Golf pants have a reputation for being not so cool. People make jokes about them and in truth, there are definitely designs of golf pants that sort of stand out. Bright patterns, bold colors…golf pants are definitely a style all their own. But there are multiple types of golf pants and many ways to use this style to look fashionable.
Wear them well and golf pants are a great way to show off your style both on the course and off.
Where It All Began
It’s widely accepted that golf was first played in Scotland and the country is the home to the oldest golf club in the world. But the truth is, no one knows where or when golf began. By the time it was first written about in history, it had already made a King angry and became an illegal sport.
Golf has a long and interesting history that has since been lost to time. But in the 1400s, it was definitely extremely popular in Scotland…so much so that the country’s safety was at stake. At least, the King thought so.
The Scottish written record of golf began with an Act of Parliament. It was initiated by the King James II of Scotland and it banned the game of golf in 1457. This is one of the oldest discovered historical records of the game, so far.
The King called it a “pointless sport” and said it was now illegal to play golf “for the common good and for the defense of the country.” You see, the King was mad because people were playing so much golf that they weren’t doing their archery practice, which was a part of mandatory military training.
Golf in Scotland
As far as historians can tell, there were two popular types of golf in Scotland at the time the King ruled the sport illegal: short golf and long golf.
When playing long golf, players would go out into the open countryside and smack balls around. When playing short golf, they would hit balls around in city streets, making a game of hitting balls into churchyards or down alleyways. By modern standards, this sounds a lot like a sort of freestyle mini golf, also known as putt-putt.
The King’s ban didn’t do any good. The formal rules of the game were created in 1744 by the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers for a tournament they established at Leith Links. Later, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (the official name) created the official rules of the game in 1899.
The United States Golf Association, USGA, was formed at this time and adopted the same rules.
So far, all of this stuff is part of the story of golf. But one country says that the story of the game began much earlier and much farther away from Scotland. China has claimed that golf was popular there well before the game was ever played in Scotland. If that’s true, it changes everything that people thought they knew about the origins of the game.
There is some evidence to back up this claim.
A piece of art dating to 1368 shows the Emperor Xuande of the Ming Dynasty in a park-like environment. There are little flags sticking out of the grass and the Emporer himself does appear to be holding a type of golf club. Even those who aren’t experts would recognize what appears to be a game of golf being played.
Another artifact dating to 1282, a book called Wan Jing, seems to describe the rules of a game that certainly looks a lot like golf. The Chinese called this game chuiwan and some historians believe that this is proof that golf originated not in Scotland but in Asia.
But the origins of the game and the age of the game are just one part of the story. Another big part of the story is golfing fashion. The game might be Scottish or Chinese but the pants…they’re American.
Short men’s pants that end right below the knee, known as plus fours, were popular with the Dutch colonists living in America around Cape Cod. One prominent Dutch family, the Knickerbockers, were so well-known in the area that the pants became named for them.
Their style was extremely unusual. Back then, it was common for children to wear short pants. But once you reached adulthood, it was time for long pants. Only the young wore short pants, so these “knickerbocker” pants stood out. However, the style was practical for sporting activities of all kinds. They were perfect for not just golf but also hunting and cycling. The pants quickly caught on as athletic wear.
In 1842, the first organized baseball team to wear a uniform was the New York Knickerbockers. You can guess what their pants looked like. Knickerbockers were not firmly established as sporting style in America and they quickly made their way into European fashion as well.
Supporting enthusiasts and committed golfers wore knickerbockers. But it wasn’t until a prince put them on that they became popular everywhere. In 1924, the future King of England Edward VII, Prince of Wales, visited the U.S. on a diplomatic trip. He wore his knickerbockers, which were popular with golfers in Europe.
Edward VII was the male fashion icon of his day. Nearly everything he wore was copied by others. He was a true trendsetter and his knickerbocker pants were no exception. After an Egnlish royal wore the American pants, Americans decided that they loved knickerbockers, too.
This became the go-to golfing style and sometimes, you will still see modern golfers on the course wearing these historic golf pants. But other types of golf pants have become much more popular since those days centuries ago and other style icons have helped to influence the game over time.
