Golf apparel. An apparel category that's come a long way since a simple cotton men's polo. Now, the category is as complex and diverse as any other, full of its own distinctive features, decoration strategies, and style offerings for both men and women.
MORE THAN JUST ATHLETIC APPAREL
Given the size and diversity of the athletic apparel market, with higher-end and more fashion-forward pieces coming out every day, it would be easy to assume that these days, a golf shirt isn't that different than a nice, high-performance running shirt. This, however, is not the case. For starters, it's important to remember the specific style conventions of golf apparel.
"It's all about lifestyle apparel," said Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J. "So much of the athletic and golf spaces cross over to fashion that can be worn every day," she said. She stated that the biggest style differences were in the apparel's silhouettes, with the placket polo shirt dominating golf compared to T-shirts and crew neck styles in general athletic apparel. She also noted that textures, stripes and patterns are common in the golf world, as are luxury fabrics, soft collars and retail brand names.
Golf apparel also has different technical attributes compared to other athletic items, since it's specifically designed for use on the course. "Construction is extremely important," said Christina Botkins, marketing associate for Tonix, Fremont, Calif. "Care is taken to ensure armhole and sleeve seams are strong for that swing."
HOW TO DECORATE?
Golf apparel is decorated differently than other athletic items, since it's meant to be more formal. "Embroidery is the most traditional, upscale option for golf apparel," said Barreca.
Botkins agreed. "I think an embroidered logo is the way to go," she said. "It gives off a more premium look than a silk screen would." There are other decoration options, however. "Heat transfers are growing in popularity, as they are light on the technical fabrics," said Barreca.
Some other general tips? Cindy Baker, PR and promotions manager for Heritage Sportswear + Virginia T's, Hebron, Ohio, recommended running a test polo or two to make sure your decoration settings are accurate. Barreca suggested that if the order is for an actual golf event, consider co-branding the garment with the club logo, and to use slightly larger logos if the event is going to be televised.
BUYING FOR WOMEN
For the most part, buying golf apparel for women is similar to buying for men. "Ladies want and need the same benefits on the course as their male counterparts—moisture control, UV protection, and the ability to move and swing," said Baker. She explained too, that just as men like their apparel to fit well, so do women. Botkins agreed, and elaborated. "Buying ladies' golf apparel or ladies' athletic apparel in general is always about fit," she said. "Too many times customers are complaining about having to fit into men's sizes because a ladies complement isn't offered in that specific style. That is why we provide many polos with a ladies' engineered fit." Examples of such fit details would be princess seams (longer seams designed to better fit a woman's body) and body side panels (typically color-blocked panels along the sides of the garment that frame the body in a flattering way).
As for pure fashion elements popular in ladies' golf apparel, Barreca stated that details such as ruching and seam-gathering are popular right now. Baker added that different color choices, such as soft blues, pinks, limes and turquoises were also in style in women's apparel.