Three Under Par
EVERYTHING IS BACKWARD in golf.
While a lot of golfers out there reading this might take offense to that statement, think of the layperson’s language comprehension. In normal, everyday conversation, “under par” is not exactly the most ringing endorsement of, well, anything. Who would want to hear their mechanic’s work described that way? Or worse, the skills of their heart surgeon?
However, on the course, if someone’s coming in under par, it’s the mark of a formidable opponent. And three under par? It’s not only great, it’s even more rare than a hole in one. In fact, that golfer’s got an albatross on his hands (yet another word that does not mean the same thing in regular conversation).
So for the sake of this, a golf-themed article, please consider the headline from a golfer’s perspective. Rather than settle for the same old polo shirts this year, instead consider an apparel piece that has the triumvirate: longevity, style and performance. Together, these “three under par” qualities will ensure the promotion lasts far beyond the 18th hole. Bogeys for all! (nope, still don’t get it).
The Long Game
According to Lisa DeGeare, vice president at Whispering Pines Sportswear, Monroe, N.C., distributors putting together golf-apparel promotions have one common, yet duly prized, goal: “high-quality garments that their customers will be satisfied with over a period of time.”
It’s a standard rule of fashion: in the end, tradition will always trump trends. Since no other sport has quite cornered the market on casual, yet refined, style the way golf has, longevity is key. Though these apparel items might be tweaked stylistically along the way, their classic silhouettes are exactly what will keep them perpetually current, both on the course and in the mainstream. “Golf apparel is appropriate wear for so many different occasions from the golf course, to corporate wear to everyday wear,” said Matthew Waterman, senior marketing manager for Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Hanesbrands Inc., which owns Hanes Printables and the Outer Banks sportswear brand.
Ever really look at a polo and wonder why it’s so popular, anyway? For one thing, the ubiquitous piqué fabrication lends itself well to a piece that needs a shelf life. Formed for strength, the ribbed-knit piqué fabrication is meant to withstand sand traps, play-throughs or even just the Saturday crush at the mall.
Plus, a classic collar neckline makes the whole piece particularly timeless. “Golf apparel continues to be an important category within the marketplace because of the clean and sophisticated look plackets present,” Waterman affirmed. As such, these are the features to look at when considering the endurance level of a golf-apparel item: sturdy fabrics that will resist general wear-and-tear, and refined details on signature areas like collars, plackets and sleeves.
Fashion on the Fairway
Consequently, both fabrication and signature design touches are the main indicators for how well a piece will work in regular, off-course life, as well. As Waterman stated simply, “Golf apparel tends to be worn for more than just golfing. [It] is worn in many settings including the office, socially and on the golf course.”
Sports such as women’s tennis have been trying to marry sheer practicality with a need for a more modern uniform, to mixed success. However, when it comes to golf apparel, super fashion-forward promotions are not necessarily in the cards for two reasons. First, because of the aforementioned goal of a long-lived item, “classic” must remain the watchword. And secondly, “Most golf courses still require a collared polo or mock neckline to be worn by their guests to play their course,” said DeGeare. Veering too far off the beaten path isn’t advisable, yet there are still ways to maintain a contemporary look. DeGeare noted design extras such as sueded fabric, accent piping and mesh inserts as fashionable new additions to Whispering Pines Sportswear’s 2009 line. Also, she and Waterman both confirmed that a broad range of colors is always welcome, as well as easy-care construction (no-iron, stain-resistant, etc.).
The union of form and function isn’t just for the sake of style. The result can also perfectly complement and protect an athlete’s natural ability. “Comfort and durability are always important characteristics,” DeGeare said. In other words, just as football players have pads and helmets to help them do their job, so must golf have breathable materials and forgiving silhouettes. “Performance fabrics like moisture wicking are best … [also] golfers tend to prefer a fuller cut through the shoulders for better range of motion,” she affirmed.
Not surprisingly, Waterman pointed to an option from the Outer Banks line that boasts moisture wicking as part of its most salable features, but with an interesting twist. The company’s Ultimate Cool-DRI polo has a polyester, wicking interior, plus, “the exterior is 100 percent cotton so you get a more refined appearance that resists picking and pilling,” he explained.
DeGeare also pointed out a few other performance features that can enhance the effectiveness of moisture wicking for better overall comfort. “Antimicrobial is an important add-on to moisture-wicking garments because it prevents odor retention in the polyester fabrics,” she said, adding, “UV protection is also important in certain areas of the country and with people with health concerns.” Whispering Pines has had great success with its Willow Pointe styles, which boast this celebrated combination of features.