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15 Jan

Men’s golf fashion: Tucked or Untucked?

Keith Barrett

Many years ago I remember the professional at my home club saying to me, “You’ve got to look like a pro if you want to play like a pro”. A dour, conservative Yorkshireman, he was no doubt referring to the sartorial elegance of Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan, goodness knows what he would have thought about Rickie Fowler's Puma colourfest or the untucked Aloha shirt he was sporting recently.

Obviously the guys on the professional tours are there to entertain us, both with the brilliance of their play and their colourful attire. But what if you’re a middle-aged mid-handicapper at your home club or on a golfing holiday, can you seriously turn up looking like you’ve spent a couple of festive hours on the net (very possibly after a few glasses of wine) buying the most outrageous golf apparel and get away with it? I’m not so sure.

For example, a week ago I witnessed a perfectly respectable Swedish businessman kitted out in a fluorescent green polo shirt (stretched optimistically over a post-Christmas pot belly), blue and yellow harlequin trousers, yellow socks and orange golf shoes. He looked like a perfect candidate for the BBC TV programme, “What Not to Wear”. The place where he was living/staying was obviously a mirror-free environment.

I must admit, I’ve always thought that if you’re going to dress like Fowler you’d better play like him because you’re going to attract a fair amount of attention. Standing on the first tee looking like a medieval court jester and then topping the ball twenty yards is bound to garner a few sniggers - and possibly a crowd eager to witness your next shot. I don’t know about you, but if I’ve just hit a real howler the last thing I want is public scrutiny - I’d rather slink off down the fairway, un-noticed in a blur of grey or beige.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely in the Hogan camp – I don’t want to see just grey, black, white and beige on the golf course. I like to see a splash of colour, a bit of Jimmy Demaret: a few pinks and oranges, the odd brilliant yellow and green or bright blue. However, when they’re randomly jumbled together on one individual I do start to wonder if things have gone too far.

On the other side of the coin are the guys who turn up looking like they’ve been paddling in the sea or sitting in a leaking dinghy - their trousers finishing mid-calf and hovering above sockless ankles. This rather unattractive leg attire seems to be very popular with players from Nordic countries - maybe they’ve been told that chilled lower legs and feet will improve performance.

British visitors are not much better. For some reason a lot of Brits seem to think that the daytime temperature in Portugal is fixed throughout the year at a balmy 25C and pack their bags accordingly. They arrive mid-winter with the mercury showing 10C dressed in just a pair of shorts and a polo shirt, and wonder why they’re feeling cold.

Then there are those of a certain generation (and we have our fair share in Portugal) who possess a very minimalist and ageing golf wardrobe: for cooler days it’s a Pringle diamond pattern pullover matched with fading beige trousers; in the summer it’s a jaded Slazenger polo shirt and a pair of similarly forlorn blue shorts. They look like they’re imprisoned in a 1980’s time capsule – but it’s their golfing uniform and will remain so until they can no longer swing a club. Trying to entice them to splash out on the latest fashion from Under Armour or Golfino is impossible – plus you’d have to surgically remove the Pringle first.

So which camp do you aspire to be in – Hogan or Fowler - or maybe somewhere in-between? Personally, I think this wonderful game of ours is far richer by embracing both ends of the clothing spectrum – and that includes Rickie's Hawaiian shirt and John Daly’s Loudmouth trousers. Now, where did my wife put those blue and orange checkered shorts I’ve been saving for the spring?

Note: In case you're wondering, the dress code for men at most Portuguese golf clubs is relatively relaxed: If you're only going to use the practice facilities it's often okay to wear denim jeans and a collarless Tshirt; if you're going to play on the course then denim is generally not allowed and your shirt (tucked or untucked) must have a collar. However, to avoid any disappointment it may be a good idea to call the golf reception beforehand - you don't want to be turned away for wearing the wrong shorts! 

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