1970’s with its selection of even more brazen colors and patterns.

Modern Versions:

Nike TW Dri-FIT Ultra Light Pants

Adidas ClimaLite Plaid Shorts

Taylor Made Tour Radar Cap

FootJoy ProDry Lisle Stripe Polo

Callaway Chev Stripe Polo

Loudmouth Disco Ball Pants

Today

Today, golf apparel is designed for both high performance and high fashion. Golf itself has changed into a more athletic event, and its clothes grew more accommodating to players’ movement and comfort. Changing styles have also reflected changing social attitudes and fashion trends. As all of these continue to evolve, golf apparel will follow suit.

adidas Bridgestone Golf Callaway Cleveland Cobra FootJoy Mizuno Nike Ping Puma Srixon TaylorMade Titleist Wilson adidas Bridgestone Golf Callaway Cleveland Cobra FootJoy Mizuno Nike Ping Puma Srixon TaylorMade Titleist Wilson
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