Closet Constructor: Dressing for the Handicap You Want

Is it really possible to flex on the fairway?

April 12, 2024 11:16 am
A collage of golf gear on a photo background
Can golf gear be cool? Answer: kinda.

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Welcome to Closet Constructor, a weekly series where I (a style editor) help you (a well-meaning person who likes clothes) discover new, interesting, and affordable ways to really start dressin’.

A huge double-bogey of a disclaimer to kick off this Masters-themed masterpiece — I am a style editor, not a golfer. The extent of my golf experience remains strictly limited to driving ranges and putt-putt palaces. I would be thoroughly unable to identify a nine-iron from a driver and am the last person you should ask for advice on fixing your swing. I can only offer up what I know to be true about hitting the links in style.

While my relationship with golf is strictly voyeuristic, in the most polite sense of the word, I do have love for the game. After all, the gentleman’s game is first and foremost a spectacle, especially when a felty green blazer is involved. I’m enamored with the wacky polos that swarm Augusta every spring, Tiger’s signature mock neck and ever-growing biceps, the fan that screams, inexplicably, “mashed potatoes!” during a drive. The actual golf, too, to a lesser extent.

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Unfortunately, beyond a select few storied standouts in the pro game, golf remains perhaps the most swagless sport out there. Take a peek at any country club from Bowling Green to Pebble Beach and you’ll find the current roster of golf garb most sucks. Guys in ill-fitting stretch nylon, oversized (not in a cool way) polos, color combos that are a legitimate affront to the cornea.

This is in stark contrast to its other more lifestyle-adjacent sports competitors (the parallels with tennis as a gear-forward, single-person sport are obvious) and confusing given the nature of the apparel involved — with no standardized uniform, there should be all sorts of room for the average joe to get a ‘fit off, and even the default polo and pleated chinos typically result in some natural degree of put-togetherness.

So, what the hell is the deal? How come most golf apparel flops, but some — on the backs of Daly, Mediate, Koepka — is widely vibey? Is there room in the sport for the amateur fairway flex?

There’s a factorial of sensible answers to golf’s sartorial woes. The cop-out answer is that the greats just have a more defined personal style, and then there’s the outdated claim that guys want to play the game, not dress up, an unfounded if not problematic assessment at odds with the data.

Putting on the tin foil hat, I’ll just spitball here — maybe the standard golf uni has been functioning as something of a self-damning Möbius strip. As in, it hasn’t had to evolve because it’s already “good enough”, meaning the sport’s been slowly saddled with obsolete ‘fits and out-of-touch styling. Or maybe, perhaps most likely, none of it is that deep, and tucked-in, primary-colored polos are boring.

If you’ve made peace with that, you have your answer. Boring is fine. Buy the best-fitting shirt you can find — lululemon and Vuori both make perfectly serviceable gear — and be on your merry way. But if you are like me and believe that sport should be an escape from the 9-5 hellscape, not further practice in the Sisyphean task of sliding into your tech chinos, know that there is another way.

Malbon/Bogey Boys
Golf’s newest tastemakers are taking the John Daly approach.
Malbon Golf/Bogey Boys

Beyond the broad strokes of mass marketing, there’s a growing cohort of brands trying to emulate the green’s best and make everyday golf garb fun. Whim, out of Chicago, and California-based Malbon were both early on the pickup, offering a different kind of kit — the same types of apparel, but with script-ish fonts, bolder prints and an influx of inspiration from modern sartorial (specifically, streetwear) culture. Metalwood Studios is similarly bringing a new aesthetic to the game, with ’90s style windpants and studded belts that are as lifestyle-facing as they are golf-specific.

The soundest advice I can give you for eagling your ‘fit? Try to add a statement piece to an otherwise average get-up. Futuristic sunglasses, a loud windbreaker, snakeskin-printed pants — just introduce new one element and let it do the hard work of sucking down margs and hitting people with motorized carts for you.

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Enjoy your weekend. Read about the worst Masters dinner menu. If you’re hitting the links, try something a little more bold than your buddies are used to.

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