Are all golf vests blue? Of course not, but my travels across the golf shops and putting greens of North America suggest it is so. Among my sleeveless souvenirs are a couple with logos so powerful they stop more conversations than they start. Like the salt in my hair, looking in the mirror at these half-garments stokes pride yet also despair. When did I become so middle-aged, so conventional? I’m haunted by visions of Steve Urkel and Chandler Bing but never Young Tom Morris.

Same as too many golfers, my confidence always runs highest on the driving range. A vest’s snug hold around the engine of my torso and the resultant free-flowing whip of my arms conjures and reinforces the most magical swing tip I’ve ever known: The tail doesn’t wag the dog; the dog wags the tail. Dogs wear exclusively vests if they wear anything at all, and all I want is a bone. Inside the clubhouse for lunch, I’m girded against the excessive and heedless air conditionings of man. Also, I can dig into a bowl of gazpacho, a chicken Parmesan sandwich with fries and ketchup, an unruly Cobb salad—anything I want without fear, knowing I will stride to the first tee in my brilliant white polo in unblemished glory. My vest: protector, savior!

Don’t tell the police, but I can take a vest with a full-length zipper on or off while driving without unbuckling my seatbelt, old rotator cuff injury be damned. I can board a flight bound from one climate to another and not check a bag. What other article of clothing is so versatile it can be worn underneath a blazer or overtop a sweater? Fleece, down, knit, nylon—choose wisely for the day. A jacket is a commitment, and to meet the world with nothing but the shirt on your back is foolish.

MORE: An ode to … khakis, pockets, vests, ugly golf shirts, ball caps, hoodies, mock necks

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