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Golf style, streetwear, and being anti country club
It used to be respectful. Now it's anti-country-club. And more fun!
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A few thoughts
I did not play golf growing up.
In fact, I’ve played more putt-putt than *actual* games.
Golf always felt like a rich kid’s sport. And I was not a rich kid.
That said, I’ve always had respect for golf. I admire the patience required to play and I marvel at how anyone manages to drive a perfect ball down the green without coughing up a chunk of pristine turf (the way I have).
But golf is different than it used to be. The youth (those meddling kids) are putting their spin on this timeless sport. The cultural perception around golf (stylistically) as being a game for “old white guys” no longer carries that exclusive, rich-kid vibe.
In lieu of that, there’s a new wave of independent brands supporting that narrative.
So here’s a guide to Golfcore, and how this new wave is changing the sport’s landscape et al.
The origins of Golf Wang
If you want to understand the rebellious, streetwearification of golf style in 2021, you need to know about Golf Wang first.
What the hell is Golf Wang?
Golf Wang is a clothing brand. But it wasn’t originally, necessarily about golf.
It was part of Odd Future, or OFWGKTA (short for: Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All). Odd Future’s a collective of kids out in LA who honestly just wanted to raise hell and have some fun. Tyler, the Creator was one of the ringleaders in this collective. They intended to be a magazine, but Odd Future materialized as a fun-loving creative house, where a crew of teenagers and artists produced things like comedy skits (Loiter Squad), made songs, went on music tours, and eventually sold clothes.
That’s where Golf Wang was born. In December 2011 they released their first collection, Holiday 1991, and even launched a physical shop on Fairfax Avenue in LA.
And it blew up.
“I mean, that’s my least favorite sport, to be honest… I don’t know, the word just looks sick.” (Tyler, the Creator told Billboard).
Odd Future later separated from Golf Wang the brand, and Tyler carried the torch, landing collabs with brands like Vans, Converse, and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.
A then 19y/o kickstarted what is now an entire movement away from the establishment of the Old Guard golf aesthetic.
By nature, it’s anti-establishment and anti-country-club.
Malbon and the return of good ol’ fashioned hobbies
Next up: Malbon, who came along in 2017.
Where Golf Wang focused on the golf wear aesthetic, Malbon actually focused on the sport, designing apparel, equipment, accessories, and so on.
Founders Stephen and Erica Malbon say they created the brand to “inspire today’s youth to participate in the greatest game on Earth.”
To prove it, they even photographed a dude SKATEBOARDING ON A GOLF COURSE.
And made a capsule collection for Budweiser.
Annnd, like every other influential brand that’s tapped into the culture, Malbon opened a store on Fairfax in LA.
It’s clear they wanted to take a legacy sport and youthify it. The timing for them couldn’t have been better.
Over the last year, being stuck at home only accelerated our need to have more hobbies in our lives (hell, Sprezza was conceived because of COVID boredom).
Golf’s enduring style evolution
What’s interesting about golf is that it’s one of those rare activities that has endured drastic style evolution every generation of its existence.
From the great Arnold Palmer to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, golf-style has always been personal.
Just look at Rickie Fowler.
Over the last ten years, he’s pushed boundaries with color when few golfers would deviate from functional polos and tan khakis. Of course, when you’re sponsored by a brand like Puma (much less Callaway), there’s not much to work with.
Regardless, he put his own spin on things.
A new aesthetic
Along with Malbon, there are loads of up-and-coming, independent brands trying to support the cult followers, golf enthusiasts, hobbyists, and people like me who, uh, don’t play golf.
They’re for the fans. For (what feels like the first time), golf apparel doesn’t feel like golf apparel. I can go to the club, board a flight, or have dinner wearing what’s below:
Even Macklemore got into golf.
His brand, Bogey Boys, has carved a niche reviving vintage golf wear. If Malbon is bucket hats and hoodies, Bogey Boys is knit polos and wool cardigans.
The accessories are getting a facelift too. There’s personality to it, a sense of self-expression.
Golf Communities, but make it Anti-Country-Club
For all the independent brands popping up in this space, some brands are mere communities, dropping aspirational content (and sometimes clothes too).
Anti-Country Club Tokyo is a great example of this. Their bio on IG reads:
“Anarchism to old school golf culture. Break stereotypes. We aim to create a new golf society from TOKYO.”
Does it get more rebellious than that? Here’s a sample of their photoshoots…
Nike wants in…
As with any movement with youthful clout, corporations are always peeking in like…
It’s nothing new.
Nike wanted market share with early Califonia / New York skate culture, sponsoring skaters back in the day, and now they’re taking steps to retain their coolness with youthful golfers.
That’s why they collab’d with Malbon and named the campaign, Pray for the Youth.
And young-gun, Brooks Koepka, who later rocked a pair of unreleased (at the time) Off-White x Nike Air Max ’90s at a tournament in 2019.
So, that’s my brief on Golfcore.
In short, golf is an enduring sport that is seeing a style renaissance. This new generation of hobbyists and enthusiasts alike—driven by the youth and millennials—need something to wear.
Now stop reading this and go watch The Masters!
Other independent golf brands worth checking out: