The Mood Board: Welcome to the Age of ‘Par Core’

Charlie Teasdale
·5-min read
Photo credit: Universal Pictures
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

From Esquire

“If I saw myself in clothes like those, I’d have to kick my own ass” – Happy Gilmore

Great news! Macklemore is back(lemore), only now he’s on a new wave. Back in 2012, the message was 'hey, thrift store clothes are much cooler than new clothes', whereas now, it’s more like 'hey, want to buy this $80 Dalmatian print polo shirt?'

You see, the rapper got hooked on golf a couple of years ago, but when he went to buy some golfy clothes, he was left uninspired. “There was no flair or originality,” he told WWD this week, “and no opportunity to put together an outfit with any originality.” You’d think, given his track record, that he might just go and find some interesting clothes elsewhere but no, he decided to create Bogey Boys, his new golf clothing brand.

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He’s right about golf clothing, of course - it’s so incredibly lame. It’s somehow painfully drab and offensively garish at the same time. In pretty much every other pro sport, the athletes look cool. Footballers look cool (though nowhere near as cool as they looked 20 years ago), tennis players look cool (especially at Wimbledon), rugby players look, well, not cool... but a bit menacing, at least. Even baseball kit, with its too-tight trousers and high socks, has a certain all-American charm. All those uniforms have evolved under the rigours of their respective sports, but there’s no athleticism to golf - it’s literally a walk in the park. Golfers could wear ANYTHING and yet they choose to wear pleated trousers and v-neck knitwear. Insane.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Arnold Palmer is always held aloft as one of the most stylish sportsmen ever, and yes, he absolutely was. He won seven major tournaments, 62 PGA titles and was even the first golfer to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But hands down, Palmer’s greatest achievement was making the cardigan sexy.

Photo credit: Bettmann
Photo credit: Bettmann

Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan looked great playing golf, too - lots of bucket hats and cigars – and Bill Murray does his utmost to Bill-Murray the heck out of every golf fit he gets off, utilising tartan, camo, flares, umbrella hats and floral arrangements where possible. (His clothing brand, William Murray Golf, endeavours to inspire people to “unleash their inner Murray”, which is a whole lot of fun but – and it pains me to say this – the clothes are absolutely heinous.)

Palmer, Jordan and Murray are inherently cool people and would look great whatever they wore. Therefore, they do not demonstrate that traditional golf clothing can be cool, they only demonstrate that supremely cool people can wear it and not compromise their coolness.

By using pastel colours, Seventies prints and a general Anchor Man kitschness, Macklemore’s Bogey Boys is looking to subvert the tradition of monied prep that pervades in golf, inject it with irreverence and draw out some of the car-salesman-self-awareness. And fair enough, but it’s not the only ‘cool young golf brand’.

Oh no, this is the age of ‘Par Core’*, my friends.

In the US there’s Malbon Golf, which comes at the sport from a more streetwear-y angle. There is tie-dye and sweats and collaborations and cute logos and collegiate lettering and the odd reference to weed. “Kids that are into fashion, hip-hop and music, they’re not into golf,” said founder Stephen Malbon in a 2019 New York Times profile. “It’s in danger of going where baseball is. Or think about bowling — bowling used to be lit.”

In the UK, there is Manors. “The perception of the game is that it is uptight, entrenched in tradition and deeply unstylish,” says the website. “The golf uniform is locked in an identity struggle – legit athletic wear vs country-club leisure gear. The performance pieces that make up the sport’s wardrobe might help with a player’s swing or sweat situation, but rarely help to cut a sharp silhouette.” Manors’ Instagram feed looks more like a magazine mood board than sports clothing page; a mix of heritage imagery, well-lit product shots and hazy, sun-dappled look book content. It certainly makes me want to dress like one of the guys in the pictures, but I’m not sure I’d look like them if I put the clothes on… I’d just look like a golfer. (Also, questioning whether you will or won’t look like models in fashion advertising if you buy the clothing is dumb, because you definitely won’t, sorry.)

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Manors, Bogey Boys, Malbon et al (and there are more) are fighting an admirable fight, and considering the popularity of preppy/nineties sportswear right now, it makes sense. But I just don’t think golf can ever be cool. The sport itself, the actual act of hitting a ball into a hole, is mega. It’s so unbelievably difficult and elegant and frustrating that it can’t ever not be impressive. But everything that comes with it – all the elitism, snobbery and rules… all the stern-looking business executives on over manicured grass… all the Trumps – I don’t know how it can ever appeal to a broad spectrum of young people.

Football has a rich, varied culture of anguish and triumph, brute force and style, heroes and villains. Anyone can play football, but most people can’t even get into a golf club.

The other day, Adam Sandler posted a video of him re-enacting the run-up tee shot from Happy Gilmore. The film is 25-years-old this year, and its quarter-century bump couldn’t have come at a better time, because Gilmore has to be the ultimate alt-golfer; the Par Core god. He wore flannel shirts, he putted with a hockey stick and punched anyone that challenged his style. Maybe if golf had a few more Gilmores, an inherent style would materialise all by itself.

*All credit to Esquire’s Dan Choppen for that phrase – truly wonderful stuff.

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