The white belt is golf’s most polarising piece of fashion. So much so that two governing rules for wearing it have developed.
1. Wearing one off a golf course is prohibited (OK, so I made that up, but c’mon).
2. The Law of 35.
The second one comes from Golf Digest’s Mr Style Marty Hackel, who always says you shouldn’t wear a white belt if you are over the age of 35 or have a waistline over 35. (Side note: this rule may have been, um, stretched to keep me within the parameters.)
Why are we even having this discussion? Because of Johnny Mialler. That’s right, the Hall of Famer claims he popularised this accessory more than four decades ago.
“I’m the guy who made the white belt famous,” Miller told. “It went away for a while, but it’s back.”
Yes, it is. Not that everyone is happy about it. Bringing up the white belt in your clubhouse might start a more heated debate than if you start spouting your political views. Just know that golf’s most opinionated TV analyst is on your side.
After wearing “basically, what everyone else on tour was wearing”, Miller morphed into quite the fashion plate during his heyday. He attributes this to playing in the 1972 Bing Crosby Invitational with Doug Sanders and Sanders’ friend, Dean Wendt, who wore a bunch of flashy outfits he bought in the La Quinta pro shop that week.
“In 1972 I started to wear really bright, snazzy clothes,” said Miller, who famously wore a pair of houndstooth-print pants when he won the 1973 US Open. “As soon as I started wearing them, I started winning tournaments. It was like, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m ready to play some golf.’ It was sort of a signal to everyone. I find that to be true with most golfers who come out of their comfort shells.”
Ironically, the two-time major champ says it was an endorsement with a clothing store that ended his flashy ways.
“Actually, my deal with Sears took away from creativity because they wanted me to wear my line,” Miller said. “It helped my exposure, but it hurt my creativity.”
But not before the white belt became a fashion staple on the golf course. Like Johnny said, it’s back. Just wear one at your own risk.