The Course of Style: Invasion of the Pod People
Technology has altered practically everything we do, including pastoral activities like golf. Where once the fairways resounded with the crack of persimmon woods, now the ring of space-age metal reverberates across the land.
This month the Polo Ralph Lauren company adds a new twist to the sights and sounds of the coursea golf rain jacket with Bluetooth-enabled sleeve. Yes, you can now listen to your favorite songs, dial numbers, or text your mistressin the rainusing the Bluetooth wireless protocol. The implications are enormous.
The RLX Bluetooth jacketin a classic black-watch Scots plaid and looking for all the world like a regular, luxurious technical golf jacket with snap closures, ample venting, and waterproof three-layer bondinghas a touchpad on the left sleeve, embedded in the fabric, that allows you to connect to your iPod or MP3 player (or other more exotic devices) so that you can change songs, albums and so on without having to wriggle around in your clothes.
"We strive to create things with a modern technical twist, without getting away from the heritage of golf," said Charles Schaefer, the director of men's design at Polo Ralph Lauren who oversees the RLX golf collection (RLX stands for "Ralph Lauren Extreme"). The jackets are part of a special collection of golf clothescalled "Royal and Ancient" made for the Ralph Lauren-sponsored pro Luke Donald in anticipation of the British Open this month.
Schaefer, a former member of the Duke University golf team (class of 2002), said that as an active golfer himself, he was always trying to design things that were functional as well as luxurious. For example, the RLX Bluetooth jackets are quite noiseless and fully waterproof. They are also quite expensive. The RLX rainsuit, with Bluetooth jacket and matching rain trousers, costs about $1,000 and will be available in stores after its debut at the British Open.
He allowed that the RLX Bluetooth jacket would probably be used off the course as much as on it. It could be worn anywhere in rainy or blustery conditions and is very suitable for skiing and snowboarding. Some might find it especially handy on the practice tee.
So if someday you start seeing people mysteriously tapping on one sleeve between shots, they are probably not sending secret messages. They may be just switching from Linkin Park to Lady GaGa.
There seems to be niche business for nearly everything these days. Take short men golfers. For those who have trouble finding golf clothes in extra-small sizes, an enterprising Florida woman has started a sports apparel website for male golfers under 5'9' tall.
Launched this month, The Pro Shop at FortheFit.com features a wide selection of shirts, shorts, trousers, outerwear and other golf items for the shorter player, of which there are apparently millions, according to Consuelo Bova, the chief executive officer of For the Fit.
A key problem for the shorter guy is the risethat is, the distance from the crotch to the waistwhich in most trousers and shorts is 11' to 12'. Her site specializes in garments with a 9' to 10' rise, which creates a cleaner, more comfortable line. She stocks well-known brands like Nike and Ben Sherman as well as clothes that are custom-manufactured in small sizes for her site, which is based in Orlando.
"We go out there and figure out who cuts these clothes smaller," Ms. Bova said. "Most stores stick to the medium to large sizes where they make the most sales. They don't carry much extra-small clothing. We do."
If you think this is a rather small niche, Ms. Bova's overall site has consistently generated 80 percent annual growth over the years, she said, including in 2008, when most retailers were struggling. There is a whole industry devoted to "big & tall" men's clothing. So she may be onto something.