Historical Golf Clothing

by Sharon Penn
    Knickerbockers were often worn in the early 1900's.

    Knickerbockers were often worn in the early 1900's.

    Craig Jones/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

    Today, male golfers typically wear knit collared “golf shirts” paired with roomy golf pants or shorts and hat or a visor with a brim. For cool weather, golfers wear a vest, cardigan or jacket. Women wear a coordinated outfit with a top, with or without a collar, matched with slacks, shorts, skirts or “skorts"--a combination of a skirt on the outside and shorts on the inside. Some of the more colorful styles and tartan plaids worn today are a reference to the long history of golf clothing.

    Origins of Golf Clothing

    Early golfers wore clothing to battle the elements in Scotland, where golf was born. To guard against the wind blowing off the water at courses like St. Andrews, men wore knickerbockers (knickers) or short pants that ended below the knee, and heavy tweed jackets. Shirts with starched collars and neckties were also worn, along with study shoes and tweed caps.

    The Well-Dressed Golfer in the Early 1900s

    According to a Vanity Fair advertisement in 1918, the well-dressed golfer could wear a single-breasted jacket with a waist coat along with knickers. Cotton long "puttees" or stockings, a golf cap and golf shoes completed the outfit. By the 1920s, golf gained popularity among affluent players. These golfers distinguished themselves by putting together formal outfits that featured “plus fours” or knickers with 4 inches of additional length; patterned, long golf socks; and two-tone “spectator” shoes. They continued the tradition of wearing a shirt and tie, over which they placed a knitted cardigan or “Norfolk” jacket on cooler days.

    From Knickers to Flannels

    Golfers moved away from plus fours and knickers and gravitated toward flannel trousers in the 1930s. These slacks were usually white or gray since men sometimes went to the golf course from the office. Many golfers stopped wearing neckties at this time.

    The Move to Casual Golf Attire

    The U.S. Open in 1933 was conducted during a heat wave, which influenced the clothing chosen by participants. Many abandoned heavier golf clothes in favor of more lightweight, casual clothing. But players like Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones continued to wear more traditional and formal styles.

    Contemporary Golf Clothing

    By the 1940s, golf clothing began to resemble outfits worn today. Men wore short-sleeved knitted shirts and lightweight slacks. Sturdy shoes had spiked soles, and hats had a brim. For cooler weather, water resistant “Eisenhower” jackets became popular. These jackets were more conducive to the golf swing because of the roomy shoulder fit and the snug waistband. Golfers began to wear khakis with colorful shirts and shorts for warm weather. Cardigan sweaters continued to be popular for cooler days. Contemporary fabrics feature wicking of moisture and circulation of air for the comfort.

    About the Author

    Sharon Penn is a writer based in South Florida. A professional writer since 1981, she has created numerous materials for a Princeton advertising agency. Her articles have appeared in "Golf Journal" and on industry blogs. Penn has traveled extensively, is an avid golfer and is eager to share her interests with her readers. She holds a Master of Science in Education.

    Photo Credits

    • Craig Jones/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images