It’s Masters weekend, making golf top of mind for many… What’s not yet in the mainstream? The way golf apparel is getting streetwearified. This emerging trend, also known as Golfcore (Golf x Streetwear), is heightening the heritage of golf and making golf accessible / relatable to a new & more diverse demographic.
With early / emerging trends like Golfcore (Golf x Streetwear), we break down its momentum in terms of Mass (awareness + reach) and Velocity (engagement + polarization).
We know a trend / movement like Golfcore (Golf x Streetwear) is about to take off when its velocity is surging. Golfcore’s velocity is up from 27 in April 2020 to 48 in April 2021. It has yet to achieve mass.
Why is velocity important? Velocity measures the passion, intensity, and engagement of a movement. When it is on the rise, it is an early indicator it will expand to the masses and achieve momentum and cultural relevance.
Golfcore (Golf x streetwear), started by a niche group of streetwear designers and culture creators like Tyler, the Creator, and Macklemore, Malbon, and G/FORE, is disrupting the mindset towards golf and adding a new twist to the traditional attire. Think bright colors, bucket hats, hoodies, Jordans, and joggers. It’s far from what you’ve traditionally seen on the golf course, from a diverse crowd you might not expect to embrace the game.
Why does Golfcore have velocity now? Quarantine gave golf a positive boost — its momentum surged from 52 in April 2020 to 71 in May 2020. It was one of the few socially distanced outdoor activities we could safely do. The National Golf Foundation and Golf Datatech found that 2020 saw an approximate 12-percent increase in rounds played in the United States over 2019’s total, equal to an increase of 50 million rounds. That influx brought new players and new ideas to the game. We haven’t seen a disruption to the golf community this big since Tiger Woods came on the scene.
Golfcore is having an impact beyond fashion and street style. It is inspiring a broader group of people to embrace and play the sport. Once the domain of elite, old school, and uptight country clubbers — the Caddyshack mindset of “some people just don’t belong” — the golf community is evolving to welcome outsiders, rebels, and a new generation of golf players.
To engage the newcomers and sustain the growth experienced in 2020, Clubs are listening to what customersr want. They are now starting to loosen up — getting rid of dress code and allowing players to play music from their golf cart is just the start.
How do traditional brands in the industry react to this emerging force? When you identify a movement with velocity that has not yet achieved mass, act on it. You have an opportunity to be an early adopter of the movement and show the audience you get it.
Brands can stay true and authentic to their heritage while embracing this modern twist.
Curious about who’s driving this velocity? In this week’s Up & Down, we decode the brands and personalities that are bringing a cool edge to golf’s “once-stuffy style,” and what this means for the sport at large.
DISRUPTION: Golfcore is flipping the mindset & perception of “golf outsiders” on its head.
Golfcore’s anti-country club, anti-establishment, rebellious approach to golf attire is broadening the types of people who take up the game.
- If you want to understand the rebellious, streetwearification of golf style in 2021, you first need to know about Golf Wang. Golf Wang is a clothing brand launched by musician Tyler, the Creator & was among the first of the anti-establishment anti-country club fashion labels to take inspiration from golf apparel.
- Later came Malbon Golf, a Los Angeles-based brand, co-founded by Erica and Stephen Malbon. Mr. Malbon, who founded the independent media company Frank151 and his wife noticed that peers such as retired skateboarders and on-the-pulse media types were discovering golf. At the time, Ms. Malbon said, “There really wasn’t any kind of brand speaking to people who were interested in golf, but also loved sneakers or loved fashion or music.” Where Golf Wang focused on the golf wear aesthetic, Malbon actually focused on the sport, designing apparel, equipment, accessories, and so on. They’ve since collaborated with Budweiser, Nike, and Beats by Dre.
- Celebrities and musicians are now engaging with Golfcore. Macklemore, who launched golf attire brand Bogey Boys, is taking inspiration from golfers like Arnold Palmer with a 2021 twist.
