A Sartorially Spectacular Interview With Marty Hackel
By Stephanie Wei under General

Last week Golf Digest’s Marty Hackel, otherwise known as “Mr. Style,” was kind enough to chat with me about golf fashion, the PGA and LPGA Tours’ best dressed — and the players that need help the most.

The preppy and traditional look is coming back in a big way generally speaking in fashion. How can you incorporate those looks into your golf wardrobe without looking costumed or like a tool?

I think we sometimes get too fixated on what you’re wearing and need to focus on how you’re wearing it. You can take tan bermuda shorts and a white button-up and wear it with a degree of a dressiness; if you want to be preppy, you probably have a grosgrain ribbon belt or the khakis are leathered out and there’s no “tech” in them. I think tech is great in certain things. For example, I think outerwear tech is terrific, like Gore-Tex. It’s fabulous and when it’s used properly, it makes great rain gear. We’ve gotten way too techy. It’s created a buzz and people saw: “It doesn’t look like I sweat and that’s a good thing, I’m going to buy more. Polyester is lightweight material, I don’t even feel like I have it on.” Tech is great in footwear and hosiery. Tech can be good in wearing apparel when used properly. It’s synthetic product — generally speaking. We make a huge mistake. We get too focused on sportswear. It doesn’t have to be golf-specific. Why can’t you wear a woven golf shirt on the course?

John Paul Newport wrote a column earlier this year about the return of the “Full Cleveland” — white shoes and white belts — and it appeared to be a big trend this year. What do you think about that look?

White belts came back more, particularly in the first part of the year. And this Full Cleveland thing, come on, please, what are you talking about…there are a couple of players on the Tour. We misread this a little bit. I think white belts are great on thin guys that are tall. They’re not great on guys with a 38-inch waist. Don’t wear white unless you have holster attached to that belt and badge attached to your shirt, then wear your white belt. Period.

Phil gets a lot of grief about his wardrobe. And recently he wore white pants the week he won the Tour Championship. What’s your general feel on him these days?

His shirts have gotten a little snug. It’s way better than a few years ago when his shirts were oversized. Clothes don’t make you look thinner — diets do. Americans think oversized shirts make you look thinner, but they don’t. Next few people you hear criticize Phil, ask them to look in the mirror. Because it’s mostly oversized guys. He’s not batting a thousand, but who is on the PGA?

FanHouse named Ryo Ishikawa “Best-Dressed in ‘09.” How would you describe Ryo’s look?

He’s costumed, very programmed. There’s not a lot of creativity there. I would like to see what he wears when he loses his luggage. But I think he looks great on Tour.

And how about Fred Couples? I love his classic style.

He looks silly. He’s done more to confuse people about good fit in the past 20 years. I love Freddie. As a human being, he’s a lovable guy. Every woman thinks he’s handsome. I just think his shirts are too big. He’s always pulling up his sleeves before he hits the ball. I think a lot of women say you should look like Freddie Couples, but it’s not because of the clothes.

Who are the best dressers and why?

I’m a big Watson fan. Elkington has the best taste on Tour. Kuchar looks great all the time. He’s terrific. He puts it together well, he’s in good shape, he wears things that are appropriate, he has a good idea of style and he carries himself well. Almost all the time Tiger looks great in everything but his trousers. He’s my textbook example of someone who carries it well. He’s put good fit more on the map than anyone. Charles Howell looks good and can look even better. Just trim up his shirts a little more, so he’s not wearing quite as much of oversized shirts. It would be fine tuning with a guy like Howell, not an overhaul. It would be dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. You don’t have to be young to look great. Jason Gore always looks great to me. That’s a big guy who looks great! You don’t have to be 140 pounds to look great. The way he carries himself, he has a good taste, he knows a good pair of trousers when he sees it.

I think Stewart Cink looks great — he wears bright colors, he wears clothes that fit, he has some fun, he certainly dresses within himself. I mean, he looks terrific!

I’ll give you another example of a player who wears nice clothes, but carries them to the greatest amount of confidence and looks terrific in them — Rich Beem in Oakley. He has a lot of fun with it. But you know, I like Alex Cejka because he’s in shape and wears clothes that fit. So does Will MacKenzie. So does Camilo. Has Camilo ever looked bad? I don’t think so.

Most of the Spanish guys look fabulous. Alvaros Quiros! He looks like a million bucks. You wanna know why? He’s got great personality! There’s something terrific about him. Soren Hansen looks great to me all the time, love him. Most of the guys that I think look great are European. Because they understand fit much better.

Who needs the most help?

