Ryder fashion faux pas

From combat jackets in Kiawah Island to matching corporate suits at The Belfry, the outfits of the United States’s Ryder Cup players and their partners have, in the past, supported the notion that those on the other side of the Atlantic view the golf course as a place for both battle and business.

US captain Hal Sutton’s description of this year’s attire as ‘traditionally powerful” suggests that America’s players are planning to make another bold statement with their dress code at Oakland Hills. Europe might well have done the same had Ian Poulter, who has appeared on course in Union flag trousers, exercised some influence over the final designs.
Fortunately for those who prefer a more understated appearance, Bernhard Langer had the final say.

On Monday, Europe’s players became acquainted with their Ryder Cup clothing for the first time when they arrived in their hotel rooms to find a range of Glenmuir golfwear together with formal dress designed by Oscar Jacobson.

‘The outfit for play on the Sunday has been designed to have high impact and will feature the European colours,” said a spokesperson for the European Tour. ‘But we want to keep the full details secret until the start of play because the Americans haven’t revealed anything.”

So the mind games started, though Sutton’s comment does imply that there will be a strong element of patriotism in the US design. It is, however, safe to assume that there will be no repeat of the military-like attire that Corey Pavin and Steve Pate sported in 1991, prompting Mark James to remark: ‘The only thing that scares me about the Americans now is their dress sense.”

James was apparently unaware of what Lesley Gallacher, Bernard’s wife, was about to unveil.

Sporting garish sweaters that took 60 knitters eight weeks to knit, the European wives and girlfriends did a better job of illuminating The Belfry than their partners did with their golf play in 1993.

‘The jumper that Lesley designed turned out completely wrong,” said Suzanne Torrance, who was Europe’s ‘lady captain” in 2002. ‘It wasn’t her fault and under normal circumstances we would not have worn them, but we all wore it because Lesley was so special and meant so much to us.” 

James had not been quite so understanding in 1979 when he refused to wear the official uniform and put it in the bin. Since that show of defiance the Ryder Cup captains — who liaise closely with the clothes designers — have experimented with everything from Europe’s lighter shade of pink on the opening day at Kiawah in 1991 to the US team’s final-day faux pas at Brookline in 1999 — a hideous polo shirt decorated with old Ryder Cup photographs.

However, recently not the players but their wives and girlfriends have become embroiled in fashion warfare. When the American women lined up in identical navy blue long-skirt suits and black calf-high boots at The Belfry in 2002, the contrast with their European counterparts, who dressed independently, could not have been greater.

‘I wanted to give the European wives a chance to express the individual styles and personalities that they all have,” said Torrance.

‘Because we had so many different nationalities and characters within our team I felt that this was more relevant for the European wives than the Americans, who are perhaps slightly more similar in terms of looks and styles.”

The press were considerably less diplomatic, referring to the Americans as ‘Stepford wives”. The corporate image at The Belfry was, though, an improvement on the matching ‘Sindy doll” outfits sported by the flag-waving US women in Massachusetts three years earlier.

Vikki Langer, seemingly unmoved by the Americans’ show of solidarity in recent times, has opted to follow the individual dress code advocated by her predecessor. Moreover, employing a resident hairdresser, as Torrance did in 2002, is unlikely, though that might prove to be a bigger disappointment for Poulter than any of the wives. —

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