Course of Style: In pursuit of the perfect golf shirt

September 30, 2011

In this era of performance fabrics and technical golf apparel, Rick
Martin is taking a stand for old-school cotton — and against what
he calls “the fast-food look” on the Tour. Martin,
who founded the Fairway
& Greene
company in 1996
to fill what he perceived as a void in the golf industry for fine
cottons, is returning to the business after a seven-year absence (he
sold Fairway in 2004) with a new company, Martin Golf Apparel.

The first collection will be available in golf shops in November.
Highlights of the Martin
Golf line include Pima cotton
lisle shirts, that is, shirts with a smooth finish, in classic stripes
and colors like red, navy, and sunflower yellow ($80-$85). Long-staple
Pima cottons tend to resist fading and shrinkage. There will also be
luxurious Alpaca and Merino sweaters ($150).

Golf tradition runs in the family. Martin’s daughter, Terri,
handles the merchandising for the new collection, and his son, Todd
Martin, is president of Peter
another classic golf apparel firm. Martin has spent a good deal of his
career in pursuit of the perfect shirt – as a top executive
at both Hathaway and Gant before starting Fairway & Greene
– and he has been critical of synthetic fabrics, like
polyester, for decades. He is especially skeptical of today’s
graphic, color-saturated Tour clothes.

“Some of these guys look like they work for a fast-food
joint,” Martin said, “like what they wear at
Mcdonald’s.”  He traces the origins of
this golf style to two influences: emulation of the 1970s, the age of
Johnny Miller and plaid pants; and technical advances in clubs, which
led to a parallel obsession with technical fabrics for golf.
“There’s a market for that,” Martin said.
“There’s also a market for good taste in
clothing.” More traditional guys, he added,
“don’t want costumes. They don’t want
things colored in such a way that they can only be worn one way. The
cottons I use are designed for longevity.”

The new company’s slogan is “Timeless as the
Game.” Martin said he has always been inspired by golf icons
like Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, “elegant, serious men who
competed against others as gentlemen. They inspired me not only by
their behavior but by their appearance.”