Sporting Style, Part I: Lessons from the Tee Box

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For too long the terms “sport” and “fashion” have rarely shared the same sentence, at least in a positive light. Latter day professional athletes have not exactly been the best sartorial role models. Some influences, like NBA-inspired gangland street wear, have left an entire generation of misguided youth to perpetually trip over their baggy, oversized jeans.

While sports like polo, cricket, sailing and golf have each had important and noble impacts on men’s dress, recent decades have been less than stellar. The last 50 years or so are littered with examples of professional sportswear’s questionable impact on male fashion. The ultimate example of bad sporting taste would be Rodney Dangerfield’s seminal performance in the classic Caddyshack. From that point forward the very phrase “golf pants” doomed many an aspiring Jack Nicholas to the back of the sartorial line. Loud plaids and shocking primary colors came to epitomize the questionable fashion sense of many weekend duffers.

Nonetheless golf in particular has given us its share of practical fashion successes. The waning casual-everyday movement in America did actually help move the golf shirt from the putting green to the office. At first it denoted a certain élan; the wearer showing others that he (a) apparently knew how to golf and (b) was good enough to play at, according to his shirt, Pebble Beach. Golf shirt collections became a movable scale of style hierarchy. Who had what from where? Did he really play that course or have the pro shop mail him the shirt? As with any trend though, the golf shirt “thing” grew stale. Those billowy status symbols, often paired with generic and unremarkable khakis, ran their course and became, eventually, just another shirt. As the casual movement marched on, it began its inevitable devolvement into kitsch and perpetual mediocrity.

Then, something interesting began surface and it began, again, on the golf course: good taste. Tiger Woods, in addition to being a giant on the PGA tour, started making fashion news. Woods’ clean and confidently crisp wardrobe was refreshingly tasteful, as was the young man himself. His powerfully elegant moves on the fairway were being matched by his powerfully simple fashion statements, so much so that he wound up on the cover of Men’s Vogue.

Woods, neither loud nor flashy, was able to carve out a distinctive look that spoke of maturity and poise. Perhaps due to his enormous sponsorship deal with Nike, he has also avoided looking like a walking billboard with logos protruding from every nook and cranny. His outfits are marred only by the lone “TW” badge or Nike Swoosh.

Woods’ signature black pants and red shirt have come to signify silent, strong authority as well as the classic impact of this manly color combination. Where other equally talented pros tend to look baggy and generally sloppy, Wood’s exacting attention to detail extends to his wardrobe. GQ might not be thrilled about fit of his pants, but his wardrobe, though loose enough to allow for a big swing, never look bunched up or saggy – a common problem in golf clothing. Even the logo of his signature product line is strong yet simple.

The great genius about Tiger’s clothing is that it is easy to imagine him dropping his clubs and walking right into a boardroom. That is no accident; thought and detail go into what he wears and when. While he does have everything made to measure, average guys should take note that dressing comfortably and dressing well are not mutually exclusive.

While the late Payne Stewart will be forever remembered as a great golfing dandy who made plus-fours and snap brimmed caps cool, Woods has transitioned the sport into sartorial modernity with ease. So, even if you do not wear a jacket to work every day, think of Tiger and take casual up a peg to classy.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice

Comments

  1. vlado says:

    I don’t think Tiger dresses any better than the rest of PGA players. Baseball cap, wide pants, shiny belt buckle, lack of original personal sartorial whims… doesn’t sound like a style icon to me.

  2. Chris Hogan says:

    Sorry for taking so long to respond. Thanks very much for your comment Vlado, I appreciate your point of view. While I agree that most PGA players are not exactly style icons, in my opinion, Tiger has raised the bar for the sport. He may have the same general look, but Tiger’s overall approach to the sport and to how he presents himself to the world is unique and far more polished than many of his peers.

  3. PAHR72 says:

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