"Come up here, because you’re going to need to sign off on this." A fun and enlightening morning at Adidas Golf headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., is coming to a close and four new golf outfits hang before me. Actually, new doesn’t quite do these threads justice. It will be more than three months before they’re available to the public. But I already know these clothes are going to be mine. And now, I even know exactly when I’m going to wear them.
Neat trick, huh? But before you ask me who will win this year's major championships, I can’t predict the future. Seeing ahead, though, is exactly what those involved in golf fashion scripting are tasked to do. Way, way ahead. What PGA Tour stars wear at the biggest events is the culmination of a two-year-plus process that involves plenty of vision and collaboration between a clothing company and an athlete.
And as the 2019 Masters quickly approaches, I’m playing the role of the latter. Although, I won’t be teeing it up at Augusta National, I’m being treated like one of six Adidas athletes who will, and the time has come to give the OK for a tournament’s worth of outfits. So how did we get to this point? And what exactly goes into scripting? Let's take a peek behind the (dressing room) curtain.
"Today you’re going to be Xander"
About 15 months earlier, Xander Schauffele sat in this very room and began his time as an Adidas ambassador. Now it was also time to start my own sartorial sojourn—an idea sprung from the style makeover I did with our friends at GQ last year. And this time, to be honest, I was a lot more excited about being dressed for the course than the office. Adidas essentially packing for my annual summer golf trip, the HGGA Championship, wouldn't have the same economic ramifications as scripting Xander's Masters outfits, but there would be similarities in that collaborative selection process.
"When we bring in a new guy, we try to get to know their personal style now, and then take them where we see our brand going and try to take them along with us,” Adidas Golf senior creative director Dylan Moore tells me. "We don’t just shove them into stuff we think is cool.”
Players are asked who they look to for style inspiration, and that’s not limited to the golf course with names like David Beckham and Justin Timberlake coming up. I’m told that Xander's fashion preferences have evolved a lot in a short time. Initially hesitant to wear even the subtlest of patterns, he’s now become one of the more adventurous golfers on the Adidas roster. This is both the result of Schauffele's growing confidence and stature on the PGA Tour, as well as continually being pitched on new apparel.
"They let us lead, they see us as the experts,” Adidas Golf president Jeff Lienhart said. "We certainly want the products we put on their back to reflect their personalities and their sense of style. And we have a diverse enough range that we’re able to do that with everybody.”
I decide I’m going to let the five-person team surrounding me lead as well. I’ve always considered myself a pretty decent dresser on the course, but that’s not saying much when compared to my regular golf group (Sorry, guys). I also have a leg up on my friends having worked with Golf Digest’s Mr. Style, Marty Hackel, for a decade, and procured most of my best pieces through him. But as someone who thinks spending more than two minutes packing for my annual trip is a lot, I'm intrigued as to how it takes more than two years to pick out golf clothes at the highest level.
First, big bucks are spent researching trends and establishing “color stories” that are used to begin shaping future seasonal collections. As those clothes are designed, some are selected to debut during major championship weeks. Then there's more designing, and usually, manufacturing before these selections are presented to players. And after being approved, the ordering and mass production begins with the end goal to have the merchandise shipped to stores around the world before the event at which it will be unveiled. To be exact, the shirts Sergio Garcia will wear at this year’s Masters began being designed just two months after he won the 2017 Masters. So why do certain looks make the cut at majors?
"With major scripting, we try to get more of the what we call ‘novelty' on the athlete,” Adidas Golf concept to consumer global director Shaun Madigan said. "So the polo that the consumer might not expect to like. We all have solids and basic stripes, so in addition to color and technology, we also want to push the limits with designs. That’s where we try to elevate what’s on the athlete during the majors versus just offering solids or basic stripes.”
So what would they be offering golfers like Xander (and me) for our respective majors? It was time to find out.
"They know why we’re paying them a lot of money"
Dylan goes through the color stories that make up the March 1 collection, which includes the year’s first major. Not surprisingly, bright tones are featured, including Masters-inspired greens and yellows. What is surprising to know is how much freedom players have during non-major weeks. To an extent.
“Tyrrell [Hatton] was great at the last scripting,” said Adidas Golf senior director of global brand marketing Courtney McHugh. “He said 'If I have this white layering piece and this white layering piece, which one do you want me to wear from a business perspective?' He understands we are driving a business and what he does on TV and the exposure he gets is going to help us sell. And they get that. And they know why we’re paying them a lot of money.”
Typically, Adidas' male golfers get six shipments of clothes throughout the year with each to be used for two-month windows. The women are also well taken care of as you can see by Danielle Kang’s Instagram post from January.
The similar-sized shipments sent to the guys do not include the four tournament outfits that have been established for each of the four majors. In other words, being a PGA Tour star not only requires a dependable swing, but a large closet. For practice rounds at majors and for all other tournaments, though, golfers on their own are free to mix and match—as long as the clothes come from the current collection.