Types of Golf Pants
There are many different types of golf pants that are popular on the course and some that used to be popular that are seen a little less often, though they have since become classic. Try them all and try all sorts of different golf fashions to play around with your on-course style.
Made in a style similar to jeans but without the denim, 5-pocket golf pants fit around the natural waist and have two back pockets, two front pockets and a fifth pocket. These pants are usually made in a lightweight, breathable fabric and come in regular, slim and baggy fit designs.
These pants are made to fit and feel more like jeans and they’re often made in cotton and cotton twill blends. Denim, the most common blue jean material, is made with cotton.
This is a very modern style of golf pants that is seen frequently on the course. These golf pants are made to be lightweight and stretchy, comfortable to wear and easy to move around in.
Somewhat slim-fitting, flat-front trousers with no pleats first appeared in fashion back in 1898. At this time, U.S. military forces were engaged in the Spanish-American war. To take on the hot climate in Spain, soldiers wore lightweight cotton twill trousers in simple, unpleated designs in designs that were breathable and comfortable.
The pants were easy to move in and they weren’t too hot for the weather in Spain.
The style was so popular, American soldiers continued wearing chinos once they got home from war. Soon, the pants were a common sight on college campuses and very quickly after that, chinos were a popular option on the golf course. Made for warm weather in an elegantly simple style that fits in everywhere, chinos were practically tailor-made for the golf course.
Chinos are still a popular item on the course. The lightweight, straight style is flattering and comfortable. Chinos are available in a huge array of colors and patterns, so you can have fun playing around with your golf style if you like chinos.
Dickies started making workwear in 1922 and soon, their work pants took the world by storm. The straight, somewhat relaxed fit trousers had a simple, clean design that was stylish at work, at home and on the golf course, too.
Everyone was wearing them and Dickies, a small company based in Texas, exploded as a fashion and market leader. People around the world heard the name Dickies pretty soon after that.
Dickies pants are available in several different styles, including the Original 874 work pant, in a range of colors. These pants are great for the golf course because they’re made for performance and comfort already. You can move in them and they’re breathable and comfortable on the body.
Dickies pants also look good, so much so that they have a reputation for being “nice pants.” That’s not a bad reputation to have.
After everyone embraced the idea of wearing knickers on the golf course, these pants quickly fell out of fashion. Flannel trousers became popular immediately following the popular knickerbockers trend. Shades of white and gray were seen on the course the most often.
Made of wool and knit into a smooth fabric, flannel material has a nice drape and it’s still a very popular suit material because of its quality and appearance. This material looks good and wears well because it is made with wool, so it’s easy to see why flannel pants are still seen on the golf course to this day.
During the late 1950s and 1960s, houndstooth trousers became popular on the course. This trend continued into the 1970s but with a disco twist: bright, bright colors. Kelly green, magenta and royal purple were all seen on the course at this time. And usually, they were integrated into eye-catching houndstooth patterns in wool.
You may not know it by name, but you probably recognize houndstooth on sight. This is a woven fabric with a distinctive pattern that is highly recognizable. It has a sort of diagonal pattern made up of alternating light and dark checks that are a bit tooth-shaped. This is an extremely popular pattern in fashion that never goes out of style.
Khaki pants became a hit with golfers around the 1940s. The famous color was invented about a century before by British soldiers in India. They used local mud to color their white pajamas brown, creating lightweight uniforms that blended into the environment quite well. The color caught on with civilians and khaki pants soon became the smart casual fashion item of choice the world over.
Khaki pants are basically ubiquitous. No matter where you go or what you do, you’re going to find khaki pants. That goes for the golf course, too. Khaki pants are available in a huge range of fits and styles, from flat front to pleated to slim fit to baggy. You can get khaki pants in a style you like and they’re perfectly acceptable attire for any golf course.
Pair khaki pants with a classic polo shirt and you’ll be ready for a round of golf anywhere in the world.
