A closer look at the Ryder Cup outfits

Thursday September 18th, 2008
Ian Poulter of Europe, left, and Anthony Kim of the U.S. on Tuesday.
Getty Images (Poulter); Fred Vuich/SI (Kim)

The closely held secret of what the players would wear at the Ryder Cup was unlocked Tuesday during the practice rounds. While the U.S. look so far has been pretty safe and subdued, it didn't take any monster divots as some past team uniforms have.

And, thankfully, there is not a logo in sight — except for the Ryder Cup-Valhalla emblems on caps and shirts.

Golf is a highly individualistic sport, one of the few in which team colors and uniforms seldom come into play. But the Ryder Cup, with its emphasis on national team unity, showcases the top American and European players working as one — and dressed to match.

The Americans on Tuesday were clad in simple white polo shirts, with Ryder Cup-Valhalla emblems on the chest, and plain-front, dark gray trousers, with a subtle windowpane check. The players wore white caps and their own golf shoes. On Wednesday, the U.S. Team wore navy three-button golf shirts over dark taupe trousers. Very classic, like its captain, Paul Azinger.

The European team has appeared a little more fashion forward, wearing zippered pale blue polo shirts with color-blocked contrasting inserts, chosen by its captain, Nick Faldo.

In the past, there have been some notable fashion disasters, especially the 1999 team uniforms, featuring the notorious "pepperoni" shirts — a busy collage of printed images from past Ryder Cup championships that looked as if they had been plastered with stamps or worse. Bad as they looked, they were worn by the American team in one of the most dramatic Ryder Cup comebacks ever.

This year Captain Azinger chose Nike Golf (which also sponsors him on tour) to design and manufacture the garments for the players, their caddies and the tournament officials. The final look of the uniforms has been a secret not to be revealed until the first tee time each day of the tournament. Even the guys who are going to wear the clothes are in the dark.

"I'm better off not knowing," said Kerry Haigh, the managing director of championships for the PGA of America. "I'm looking forward to seeing them myself on the day."

Azinger was primarily interested in the performance characteristics of the clothes. All the golf shirts, a different one for each day, will be moisture-wicking. The outerwear will be fully waterproof.

While the players will look the same, their clothes will not be identical. Since different golfers go for different levels of technical performance in their clothing, Nike went the extra mile by giving each team member fabric options to choose from in its line of Nike Dri-Fit shirts and outerwear. For instance, some are engineered from fabrics with more stretchability and expansion panels than others. Some garments are closer fitting, which tends to appeal to the younger players. The company then custom-made shirts for each player.

The trousers are made by Hickey-Freeman, the venerable apparel manufacturer and maker of the Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus brands, which also provides the street clothes — sport jackets, dress shirts, ties and so on — that the players are to wear off the course.

While versions of Sunday's outfits will be on sale in the tents at Valhalla, none of the Ryder Cup clothing is being manufactured for sale to the general public. Designing and manufacturing the Ryder Cup uniforms therefore is not a commercial operation, with the usual promotional hype.

Not a single Nike logo, or any other commercial logo, is visible on the Ryder Cup clothes. Which, in itself, is a stylish relief.
Click here for more uniform pictures and a chance to vote on the best-dressed team.

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