Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Golf Shirts

Golf shirts, I've got a million of them. If I'm not wearing a collared shirt with a tie, I'm probably wearing one. I'm always picking them up for one reason or another, they make great souvenirs. I've got my favorites and my not-so-favorites and then there’s the ones I detest. I have yet to truly warm to what I call plastic shirts - Antigua, Hang 'em Dry by Haley/Tehama, Cutter and Buck's Dry Wick, Fairway and Greene's Performance and even Adidas Clima-Cool, which so far seems to have the best option although some of them are awful, too. These shirts are just a modern updated more hi-tech version of the old Ban-Lon shirts we wore in the 1960’s. No matter what the labels say, you will start to stink after about 6 holes on a muggy day. Ycccch!

I wash my shirts and hang them on a flat rack to dry so they won't shrink, I never put my shirts into the dryer; the plastic ones dry so fast I just hang them on a hanger. My shirts last, one shirt currently in my summer white set is approaching 10 years old and unfortunately looks it. Maybe it's time for a new Pine Valley shirt? I don't iron unless it's necessary, using the rack and positioning the shirt in a good shape negates the need for ironing for all except the most anal OCD's on this planet and only a few shirts.

Several brands stand out notably these days for positive and negative reasons.

Ashworth: Long-time brand has never been a good value in my eyes because they are short bodied to begin with, don't wash and wear well and go downhill from there. I wind up looking like I'm wearing someone else's shirt. The button holes don't hold up and the sewing of the holes unravel quickly. Don't look for me to wear one of these any time soon.

Lyle & Scott: Originally seen in the USA on Greg Norman losing major tournaments, this is a very prevalent and very good quality brand from Scotland. I like the tighter-fitting sleeves (designed to play in the wind that Americans hate so much) they as all Euro styles fit snugly to the body. All types of cotton weights, they are long-lasting and a good value, I’ve never seen anything poly from them. Other high quality European brand is Oskar Robertson. Again, as with many Euro sizing it is no where near as "generous" as American sizing. Really big fellows can forget these altogether. Galvin Green: Not available in the USA. Swedish, very well made, smallish sizing, go up at least one size, very expensive. Not an unknown if you are in Europe and want a souvenir, better quality than Glenmuir - a less expensive value brand comparable in price/quality ratio to Cross Creek in the USA. Very good value for money, often sold direct to the professional thereby passing the savings on to the consumer. e.g. Seminole sells tons of Cross Creek, Brora features Glenmuir. Don’t pass these up because you don’t know the brand.

Polo Ralph Lauren Golf: America's standby, if not default golf shirt. I think more of these are available than any other brand, that's probably why there are so many. Their collars are the absolute worst in the business. That's what everyone sees first on you, too. After 10 wears the collar looks like it's ready for Social Security. The bodies lose their shapes on the rack the fastest of all. All this for $65-95 depending on where you buy it. Needless to say, I have a fair number of these, but I have shunned them for some time unless I just have to buy something. The just plain look like hell too fast, they don't hold up, especially the fancies. Whites hold up the best, but solid dark colors fade really quickly, much faster than any other shirtmaker.

Fidra: All their cottons are unmercerized as far as I know. They do make a performance shirt, but I have seen on reason to buy one. One warning about unmercerized cotton is that no matter what you do, it will shrink some, so buy it a little bigger than you like. The shrinking stops by the third wash and it is usually about a half-size worth. Named for an Island visible from North Berwick West Links (a definite plus) it is a very comfortable shirt that breathes the best of the heavier cotton shirts. It is a little hard to find, but John Ashworth of Ashworth fame (he no longer has anything to do with Ashworth, BTW) runs this operation. He learned from his mistakes at Ashworth. Some have very cool, complicated buttons to impress chicks with your style sense.

Fairway & Greene: The very first one of these I bought was when the brand was brand-spankin’ new. Then - they shrunk, lost shape, became short and tight as well as having inferior collars. Now? A clearly distant second to the US winner below but head and shoulders above the rest except for the often frightfully expensive good Italian shirts (most are bad because they are over-priced and poor value/quality) available in the US. Como is reliable, but it buffs up faster than average, getting that natty knotty look to it, but no where near as fast as Bobby Jones which is of terrible quality for such a company as Hickey-Freeman. I have discussed these with the good Italians just to encourage you to step up to the two worthwhile Italians if you want a good really expensive shirt. Hickey-Freeman with whom you cannot go wrong buying an outlet suit for $600 on sale since they are worth pretty close to the full $1500 you pay in Saks, Nordstrom and the like fails badly with Bobby Jones in my eyes. They lose shape, both body and sleeves and the affectatious material in the placket probably wants to be dry cleaned, but why wear a chemical-cleaned shirt to perspire in? Collars in the same class as Polo, so I cannot recommend them when for a few twenties more if you want a luxurious and incomparable four-ply cotton (only one in the golf business as far as I know that must be pressed but looks and feels fabulous, buy a Marbas, but expect to pay at least $140.

Then there is ..... Peter Millar: Also a purveyor of other luxury golf relateds such as cashmere and leather, their shirts currently get my vote as best all-around hands down, no contest and without peer. Best collars in the industry, period, a very wide variety of fancies - even fancy color-on-color and white-on-white fabrics. Great textures, Abalone buttons, button holes that don't stretch or unravel, it is worth the $95-115 you sometimes pay for these shirts. I have a white with light blue and gold stripes from Old Memorial, that is my default shirt for a hot but not ridiculous day and it gets a lot of use because it's attractive as well. Worn 30+ times, I'll have a photo of it here soon. These shirts hold their shape, dry well, wear well; what more can you ask? They are becoming fairly widely distributed at the best known clubs and the quality has held up. I have yet to give one of these away to Goodwill.

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