In the 1950s, knickerbockers were considered to be very much out of fashion. It was popular at this time for men to wear suit pants while on the course. It was common for men to wear suits as daily attire at this time in fashion, so wearing suit pants with a button-up shirt was easy golf attire.
Later in the decade, wearing suit pants in a vibrant range of colors became more popular as men’s fashion got a little more bold and exciting. Suit pants are a little too formal for the golf course these days and most people opt to wear pants that are more designed for athletics.
Wearing Types of Golf Pants
The truth is, almost any pair of pants can be golf pants. Any pants that look sort of business casual, meaning any pair of slacks that aren’t made with denim, can be worn on the golf course. Only super casual styles, such as cargo pants, aren’t considered golf attire. Any suit pants or khakis, a good pair of chinos or even a good pair of Dickies, can be golf pants.
Try them all and play around with your personal golf style. Maybe you’ll be compelled to wear a lot of bright plaids. Who knows? Golf fashion has always been about playing with colors and having a little fun. Because after all, you are playing a game. When fashion and games mix, it should be fun.
Who knew that so much history and so much style went into golf pants? Now, you know a lot more about the different styles of golf pants you can wear on the course. But there’s still more to learn about this iconic item.
We found the most frequently asked questions about golf pants and got the answers, so you’ll how to style them, when to wear them and how to use golf pants to their best style effect.
Are golf pants business casual?
Golf pants are the perfect business casual item…when they’re not made in wild and crazy colors and patterns. Golf pants with a more neutral color palette and maybe a less busy pattern, or no pattern at all, will fit in nicely with business casual wear. They’re a great item for a job interview, for a business meeting and for the golf course, too.
Can you wear golf pants to work?
What about if you want to wear your golf pants to work? It depends on the style and look of the pants and the dress code of the office but in many cases, you can wear your golf pants as work pants.
If your golf pants fit well and have clean tailoring and they’re made in a neutral or sedate color palette, such as shades of navy blue and gray, they are probably quite acceptable as work attire. The only exception to this might be in formal offices where it’s customary to wear a suit.
How should golf pants fit?
The patterns and colors and sheer amount of choices can be a little dazzling when you’re looking for golf pants. There are so many options and so much to see that you might feel a little overwhelmed. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to your personal golfing style.
Are you going to be classic or modern? Are you going to experiment with color or stick to something more elegantly understated? With all this to think about, something as simple as how golf pants should fit can get lost in the shuffle.
So, how should your golf pants fit? Check for different factors and check the way the pants feel at certain points on your body to know whether or not you’ve got the right fit.
How does the waist feel? The waist of your pants should fit well around your own waist with bunching, no gapping, no pulling and no pinching. it should just be a fairly smooth, uniform fit all the way around.
Check the inseam and crotch area of the pants. The crotch shouldn’t sit too far away or right up against your body.
The seat of the pants should move with you well enough that you can sit comfortably without feeling pulling or tugging. You need room through the rear and the hips in order to move and swing a golf club, after all. Make sure there is room in this area but you don’t want your pants to be too baggy here because that will be unflattering.
The hem of the pants should fall to about the top of your golf shoes, right at the bottom of your ankles. You don’t want the pants to be much higher than this unless you’re intentionally wearing shorts or cropped pants.
Can golf pants be baggy?
Golf pants usually have a slim fitting, tailored look. Can golf pants be worn in a baggy style? Sure they can. Many people prefer a looser, more baggy fit on the golf course. Relaxed fit or baggy pants are not at all uncommon on the course.
The great thing about all the different types of golf pants is that there are enough choices to allow you to find the right fit for you. Maybe your style is a little baggier and maybe it’s full of plaid. Only you can find out by playing around with different golf pants styles.
Brooks Brothers – Chinos: An American Style Story
Dickies – History
Gentleman’s Gazette – FLANNEL – The Original Woolen Fall Fabric
Global Golf – A History of Golf Knickers
Golf Link – The History of Golf Apparel
Golf Tips – Historical Golf Clothing
Grey Journal – History Of Men’s Golf Fashion
History – Who Invented Golf?
Land’s End – Are Golf Pants Business Casual?
Olivers – The History of the Chino