Course of Style: Are jeans acceptable on the course?

Friday July 1st, 2011

If the American blue jean, with its five riveted pockets, is one of the most popular pieces of clothing ever made — rivaling the polo shirt for the most ubiquitous garment in the world — why can't you wear it to play golf? \nWell, we all know the reasons. With its original working-class roots (the jeans made by Levi Strauss were for gold miners in California) and its latter-day rebellious connotations (remember the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" album cover?), the denim trouser looks a bit out of place at private country clubs and many public courses, too. It goes against the high-style image of the game, not to mention the performance aspect — denim, a tightly woven cotton twill, doesn't have enough "give" for a serious golf swing (unless the garment is totally beat to hell, in which case you're back to the sloppiness problem).

But golf style is changing, becoming more culturally democratic, especially as a younger generation begins its assault on the tour. Some pros, like Camilo Villegas, occasionally play in five-pocket-style trousers. \nThis summer Ashworth Golf, well-known for traditional or "authentic" golf apparel, introduced its own version of golf trousers in the five-pocket mode, sans rivets, and in non-denim fabrics. The Ashworth flat-front, Bedford Cord (note the tony name) pants are 97 percent cotton and 3 percent Lycra-spandex, which gives them some stretch. They create a unique compromise: a jeans silhouette but in golf fabrics. The pants come in dark gray, black, and light khaki, and have the Ashworth "golfman" logo embroidered on the front. According to the company, Sean O'Hair, an Ashworth-sponsored player, will be wearing them in competition sometime soon.

Maybe what the Ashworth pants show us is that jeans can be worn to play golf, one supposes, as long as they don't look like garden-variety blue jeans. There remains something about actual blue denim jeans, especially beat-up, distressed, or faded ones, that does not seem to comport with golf, just as a polo shirt and Bermuda shorts seem inappropriate for a night of theater or opera. (If you pay upward of $100 a ticket, you don't want someone's sweaty legs brushing against you.) The clothes don't suit the venue and imply a certain lack of respect for others.

This columnist never wears jeans on the golf course. Nor do I wear a dinner jacket before six. Then again, I'm a member of the Fuddy Duddy Hall of Fame.

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