- Fashion heads and the hypebeasts are drawn in by the clothes, and wind up getting into the game as a result.And now the younger generation has a new wave of golf hobbyists to look up to Michael Jordan and more contemporary NBA players like Steph Curry and J.R., mega-stars like Drake and Harry Styles, and legendary skaters like Eric Koston. These are golf outsiders who are changing the game before our very eyes.
For the first time… golf apparel doesn’t feel like golf apparel. People can go to the “club,” board a flight, or have dinner wearing Golfcore.
INNOVATION: In a chicken vs. egg twist, golf pros are starting to adopt the street style and the “look good, play good” mindset. They are ditching their classic polos and boring sneaks for a more personalized and fresh style.
Ahead of the Masters Tournament’s start on April 8, Bubba Watson — former two-time Masters champion who won the event in 2012 and 2014 — revealed a new Air Jordan 4 Golf PE. Watson has been known to wear special Jordan Brand shoes during the PGA Tour’s most prestigious tournaments and is a clear subscriber to the “look good, play good” mindset.
Brooks Koepka is also known to step into the world of sneakers wearing a pair of unreleased Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 golf shoes during the Tour Championship.Patrick Reed, who just signed a new deal with CBD brand cbdMD, is known for recently dropping Nike Golf so he can wear G/FORE — a brand rooted in tradition with a modern twist.
POLARIZATION: To hoodie or not to hoodie? The golf world is torn. With change comes resistance. Some traditional players / people within the golf community accept the Golfcore movement. Others find it disrespectful.
Golf is a game built on tradition. It is a sport defined by respect and rules of etiquette that span attire, behavior and care for the course. During a culture-shifting year like 2020, these norms were challenged with the goal of bringing change to golf.
- Marty Hackel, longtime fashion editor at Golf Digest, thinks change should be embraced: “I find it absurd that we have a discussion about someone wearing a hoodie on a golf course. The establishment has always represented, ‘Let’s keep the status quo. Change is not good,’ and I just think it’s sort of a parent-child type of relationship. The older generation thinks they’re preserving the game but it’s what is making the game more exclusionary.”
- When Brooks Koepka stepped onto the course with his Off-White x Nike sneakers, it confused traditional golf reporters but Koepka embraced the confusion. He seized the moment as an opportunity to become the poster boy for golf’s new guard. “That’s such, like, a 40-year-old white-guy question,” Koepka responded when asked about the shoes. When questioned about their signature Off-White zip-tie. “You don’t take that off,” he said while practically rolling his eyes.
- Tyrrell Hatton won the BMW PGA Championship in October 2020. But his game wasn’t even the most exciting thing — it was what he was wearing: A hoodie. You heard that right. A hoodie got the golf world talking. “People are split. They don’t know if they like it or not” Hatton said. “I think it’s a cool thing that people are talking about it, should be open to the idea of creating a more open kind of sport rather than — don’t want it to be kind of snobby. I think you need to move on from that. It’s comfortable when you play golf in it and it looks good, then I don’t see an issue.” said Hatton.
STICKINESS: In the process of streetwearifying golf attire, designers are actually paying homage to Golf’s sticky heritage.
Golf is an enduring sport that is seeing a style renaissance. The most defining element of Golfcore is that everyone can have their own interpretation of it. You no longer have to “dress like a golfer” — your look can be more personalized.
As defined by Nylon Magazine: Golfcore is not quite tennis-chic, and it’s not fully Larry David at the country club. It’s about finding a muse in the individuals who’ve defined the sport, merged with the fact that the game itself is undergoing a transition for a younger generation.
SOCIAL IMPACT: You no longer have to join the country club to be part of the golf community.
This shift in culture is ultimately positive for the golf community and industry on the whole — evolving to include more people from different walks of life.
- Korn Ferry Tour player Ryan Ruffels, 22, sees the conversation of fashion influence and golf as a need to promote more inclusivity. “There’s going to be different cultures, different traditions, different ways of doing things and a younger crowd as well, they’re not going to be as keen to jump into a sport where they feel like they’ve have to dress like old men or tuck their shirt and all the time wear V-neck sweaters.”
- 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.”