Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.
Until recently, golf was not exactly synonymous with style. If anything, it was synonymous with its polar opposite, calling to mind Jack Nicklaus’ plaid pants, Tiger Woods’ polo shirts, or Jon Daly’s Zubaz-style trousers.
But lately, a whole host of leisure sports have gotten their high-fashion moments in the sun (tennis, skiing, and even pickleball among them). When golf started trending during the peak of the pandemic, says Bandier’s president, Danielle LaFleur, it was an understandable outlet: “People had more time at home, needed outdoor activities, and were seeking out camaraderie and community.”
And as plein-air pandemic pastimes replaced galas and going out, fashion adapted. Brands have seen more women picking up the traditionally male-dominated sport—and their wares along with it. At the Masters last month, designers including Tory Burch created exclusive, sought-after merch around the event. And even the bastion of indie-cool SSENSE currently stocks pieces from the up-and-coming London label Manors Golf.
Fashion labels like Burch’s, athleisure giants like Lululemon, and smaller lines such as Recreational Habits and Random Golf Club have all built up their assortments in recent years. In the process, they have avoided the “pink it and shrink it” approach to creating women’s sports clothing and instead offered more fashion-forward options their customers could conceivably sport off the course, too. Take, for example, Burch’s spiffy pleated dress, which the brand recently introduced in daywear-appropriate black. Or Recreational Habits’ embroidered sweatsuit shorts set, which could look just as appropriate at brunch as it does on the green. Still, in this new breed of golfwear, performance elements aren’t neglected, with moisture-wicking and four-way stretch amid all the trendy, slightly retro prints.
Sun Choe, Lululemon’s chief product officer, notes that even before the athletic giant introduced dedicated golf styles, women were already using their pieces for that purpose. “As we saw more of our guests gravitating towards the sport,” she says, “it was only natural to create a collection that delivers everything they have come to love, expect, and feel from our gear, tailored specifically for the needs of golf .”
LaFleur echoes this, saying that Bandier has seen “tremendous growth” when it comes to “traditional club sports,” like tennis, golf, and pickleball. “To meet the demand, we’re seeing brands develop capsule collections for golf…as well as entire brands springing up to meet the needs of the modern, fashionable golfer,” he adds. Bandier currently carries an array of golf gear from labels like Lacoste, Varley, and The Upside. “There is a growing consumer base looking for atypical looks,” LaFleur says, which “allows us to have a lot of fun with our brand partners.”
Also driving (pardon the pun) the trend is the return of preparation, the fixation on “old money” style, and the obsession with “stealth wealth.” (What setting could be more “old money” than the links?) No wonder many of the looks available skew more old-school prep than nouveau athleisure.
Career advancement may also be a factor: if the old boys’ club is still planning mergers on the fairway, an increasing number of women are, in the spirit of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” heading there too. Jackie Skye Muller, the editor and creative director of Recreational Habits, even directed me to a study about the importance of networking through golf for women in male-dominated fields. And if you’re closing a deal of course, you might as well look good doing it, too.
ELLE Fashion Features Director
Véronique Hyland is ELLE’s Fashion Features Director and the author of the book Dress Code, which was selected as one of The New Yorker’s Best Books of the Year. Her writing has previously appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorkers, W, New York magazines, Harper’s Bazaar, and Condé Nast Traveler.