Fashioning an Identity: The Role Clothing Plays in Golf

Golf fashion is much more important than simply protecting the golfer from the weather on the course. Clothing has helped golfers to express their identity for centuries. The British Golf Museum collections highlight the colourful, unique and innovative costume worn by golfers throughout history.

In the 18th century, golfers wanted to stand out, both in society and on the course.  Many clubs required their members to wear formal red jackets.  Based on military jackets, they were essentially a uniform.  Golfers could be fined by their club if not properly dressed.  Today, red jackets are usually only worn for ceremonial occasions as a link to the past.

As golf became more popular, fashion was dictated by the player.  19th century clubmaker and greenkeeper professionals wore the caps, jackets and heavy boots of their working lives.  This distinguished them from their patrons, the gentlemen golfers.  Women golfers wore very restrictive clothing including corsets, ties and bonnets.  Their costume focussed on style and respectability over comfort and practicality.

From the early 20th century through to the present day, golf wear has become much more casual, though some conventions remain.  Plus-fours became the iconic golfing item, for both royalty and the everyday golfer alike.  Women’s golf was revolutionised in 1933 when Gloria Minoprio caused controversy by becoming the first woman to wear trousers at a major championship.  Today, professionals use clothing to project both their personality and commercial brand to a global audience.  Some are famous, and others infamous, for their style of dress.

(1) Tiger Woods' autographed shirt (2) Royal golfer, Edward, Prince of Wales (3) Ladies Putting, 1886

Did you know?

During and just after World War II, golf ball supplies reached crisis point, due to a shortage of rubber. In 1942 the Government forbid the remoulding of old balls. Following R&A intervention, the ban was lifted. One of the arguments used was that the Army Medical Council encouraged golf as a remedial exercise for wounded personnel.