Course of Style: Ian Poulter leads a British style invasion

AP
Ian Poulter at The Masters.

Like previous British invasions of America, the ascendancy of English golfers on the PGA tour has included some style shocks, most notably the clothes worn by Ian Poulter. In recent years Poulter has proved himself to be a contender (he's currently ranked No. 6 in the world), and his fashion flash is no novelty act either.

Poulter has become known for his standout tartan trousers, typically bootleg in cut with a notched hem to allow for freedom of movement during the swing. Each of the three seasonal Poulter tartan plaids is designed under a license agreement with the Scottish Tartan Authority, after which all claims to sedate traditionalism quickly fade. At the Masters, he wore a hot pink version—a melange of  pink, blueberry, violet, white, and English Rose—along with a matching pair of FootJoy custom pink-trimmed FJ Icon golf shoes. When he picked up his ball, you got a fashion show.

Poulter's wild patterns and vivid colors are part of a serious push into the golf apparel business. Poulter's fashion company, IJP Design (for Ian James Poulter), was founded in 2007 at the British Open. Lately it has been booming, according to a company spokeswoman. In 2009, IJP rang up $2.5 million in sales and is on track to double, to $5 million, in 2010. By the end of this year the company will be selling in 35 countries.

Unlike most top golfers, who sign contracts to appear in a sponsor's apparel, Poulter decided early on to sketch and make his own. "I could have signed with a number of companies to wear their clothing, but to be honest I didn't see that as a very clever business opportunity," Poulter said. "If we can get through this year, and get to profitability, we will have done an incredibly good job to be in that position that quickly."

Meanwhile, how to explain the sudden emergence of the Brits, from Poulter and Lee Westwood (ranked No. 4), both early leaders at the Masters, to Paul Casey (No. 8) and Luke Donald (No. 19), who is the poster child for Ralph Lauren's RLX Golf line? The last Brit to win a major tournament was Nick Faldo (at the 1996 Masters). 

"I'm really not sure why it's happened," Poulter said in recent article in England's  Guardian newspaper. "But it's brilliant, isn't it, that we're all up there and that we're all at an age when we'd like to think we're entering our prime as players."

Putting the 'Sport' Into Golf Shoes
As we have pointed out in previous posts, Adidas Golf has been tireless in pursuit of a golf shoe that actually functions as an athletic shoe — with a breathable, flexible mesh upper — but that is also highly water resistant and supportive. The technical challenge has always been how to use mesh material, which is inherently porous, and still maintain the water repellancy required by golfers, not to mention the kind of support demanded by better players.

Adidas thinks it has the answer. This week its Tour 360 4.0 Sport ($120) hits the stores, a lightweight, athletically inspired golf shoe that employs highly advanced water resistance and temperature control features, while incorporating the architecture — the 360-degree "wrap" technology and heel support — used on its high-end Tour 360 shoes. (Jim Furyk won the Verizon Heritage tournament last week wearing Tour 360 4.0s.) The Tour 360 4.0 Sport uses "ion mask" nano-coating to protect the mesh upper of the shoe, which repels water without sacrificing breathability.

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