Giddy. Flattered. Excited. Surprised. Those were some of the emotions I felt when I received an email from John Paul Newport, the Wall Street Journal’s Golf Columnist, last Wednesday. Mr. Newport was contacting me?? One of my favorite golf journalists? And, along with that, the WSJ? Say what! It couldn’t be! I mean, I have a piece he wrote about Trip Kuehne back in November 2006 hanging on my fridge – it’s the only article, no less! I can practically quote it verbatim.
Later that day, I had a very interesting and engaging discussion with Mr. Newport. He was prepping for this past weekend’s column about golf fashion. We chatted about the style trends the pros have been adopting and the reasons behind it, and the “white belt and white shoes” phenomenon that he couldn’t quite get his head around. I also had the chance to talk with him about the game in general, his career, journalism and the media. It made my week…no, the month, at the very least!
Mr. Newport wrote about how he was baffled and a bit appalled with what some of the young pro golfers have started sporting and how it’s caught on to the Average “Joe” golfer. I don’t blame him and I agree with some of his thoughts.
Although I’m from the same generation (the “millenials” as we’re often called) as the likes of Anthony Kim, Camillo Villegas, Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott, I still appreciate the classic polos and chinos look on the golf course. Surprisingly, as someone whose been called “fashion-forward,” I’m somewhat conservative when it comes to golf attire. Sure, I like the bright colors and I’ll throw in a white belt and plaid pants from time to time. But, for some reason, I’m still partial to seersucker and nantucket red shorts.
At the same time, I like that golf clothes have gotten more trendy. I mean, I’d never be caught dead in a skort or a head-to-toe bright pink get-up, but that’s just me. Like I told Mr. Newport, I do believe that many pros (both men and women) are making a conscious effort to make a statement via their fashion choices. For some players, their sponsors and/or management teams are very likely encouraging them to do so.
And, it’s not just the young guys – Phil Mickelson is the perfect example. Mr. Newport pointed out to me that in the first round of the Masters, the sleeves of Phil’s shirt were a tad too short – just so you could see his farmer’s tan! I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, Phil needs to fire his stylist. Some people have style and others don’t. Poor Phil obviously falls in the latter category.
As for “blaming the Europeans,” that’s a fair point. The international players have always been more outlandish in their fashion choices. With the exception of Anthony Kim, the young pros Mr. Newport mentioned that have been sporting the “Full Cleveland” are not American. I think it’s safe to say that the international guys tend to have better fashion sense. So, this is where I’ll disagree with Mr. Newport. I actually find Ian Poulter’s wide variety of flamboyant pants fun and entertaining ‘cause he manages to pull it off – same goes for Shingo Katayama’s “samurai-cowboy” look.
Golf is unique in that unlike other major professional sports, there’s no required uniform. The pros can choose what they wear – as long as their attire falls under the relatively liberal parameters. There are no rules restricting the size of their belt buckles, the color or length of their hair, the pattern of their pants, and so forth. With that said, why not wear outfits that will make a personal fashion statement? I don’t see any real harm in it (other than for guys like Phil and Rory “Easter Egg” Sabbitini).
More and more, Tour players want to stand out from the crowd, distinguish themselves and develop their own trademark (like Anthony Kim and his crystal-studded “AK” belts). Celebrities and other professional athletes have been doing it for years. It’s called “personal” branding. I despise that term. But, you know what, if it makes the players more prominent and draws more people to the game, then so be it.