A lot is being said about the change in attire and apparel on the golf course.
First, it was Rickie Fowler’s hats and now his shoes. John Daly’s flamboyant slacks are subjects for discussion and, of course, Graham DeLaet’s beard.
Things that stay the same are the same, but things that change, become the same as well. Eventually what once was new becomes old and if you wait long enough, they become new again.
I do hope we don’t return to swallowing goldfish but I absolutely love the elegant look of a long tailed waist coat worn with breeches, stockings and buckled shoes seen in the 1800s. Or how about tailored high waisted trousers with a vest under a single breasted morning coat?
Spats were classic as were a beautiful pair of leather spectator shoes known as wing tipped brogues and then topped by a cashmere fedora adorned with a fine, wisp of plumage.
However, I don’t really think playing in jacket and tie a la Harry Vardon would be comfortable, but perhaps, it encumbered the body to force a perfect swing.
There was a time when all tennis players wore white, but white is being replaced by neon, broad stripes and pastels.
Golf has seen its share of style changes.
Vardon’s wool jackets were eventually replaced by polo shirts, but most club dress codes demanded wearing one with a collar. I wonder where the new mock turtle collar recently worn by Rory McIlroy will fall.
The Loudmouth slacks worn by John Daly aren’t any more outlandish than the argyle and plaid slacks of the 1960s. In fact, in the past, the brightest colours were worn with white belts, bell bottoms and hair styles that looked like the fluff on a dandelion.
On the side of practicality, it has been said that use of bright colours originated in tropical climates to be less attractive to stinging insects.
Another popular topic for discussion among golfers born before 1990 is the wearing of hats with the peak facing backwards. This is anti-establishment symbolism at its finest.
As a conscientious objector in high school, I wore my hair so that it came down past my ears, listened to both the Beatles and the Stones and admired the kids who took a year off to hitchhike around Europe on $500, staying in hostels.
Strangely, no one wore their hats backwards and the one and only time I remember one of us doing it, we were told that a hat had a peak to protect our faces from the sun. For what it’s worth, we also took our hats off when we entered a building which I still do today.
Shoes are another topic.
No fine dining place or clubhouse allowed flip flops or bare feet and most shoes had firm soles. Golf shoes in particular were constructed with a steel plate sealed between two layers of stout leather that supported small wells to screw steel spikes into.
The shoes were fairly stylish with a thing called a “shawl tongue,” decorating the shoe and protecting the laces. Steel spikes were invented to prevent slippage while swinging and walking, but the leather soles had a hidden advantage.
The ridged quality of the leather made the footwork of a golf swing easier to perform. Not only that, but the solid sole offered a sound platform to walk on. Shoes were heavier, but the strong base supported your feet as you traversed all of the small irregularities of the ground.
People might have the same back-related issues caused by the awkward nature of swinging a club, but they had fewer as a result of walking. Perhaps that is one of the reasons golf cars are more popular.
Now players wear head bands and wrist bands as part of their fashion statement, forgetting that the original use was to keep excessive perspiration from stinging their eyes or making for a slippery grip.
Ben Hogan was a fashion designer’s dream.
Superb posture, wiry but muscular, athletic build, well tanned complexion, wavy hair, clean shaven and handsome smile. He wore beautiful, tasteful colours, the finest wools and cashmere and always had his shoes shined to perfection. He set a wonderful standard.
He could be curt, dour, abrupt and stern. He could also be debonair, warm, friendly, affable and humorous.
However, it was Ben Hogan who became responsible for some of the dress codes that were followed because of his outspoken nature in informing fellow golf professionals of their responsibility to act and dress as role models.
He was the self-appointed “fashion police” against men’s jewelry, highly scented after shave, untucked shirts, long hair and facial hair. His influence carried over to the average golfer meaning that there became certain standards or codes for golfers to abide by when dressing to play golf.
Times change and so do fashions. What once was offensive is in today. I think there is a place for proper decorum, but also a place for comfort.
As long as people show respect for the atmosphere created by others around them, wear enough clothes to uphold the law, don’t do anything to damage the course and act in a manner that allows me to enjoy my game, let them.
After all, what will today’s fashion police say when someone wears a complete body suit of spandex because it’s the latest? They did it in Star Trek. For those wagging their finger in disapproval perhaps Scotty could beam you up.