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Today’s Lesson: Self-Expression - Australian Golf Digest Today’s Lesson: Self-Expression - Australian Golf Digest

Golf style is having a moment. 

You probably know that already after seeing some 20s-something pairing putting out on the 18th dressed like they were enroute to a concert, not the clubhouse. 

World No.19 Jason Day knows it and Aussie musician Cameron Avery most definitely knows it: “Personally, I think dress shoes with ankle socks look very weird.” 

Avery, of “Tame Impala” fame, knows his way around the course and recalls the day he was told to change his socks at a Melbourne Sandbelt club because they had the slightest hint of tie-die design on them. “I think you should be able to wear whatever the f–k you want if you can play off scratch!”

PGA Tour winner Keith Mitchell would agree with that sentiment: “If more golfers were allowed to wear their own style, I think a lot of guys would blossom.” 

So, what is this ‘moment’ exactly – and how long can it survive in an environment that’s been so resistant to change? Post-COVID, there’s been an undeniable surge in rounds played, drawing in people from diverse backgrounds and generations. This influx is reshaping the landscape of golf fashion as we know it, ushering in a newfound inclusivity influenced by urban street culture, skateboarding, even hip-hop. The boundaries between traditional golf attire and contemporary styles are blurring as designers infuse their collections with elements borrowed from high-end fashion. 

‘Cashmere Keith’ is as qualified to speak on all matters golf fashion as anyone, as he is, according to Golf Digest’s style experts, the best dressed player on tour. Aussie fans might disagree, perhaps even recommend the GD panel refer to Adam Scott’s immaculate attire before coming to such rash decisions. Either way, both men would lead the ‘Shots Gained: Style’ category if such a measure existed.

Now well into his forties, Scott remains the walking definition of ‘It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it’. Adds Golf Digest style guru Marty Hackel: “You can buy Adam’s entire outfit on any given day at UNIQLO for a hundred bucks and get change back. It’s not about how much money you spend or about what fancy labels you buy; it’s about wearing the correct size, wearing the correct colours, and putting them all together.”

While UNIQLO has its price point worked out, I’ll never understand its brand strategy to omit the red and white logo on golf polos sold at retail. At the peak of his powers, when he was winning Australia’s first green jacket, kids all across the country would have loved nothing more than to have dressed like their hero Scott. While they could purchase the brand’s golf polos, there was no way of telling they were sporting the same gear as Scotty. Without that now-synonymous UNIQLO logo on the chest, it may as well have been a $5 polo from Target.

Similar frustrations have been raised about Original Penguin, worn by Scott’s heir apparent and current flavour of the month, Cameron Smith. Despite getting their logo sorted, how many kids have you seen walking around wearing Smith’s colourful ensemble, before or after he became the 150th Open champion? Another huge opportunity missed.

For comparison, your author had no such problems donning that famous Shark logo during the ’80s and ’90s, or the Nike tick in a red offering during the early 2000s. Back in the day, if I wanted Seve’s navy sweater, complete with Slazenger markings, it was readily available too. Which brings us back to ‘the moment’ – and what you’re likely to see hanging in your pro shop very soon.

“There’s such tradition in golf, but it’s still a game, and it’s fun, and that’s reflected in what you want to wear,” says Ralph Lauren’s chief innovation officer David Lauren. “We’re seeing a desire to return to a more classic style and spirit of heritage – sort of a quiet luxury – both on and off the course. Our customer is looking for beautiful and thoughtfully designed pieces that can take them from the course to a board meeting to a school drop off seamlessly. We’re looking at how to build our collections with a broader lens with versatile lifestyle pieces like knits, cashmere and layering pieces that live beyond the course and that are comfortable.” 

Adds TAG Heuer chief executive officer Julien Tornare: “With about 60 million golfers worldwide, it’s normal that different layers of the population will start entering the sport and challenging the status quo. That’s what’s happening right now.” 

Call it dressing for all possible occasions or an act of self-expression, when the dust settles on golf’s new peaking popularity, the brands still standing, it seems, will be the ones brave enough to be different without completely ditching their past.