To a Tee: You don't have to dress in polyester on the golf course any more


Dump the cardboard pointed collar. Ditch the flat-front straight-leg pants. Deep-six the scratchy polyester skirts.

Golf clothes have finally perfected their swing -- into street wear.

From roomy polo shirts to pleated pants and walking shorts, many golf clothes are made for more than just teeing off.

With only a change of shoes on casual Fridays, some men who work in offices with relaxed dress codes could walk out of the office and onto the golf course, then into a restaurant for dinner. Women can wear their polo shirts and shorts for weekend activities away from the greens.

Choices in golf clothing -- especially for men -- have multiplied in the last few years to accommodate different tastes.

When it comes to defining their personality through clothes, men do it with shirts -- unless they're Payne Stewart, whose signature retro knickerbockers with polo shirts make a truly eccentric combination.

On one end are clean, streamlined solid pique shirts -- some devoid of any decoration, others trimmed with color-blocking at the collar or sleeves.

At the other extreme are shirts with geometric patterns or printed golf motifs. Colors can be primary hues, jewel tones or earth shades.

Layering pieces can include vests, pullover V-neck sweaters in cotton or tropical wool.

Pants and shorts no longer look like relics -- they're in lightweight cotton twill or even linen, loose-fitting all around with reverse-pleats in the front. Pants are tapered around the ankle, while shorts basically look like typical walking shorts.

Women's golf clothing has improved in recent years but is still behind men's in depth and breadth of selection, says Roberta Quinlan, merchandise coordinator and buyer for the pro shop at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach, Calif. The reason: Fewer women golf.

That's changing, says Nancy Menkus, spokeswoman for Ashworth Inc., a Carlsbad-based maker of golf apparel for men, women and children. In response to the increasing number of women golfers, Ashworth introduced a women's line several years ago with the same classic styling, design, natural fibers and comfort available in men's apparel.

Holly Lane, designer at Line-Up for Sport, maker of women's golf apparel in Tustin, Calif., says she reinterprets ready-to-wear trends for the more traditional look of golf. For spring and summer, she included vests as accent pieces and used plaid in walking shorts and a bomber jacket.

Ms. Menkus and Ms. Quinlan attribute the gradual updating of golf clothing design to baby boomers and younger players who refuse to wear uncomfortable, uncool, fuddy-duddy styles. In less-stuffy country clubs, players in their teens and 20s are going for clothes one to two sizes too big, a style they've adapted from street clothes.

Manufacturers have found ways to bring fashion into the sport in all price ranges. Golf apparel makers Bobby Jones, Descente and Como offer colors borrowed from men's high-end ready-to-wear.

And ready-to-wear makers have begun to sell their clothes to pro shops. Polo by Ralph Lauren, which has been used for other sports, can be found in pro shops of chic country clubs. Axis, which used to be just a men's ready-to-wear line, is gaining a following among golfers. Cutter & Buck, a sportswear line based in Seattle, has begun to target golfers.

The impact of fashion in golf has spread to boutiques that do not necessarily carry golf apparel.

Linda Beale, president of At-Ease, in Fashion Island, Newport Beach, Calif., devoted two of the biggest spaces in her recently renovated boutique to Bobby Jones and Cutter & Buck. Although there are touches of golf paraphernalia, she consciously made the displays friendly to people who don't know the difference between a bogey and a birdie.

The idea, she says, is that you don't have to be a golfer, but you can look like one.

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