Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Anyone for some Customization?

(Photos borrowed from Q'aja Couture/Associated Press and Reuters Photos)

It's all about customization these days. Now that luxury is so accessible, individuals who want to stand apart are constantly looking to invest in a 'one off the line' product that is exclusively theirs. Plus, let's face it, one of the most exciting parts about custom items is the fact that you, yourself, have a hand in the design. For those of us with a fetish for this crap, that experience alone is magical enough for us to get out the Visa. 

As popular as golf apparel is in America and the world, 99 percent of individuals buy off the peg clothing and away they go to the tee without a care in the world. Much golf apparel, while improving in fit, has gotten rather sporty (If you need an example of this, look at Sergio's pieces from Adidas in '09, or think Anthony Kim's Nike offerings) and with it has gone the feel of classic clothing, per se. In menswear, when you lose that element of "classic clothing" - out with it goes the ideal of a 'bespoke' experience. The materials become technologically advanced and, while the fit is tailored, you don't think tailored garment when you see a pair of water-resistant Lindeberg Troon golf pants. 

The old boys at the KC wanted to get together to show you what is out there if you're looking for custom golf apparel and accessories that have that more classic feel for all the traditionalists with a few extra bucks and a dream of total control over their sartorial destinies. 

Q'aja Couture - Since I've done write-ups on Tony "The Tailor" Q'aja in the past, I'll save you the rant; Tony started making custom golf trousers for Darren Clarke and the rest is history. Tony's finery can be seen on the lower halves of Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Darren, Sam Torrance, Richard Green, Scott Piercy, Charlie Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson etc. 
Tony, a tailor by trade, gives you the true Savile Row 'bespoke' experience. He will make you a pair of custom golf slacks and you will be involved in every element. He'd probably let you come down to his shop on Canary Wharf in London and sew a few stiches, but I wouldn't recommend that. Prices depend on fabric of course, if you get the cashmere blend, you'll have to pay for it. 

What the KC is most excited about is Tony's new service: The 'bespoke polo.' Although Tony hasn't been taking much credit for it - he's actually in the middle of one of golf apparel's biggest current buzz topics with regards to Phil Mickelson's golf shirts; Tony makes them. They are Q'aja bespoke polo shirts and, Phil controversy aside, they are really gorgeous. The customer selects a collar, body style, fabric color, stiching color, piping color, piping style, gets a few basic measurements and a few weeks later you have a one of a kind polo - in SPF 50 poly material, no less, with cool wool lining (gives you warmth in the cold and cools you down in the heat.) Now the price - $180 US, but if you're buying Lindeberg or another premium brand shirt for 100 bucks plus, it doesn't seem like much of a step up to create a totally unique product. Tony and his team will introduce this service formally very soon. Check his website for details. 

Now don't think the US is left behind in the custom department. Elevee Golf, the official supplier to the 2009 President's Cup team, also specializes in 'custom' trousers. Elevee has gotten a following on Tour with guys who prefer a little more classic, full-fitting trouser, maybe a pleat, or flat-fronted with a slit at the base. Mike Weir, Jerry Kelly, Bill Haas, Pat Perez, Tommy Armour and others sport Elevee. 

The "Build your own golf pant" process at Elevee (from what I can see) is not as customized as at Q'aja. You choose your pant style or a short (time to take the triple pleat out boys) and then you choose your fabric and styling options (lined/unlined, pocket placement and detailing, waist band styling etc.) No say on the actual fit and no measuring process. They have a large amount of fabrics in anything from Super 130's Nail-heads to Fuschia twills, not to mention seersuckers and corduroys. The pants run from $295 to $395, depending, as always, on fabric chosen. Given the lack of fit options however, where does this leave the custom-crazed golfer who is built like Charles Howell? Out in the cold I guess. I will say though, that Elevee must offer some sort of fitting/trimming option for smaller guys like Weir, who looks great in the clothing. I'd inquire at the website if you're interested...

Now the accessory game is one where the customization can be had for a smaller price, with no real loss of enjoyment. We all know about the MyJoys option at Footjoy and FJ has promised that full-customization will be available this summer on the shoe that replaces the Classics and Classic DP and Tours. That's surely exciting. 

Belts have been huge in the last few years and it's easier than ever to get into the custom belt game. Two guys who I've used in the past are Simon at Druh Belts and Buckles and Jimmy at Bettinardi/House of Fleming. Simon, who I recently profiled after the Masters, is a recent entry into the world of fashionable leather and exotic skin belts. On his website, you can choose your strap and buckle from a wide variety of colors and choices. Leathers in gator, ostrich and other effects start at $100 with watersnake at $150. You can see Simon's belts on Robert Karlsson and Paul McGinley, as well as many other top professionals. 

House of Fleming meanwhile, is known as the premier custom belt maker in the golf apparel world. Based in Atlanta, HOF can see been on the waists of Sergio, Phil, Poulter and others. The customization process really has no end with HOF, when you call or email, they will allow you to make almost any belt you can imagine. Jimmy aka jcigars on Golf WRX's forums, is a great contact, email him at HOF is known for their hefty pricing on alligator selections for the world's best, but pricing starts at just $65 for white, brown or black leather with custom color stiching. Bright "Italian" colors only bump the pricing to $90, with lizard at $150 and python at $250. Gators go for $500 and up.

Belt buckles, you ask? A good place to start...

Custom really is fun and doesn't have to be as expensive as you'd imagine. Today's off the rack golf clothing is more than adequate, but sometimes the stylish golfer out there is looking for a little something else...If you have any questions for us, as always, send them to the KC Mailbag. It's been a pleasure 'bespoking' with you. If we didn't know better, we'd think that sounded a little dirty, but we do know better, so on your way now...



Anonymous said...

Great post, I am sick and tired of looking like ever other slub out there...time to step up my on course look which will in turn drop my 'cap down by at least 3 strokes.

PT3 said...

Camillo calls his wardrobe an extra club in the bag and I couldn't agree more. Look good feel good play good.