Arnold Palmer Is Still the Best Dressed Man in Golf

Nobody has ever made the game look so almost-cool

June 24, 2020 7:00 am
Arnold Palmer tees off, stylishly
Arnold Palmer tees off, with style.

Arnold Palmer once mused, “I think I’ve heard somebody say that I was a well-dressed golfer. I guess that has something to do with the fact that a lot of people who play golf don’t dress very well.”

Palmer was, of course, spot on. Too many players don’t know or care what looks good. But he was also employing a touch of the famous Palmer wit to project a rather large dose of false modesty. The King knew full well that he was an icon of both sport and style.   

His demure deflection aside, Palmer had impeccable taste in clothing and that was an image he cultivated. His shirts seemingly never wrinkled, his pants always featured a razor sharp crease and his shoes shined even in the deepest rough. Palmer was a man unafraid of color. He understood the importance of fit and damn the dude made a cardigan look cool. He stood out in the field not just because he won, but because he always looked like a winner. 

“Mr. Palmer’s style was so unique and he was always willing to take risks,” says current PGA star Rickie Fowler, whose on-course sartorial choices are among the most eye-catching on tour today. “He enjoyed pushing boundaries and that character trait along with his effortless cool made him a style icon and fun to watch.” 

He was the right man at the right time. Charismatic and handsome, he played with a devil may care, go-for-broke style that enthralled galleries and TV audiences. At the dawn of the television age, he was always dressed for the camera and his swagger not only helped popularize the professional game, but also build new revenue streams for athletes through sponsorships. 

A prototype of the contemporary influencer, Palmer passed away in 2016, but his style still serves both as an aspirational totem for players who want to look good and a number of clothiers — most recently PUMA Golf, which has collaborated with the Arnold Palmer Enterprises on a capsule collection for spring that caught our eye. Featuring brightly colored polos emblazoned with the Palmer umbrella logo, a Cessna airplane-patterned top and bottom (Palmer loved to fly himself to and from golf tournaments) and, of course, a cardigan in an alpaca-wool-blend, the line not only harnesses the King’s vintage aesthetic, but still looks staggeringly modern. The capsule is one we could live in all season long.

Photo courtesy of Puma

“Mr. Palmer was certainly THE style guy on Tour. He could make any outfit look effortlessly cool, yet he still held himself to rigorous presentation standards,” Chris MacNeill, Senior Product Line Manager at PUMA Golf, tells InsideHook. “His wardrobe was the perfect mix of classy, stylish, and clean cut without being pretentious.”

In creating the new collection, MacNeill says the folks at PUMA collaborated with the team at Arnold Palmer Enterprises, as well as his family and friends, to channel the King’s chic.

“Our number one goal was to be authentic to his life and story,” MacNeil says. “From little details like pink button threads and interior prints showing major moments in his life, to bold statements like an airplane embroidery short or a cardigan with alpaca wool, we felt the best way to kick off our partnership was to pay homage to Mr. Palmer’s life and legacy through each garment in the collection.”

Fowler, like so many before him and likely after him, has taken from Palmer’s style the importance of authenticity and being true to yourself. “He always stayed true to himself and was willing to wear colors and styles other golfers weren’t because of his confidence,” he says. “While my style has evolved, I try to stay true to myself. I too am willing to take risks and have some fun with my gear, and wear what makes me feel comfortable and allows me to perform on the course.”

Golf fashion will continue to evolve but odds are Palmer’s fashion will continue to project King-sized influence. “Will cardigans be influential in 50 years? Maybe, maybe not,” MacNeill says. “But what he did with style was groundbreaking for his time, and that’s the inspiration people will continue to draw from by thinking about the man.” Sixty years on, and still nobody’s worn a polo better than Arnie.

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