Justin Rose needs help. Everything is one slice off. He doesn’t wear the right combination. He doesn’t wear the stuff that fits him properly. The clothes are fine, it’s the way you wear them. And I think that’s a huge challenge. Huge challenge. Everyone says Woody Austin is a bad dresser. It’s not that he’s a bad dresser, it’s that he doesn’t wear the right stuff and size for him. He’s a terrific golfer and he’s not in terribly bad shape, but he certainly looks that way, doesn’t he? I’ll give you an example of someone who has huge potential to look great. Bill Haas. He’s dressing like his father! He should be dressing like himself. He wears those old man trousers. Everything is oversized!

Biggest fashion faux pas?

What’s not wearing appropriate for your body type. That’s a mistake most people make.

Marty to me: Who’s on your top 5 list?
Me: On mine…Off the top of my head?
Him: No, I want it off the bottom of your head. Yes, of course off the top of your head.
Me: I know Poulter is a little outlandish but I think he always looks great. I mean, how many people can pull off the British flag get-up he wore at the British Open?
Him: Ian Poulter looks great! Once again, classic example of not what you wear, but how you wear. I’m with you on that.
Me: I like Aaron Baddeley’s style, too.
Him: He does! I don’t know what people say Aaron dresses Badd-e-ley. But I think they just like the play on words.

Who would you like to go on a shopping trip with?

Rory Sabbatini would be on my shopping team — if I had to go shopping with 5 guys on Tour, he would be on that list. Elkington would be and so would Darren Clarke. Those three guys right away because they would be great to go shopping because they know what they’re doing. Sometimes I don’t like everything that Rory Sabbatini wears, but I’ll defend him all day long because he doesn’t dress like an Ottoman, he doesn’t dress like he’s been manufactured to look one way, he dresses to his own drummer.

What do you think about the logos? Do you think they are cheapening up the game?

Here we go again with everyone trying to get me to compare golf to NASCAR Racing. And yeah, I think you can overdo it, but these guys are just trying to make a buck. I mean, I think we’re about maxed out right now. I don’t want to see it getting any bigger and I don’t want to see any more logos. I think it’s getting a little confusing. But they’re independent contractors and they’re trying to make money.

How do you feel about the women’s side of things?

There’s where I have a huge problem with too much logo. I don’t like when the LPGA wears a lot of logos. It’s probably because I’m chauvinistic and I like women to look like women. I don’t think women should dress on the golf course like they’re men. I’d like to see them have a little more fun. I think they should dress like they’re stylish women and there are plenty of great golf lines out there — Polo, PAHR Golf Birdie, Adidas — Suzann Pettersen always looks like a million bucks and she wears Nike.

What about girls like Christina Kim? I think she always looks put together and fashionable.

That’s her personality, she sells whatever she wears. She’s a great example of it’s not what you wear but how you wear it. She has fun with it and she smiles and she has a great time. That’s really important. And you don’t have to be a world-class LPGA player — Charlotte Mayorkas, Anna Rawson — these aren’t household names but these gals look like a million bucks all the time.

Well, Anna Rawson can probably wear anything and look great.

Oh that’s true. Or nothing. Either way.

And how about Natalie Gulbis?

Well she’s very consistent. She dresses very athletically, she’s going to wear super-short skorts, she’s not afraid to wear some color and pretty aware of what she’s wearing all the time. It’s not exactly what I like, but at least she’s marching to her own drummer.

How do you feel about Paula Creamer’s pink fetish?

She doesn’t have to wear all pink, we get it’s her color and she likes it. When she wears all pink, she looks like a drum majorette. All she needs is a baton.

What brand that isn’t designing golf clothes would you like to see doing so?

Easy question. Giorgio Armani. Jil Sander. Wouldn’t that be great? I would like to see Prada in golf. You can wear Prada and play golf. You don’t have to call it “golf.” You just call it “great stuff.”

Would you ever design a line?

No, I have much more fun critiquing everyone else. Way much more fun. And I have a lot of opinions as you’ve probably gathered. But I think that’s what makes it fun. We need to have a little more fun, especially in this day and age when we’re stressed all day long with the economy and everything else going on. And golf should be one of those things.

To sum it up, what’s your best advice for the average golfer to look good.

Buy what’s appropriate for your body. Buy what’s not going to make you feel self-conscious. Buy what puts a smile on your face. And rather than buy three things, buy one thing that’s really good. Pick your spot. Make a commitment, decide what you want and go for it.

What are your favorite blogs?

The Sartorialist, Geoff Shackelford, style.com, Golf Digest and Gawker.

Marty Hackel is the Fashion Editor at Golf Digest. For more, go to GolfDigest.com.