ONLY A betting man can claim to know in advance who will don the green jacket at Augusta next week, but there is one thing at the Masters that will go strictly according to a script — what the top players wear on the course.
The industry term scripting refers to how the sports-fashion players — Nike, Adidas, Puma, Lacoste and others — carefully plan, more than a year in advance, exactly what a leading pro will wear at a major tournament. Take Sergio Garcia. Whether he foozles his drive or hits a perfect draw to start off on Tea Olive, on the 1st hole of the first day of the Masters, El Nino will be wearing a lobster-orange mesh polo by Adidas over a pair of ClimaCool pants. You can bank on it. (Take a closer look at what Sergio will be wearing.).
Or consider Tiger Woods. No matter how his first round went, on Friday Tiger will be wearing a Nike black Dri-Fit mock turtleneck. And on Sunday, naturally, he’ll wear red (a vertical-stripe red polo shirt, with dark pants) whether he is strolling down Holly — the most famous finishing hole in golf — heading to victory in front of an adoring gallery or playing less conspicuously in an early group. (Don’t bet on the latter.) (Take a closer look at what Tiger will be wearing.).
“This was decided a year ago,” says Rebecca Kaufman, the global creative director for apparel for Nike Golf, which, as nearly all sentient beings on the planet know, dresses and equips Woods. “Scripting in general is one of the most critical things we do. We’re showcasing our wares at a premier event with our premier athletes. The day of the tournament, Tiger Woods shouldn’t be thinking about what to wear.”
Such a display is perhaps the greatest walking advertisement devised in the history of fashion, making the promotional efforts of Paris couturiers and Seventh Avenue shmatte kings — all the expensive fashion shows, the full-page ads with supermodels, the Oscar gowns — seem uninspired by comparison.
Apparel-oriented companies script — and do so far in advance — because of the need to ensure that the exact clothes are manufactured, shipped and sitting on store shelves by the time a tournament is broadcast.
TIGER’S CLOTHES have already been picked out for June’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, as well as for the PGA Championship in August at Oakland Hills. But this is not like having your wife or your mom choose your outfits for you. Woods and other top golfers are intimately involved in the design process. Nike also scripts, among others, Paul Casey, K.J. Choi, Stewart Cink, Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard, Grace Park and Michelle Wie.
“From a product-creation standpoint, we work directly with all of them,” Kaufman says. “Most of our pros are very engaged. We sit down with them, and they tell us what they expect the product to do. Tiger is probably the most articulate athlete I’ve worked with. He can sit for hours and talk about the physicality of the sport.”
When they can steal a free moment, the design teams visit the golfers. In Tiger’s case that might be in Orlando, where he lives, but it also can mean in a hotel room on Tour or in a Nike tech van at a tournament site. The designers present concept drawings, fabric samples or actual garments and explain the various technical advantages. The athletes have veto power over any clothing they don’t like. But they are contractually obligated to wear something from the sponsor company’s repertoire.
“These guys have very busy schedules, and we take input from them whenever we can get [it],” says Adidas’s Dahan. Her company scripts García, Sean O’Hair and Justin Rose, among others. “All of our athletes give us feedback. We take every piece of information and use it when we reengineer new products.”
The styles the pros wear will be designed around them — their body proportions, their swings — as well as around the conditions they are likely to face. The players are filmed throughout their swing to obtain digital images from address to follow-through. Their feet are scanned, in the manner of an MRI, to give a digital image that can be used in designing their shoes.
Not all sportswear companies rigorously script their pros. At Polo Ralph Lauren, which dresses several top golfers — including Luke Donald, Davis Love III and Tom Watson — day-to-day scripting is not done, according to David Lauren, senior vice president of marketing, advertising and communications. Polo’s sponsored pros are given more latitude in what they will wear on a given day. For the Masters, Donald will be wearing Polo’s edgier, more technical RLX Golf collection, including original styles. But the final choices will be his.
At Callaway, which dresses and equips Phil Mickelson, the arrangement is also loose. “Every week he gets garment bags with outfits,” says Michele Szynal, vice president of communications at Callaway Golf. “We don’t script him on what he wears on individual days.” Callaway also dresses Mickelson’s caddie, Jim (Bones) Mackay, who, says Szynal, makes a point of not looking like Mickelson. Unlike other companies, Callaway is not primarily an apparel manufacturer, so its main purpose in dressing athletes is not promoting individual products so much as enhancing the brand. In a way, it is using shirts to help sell drivers.
WHAT DOES scripting mean for the future of golf clothes, for the style integrity of perhaps the most stylish sport of all? The practice is certainly a friend of iconic style, if an enemy of iconoclastic style. It seems to reverse the original trend in golf fashions, when the pros, from Bobby Jones to Sam Snead to Byron Nelson to Ben Hogan — often blue-collar types who started in the caddie yard — emulated the aristocrats of the country club with their starched collars, knotted ties, argyle sweaters, pleated trousers and tweed caps. Now the country-club guy emulates the pros.
Most of all, scripting represents the triumph of function over style. With scripting, the design and look of golf clothes have become almost entirely subsidiary to performance, to the desire to win. As Nike’s Kaufman says of the pros, “They can trust that what they put on is going to enhance the way they play.”