The History of Golf Fashion

While golf has been around for a very long time, starting in Scotland, the fashion of golf for players has evolved – from clothing to shoes. The history of golf clothing and accessories is sketchy but records show Woolrich Co. was the first to specialize in outdoor clothing. Woolrich, who became known for hunting coats, blankets and uniforms came up with the ‘golf pants’ in the early 1920s. Some golfers even took to wearing the short, distinctive trousers called knickers (the name comes from a fictitious Dutch family, the Knickerbockers). This style of loose breeches became popular before the 1900s. In 1904 Thomas Burberry of London introduced some improvements into the women's golf clothing sold in his store. This included the Free-stroke Coat, which had special sleeves that moved freely with the golfer's arms. He also brought back the raisable skirt, which had been popular decades earlier with croquet players. Through the use of a drawstring, the skirt could be raised up to eight inches or so above the ground. In the first decades of the 20th century, the standard golfing costume was a blouse, jacket and skirt. Starting around 1909, women began wearing a knit cardigan sweater instead of the jacket. Also, knit jersey was introduced as a fabric choice for the golf skirt and blouse. Other improvements were pleated skirts and pleats in the back of the blouse. By the 1920s, the sweater and pleated skirt continued to be a popular choice for women golfers. Golf dresses were rather plain, with a straight or a pleated skirt. To add some flair, women often wore patterned stockings, and rubber soled golf shoes. Starting around 1921, women golfers were sometimes pictured in knickers, but that would not have been allowed at many country clubs. The one-piece golf dress was introduced in the mid 1920. New York's Best & Co. sold a dress they called the "Shirtmaker." This one-piece frock was perfect for golf and other active sports, and was so popular that it was widely copied and became the most popular golf dress style for the next 30 years. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, golf dresses pretty much followed fashionable lines. Unlike tennis, where the skirt became very short, while golf dresses retained their length. Through the 1950s and into the early 60s, most women golfers wore a blouse and skirt often topped with a cashmere sweater, or a cotton one piece shirt dress. Increasingly, it was acceptable for a woman to wear a sleeveless blouse and even Bermuda shorts on the golf course. Men’s golf clothing evolved as well from the knickers and argyle socks to the polo shirt and Bermuda shorts. Today many golf courses have a specific dress code. Golfers should inquire about dress codes at golf courses they intend to play at. Generally, municipal golf courses do not have dress codes but many private courses require that those wishing to golf wear a collared shirt and Dockers-style shorts. Additionally, most golf courses do not allow metal spikes on golf shoes. Speaking of golf shoes, how did they come about? Some credit the Duke of Windsor with making a particular style of shoe popular for the game of golf. This design was commonly known as the reverse calf or suede shoe. It wasn’t long before the well-dressed golfer was seen wearing the saddle shoe – the one that often has a different color band on the instep. One thing that hasn’t changed in golfing fashion and that is the desire for comfort. With companies designing more and more sophisticated fabrics, golfers, both men and women, won’t have to sacrifice style for comfort as both are being blended nicely together. Once the outfit is pieced together, the golfer can then focus on what is really important – the game.
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