Martin Golf eschews costume trends to focus on the pursuit of the ultimate golf shirt
Written by: Mike McAllister for ChapeauNoirGolf.com
Here’s a bit of a departure from what we’ve been seeing and hearing in recent days, with The Masters upon us and big brand apparel scripts prescribing specific outfits for us at each and every turn. For a bit of perspective on modern golf apparel trends, CNG recently spent some time with a golf apparel industry icon by the name of Rick Martin, who man who has returned to the business with his new company, Martin Golf Apparel, to continue his ongoing pursuit of the ultimate golf shirt.
Is there such a thing as a perfect golf shirt? Here at CNG, we dream of such things, but it makes one wonder, would Martin know when the goal has been reached? If he did, he’s not going to admit it. He’d just want to make it even better.
Much like the relentless obsession a top level professional golfer has with perfecting the mechanics of his swing, Martin postulates that perfection is never truly attained. But, through the tireless pursuit, greatness can be achieved. It was Martin who founded Fairway & Green in 1995 after spending the majority of his career working to create and market menswear to proper menswear stores — those of a bygone era — not the generic big box behemoths that dot today’s landscape.
Spending time with Rick Martin is like taking a crash course in the apparel industry, as he spoke fabrics, yarns and mercerising processes. This gentleman knows the ins and outs of every material known to man — yes, including those fancy dri-fits with their ‘unique’ moisture wicking properties. Martin however, prefers to work with a more traditional, and highly undervalued material in the modern golf apparel industry.
Cotton. Cotton was everything modern polyesters were before there were ‘modern’ polyesters, and the demise of cotton has as much to with with marketing as it does with anything else. According to Martin, the classic cotton golf shirt, when constructed correctly with care for every details, is far superior to any of today’s plastic shirts. Martin still sees the shirts he produced at Fairway & Greene being worn by players near and far, a testament to the longstanding quality and construction of his handiwork.
In keeping with Martin’s longtime philosophy of creating apparel that’s both traditional and timeless, Martin is excited about his upcoming collection for Fall 2012, which continues his company’s focus on not only natural fibers, but what Martin calls ‘natural colors’ as well.
“The Martin Golf Apparel color palette is something I’ve developed over a lifetime of experience in the apparel business,” says Martin, “and I’m proud that focus on traditional colors, as opposed to trendy ones, is among the things I’m known for.”
For Martin, too much modern golf apparel has strayed from the traditional path to which he adheres. “I remember watching last year’s U.S. Open, looking at the tour players competing for the win, and being struck by the contrived look of their outfits,” recalls Martin. “The outfits had such a ‘costume’ feel, and also a stifling uniformity. Each piece was clearly designed to be worn only with pieces from the same collection. It’s great for TV but not my foursome.”
With this CNG concurs. It is rare to see the specific ensembles at your local club as worn by those on tour who are paid to do so.
“My idea of golf fashion is rooted in watching legends like Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan - gentlemen who always looked well put together, but never contrived. To that end, my goal is to create elegant, stylish but versatile garments that are related, but can be worn with anything. This, in addition to my commitment to using only natural fibers – no synthetics, no pieced-together garments – is one of the cornerstones of what Martin Golf Apparel is all about.”
Today’s proliferation of polyester is also an economic indicator, as it costs far less to manufacture a polyester shirt than it does to create one using natural fibers and proper color processing and high end mercerization. That, and the fact that virtually any company can jump in on the apparel bandwagon in short order using polyester.
Martin Golf Apparel’s Fall 2012 collections embody the philosophy that led Martin to launch the company. The Essentials Collection makes use of the company’s entire color palette, bringing to the golf apparel marketplace a variety of knits and sweaters that truly live up to the Martin Golf Apparel philosophy, “as Timeless as the Game.” The Timeless Elements Collection offers items in a more specialized, yet still broad, range of colors.
The three remaining Fall 2012 collections are illustrate of Martin Golf Apparel’s ability and commitment to blend timelessness and tradition.
For example, the British Regimental Collection employs a color palette inspired by vintage British military uniforms, backed up by and blended with distinctive clarifying colors and used in the service of modern yet timeless golf apparel. In keeping with Martin’s commitment to ensuring that no garment in the Fall 2012 line is restricted to its own collection, Martin takes special pride in the way pieces from the British Regimental collection can be paired with those of the Charcoal Classics Collection.
This collection features many of the same colors as the British Regimental line, but highlights them with Light and Dark Charcoal shades to create the sort of bold yet natural contrast that is a hallmark of Martin Golf Apparel. Finally, the Vineyard Collection specializes in what Martin calls “earthy” tones.
To ensure that Martin Golf Apparel reaches a select customer base of discerning golfers, these collections – like all Martin Golf Apparel – is sold exclusively at golf clubs.
“To be honest,” says Martin, “I don’t pay much attention to the competition in the marketplace, because I believe Martin Golf Apparel is in a very specific niche all its own. With our commitment to tradition, all-natural fibers and colors, and selling exclusively in just the finest private golf clubs, we’re ensuring that our customers can benefit from the latest results of our ongoing quest for perfection – results that truly live up to the standards of my product design that being ‘as Timeless As The Game’.”
Interesting perspective from a man who has spent his entire career in the industry, and something we should keep in mind the next time we feel like we have to go cosplay for our weekend round.