That means players are allowed to wear the same shirt more than once, and often they do. The navy polo Dustin Johnson won the 2016 U.S. Open in, for instance, was worn by DJ for two other wins that year before being reluctantly retired (Johnson says he still has the shirt in his house). But while Adidas wants its athletes to look and feel good, there's obviously a financial reason driving all this planning, specifically around the four biggest events of the year.
“At the end of the day, scripting really comes down to the commercial component of it,” Madigan says. "We want to choose specific moments in time to highlight our athletes with the product we currently have at retail and also align with them. It’s a collaborative approach we take with them in which we really bring their style to life through our product. It’s a fun process, but we’ve really got to get ahead of it, and be accurate."
In addition to frequently staying in touch with players by sending them ideas and potential storyboards, this process includes in-person meetings at tournaments or photo shoots. To get golfers to sign off on what they would wear at the 2019 Masters in April, an Adidas team sat down with players in February of 2018 during the Genesis Open. Or maybe standing up is a better way to describe it as I’m led to a side of the room where four mannequins are dressed from head to toe.
Shaun says these are the exact outfits Xander will wear when he makes his second career Masters start. He takes me through the technology involved in the clothing—terms like “Tour360” and “ClimaChill” roll off his tongue like someone going through the alphabet—and the thought process behind the different days. Every detail down to making sure logo colors aren’t clashing is accounted for in these consultations where players might request changing days or swapping out different shirts (there were 31 options for this year's Masters), pants or even hats for those with headwear in their contract, before signing off on his wardrobe script. (Players are fussier about shoes, which is closer to equipment, and not changed nearly as often.)
At a photo shoot last August, players were shown final samples of what they would be wearing both to remind them as well as to give a chance for any late alterations, which are rare. And although eight months before the Masters might not seem late, production is well underway for orders that will be stocked in stores to coincide with the tournament.
I'm told real Xander will make a big statement on Thursday at Augusta National with an arresting yellow-striped look. He’ll wear a shirt with a subtle green camouflage pattern on Day 2 before beginning the weekend with a “fresh start,” a white-and-green shirt with white pants. Then there’s Sunday, which for the Masters, requires its own discussion.
"We don’t want to jinx them when it comes to pairing a green jacket"
Professional golfers are a notoriously superstitious bunch, so as you might expect, they’re careful broaching the most famous prize in golf. When it comes to wardrobe scripting, though, it must be considered.
"We don’t want to jinx them, but we do need to appreciate a green jacket will be going with this,” Madigan said. "So without getting too detailed we tell them this will pair well with a potential jacket. Many have wanted a white polo. And we respect that. That’s a moment in time you only get once, if you’re fortunate enough to win, you want to look sharp.”
Bubba Watson and Adam Scott wore solid white shirts on Sunday for back-to-back Masters wins in 2012 and 2013 (Bubba wore white with a pattern in his 2014 win), but while it’s a clean look, it’s about as far as you can get from the “novelty” looks Adidas hopes to push. In the end, Schauffele found a happy medium with a black/grey polo that will hold up well in all those photos if he winds up getting the green jacket slipped on him by Patrick Reed.
There’s not as much superstition from the team at Adidas. Although there’s obviously a chance their players won’t make the cut, that doesn’t impact the weekend suggestions they make for their players. And make no mistake about it, what players wear during the week, in particular, on Masters Sunday, has a huge effect on what consumers buy—especially if one happens to win.
"Sergio wore a green polo with a gradient scheme in 2017 and we had to re-stock those twice on our E-com site within days because they sold out that fast,” Adidas Golf global PR manager Joel Monson said. "There are people out there that are like, 'Oh man, that’s an iconic shirt. I have to buy it.’”
And as carefully as the Sunday shirt decision is created, that’s the level of care that goes into delivering the goods. At this year’s Masters, the athletes will be handed packages with their looks for the week, a storyboard that reminds them what they’re wearing when, and some additional goodies. Here’s a look at the box Sergio Garcia will open:
There will be two overlaps of shirts among the six golfers over four tournament rounds, but that won’t happen on the same day. At the 2013 Masters, the “uniform” look was a successful strategy sales-wise, but it was abandoned after Jason Day complained. The Aussie, now a Nike man, wound up going off script after the first round.
“They’re our athletes,” Madigan says, "but they’re also competitors so they don’t want to look like one another. We have to be aware of that and sensitive to that.”
Something tells me I don’t have to worry about that happening on my trip this year.
"He wears clothes REALLY well"
No, Shaun is not talking about me, but rather the uber-athletic World No. 1, who is essentially a moving mannequin. And don’t think for a second that Dustin Johnson, who has single-handedly made the monochromatic look cool, is indifferent. If there used to be any reservations about golf dudes expressing an interest in style on the course, those days are long gone.
"Maybe five-to-10 years ago, there were more athletes not into it,” Shaun said. “But they’re paying attention to who’s wearing what on the range or on the putting green. I think they’re all taking more pride in it."
In addition to style leanings, most of the Adidas brand ambassadors have little quirks. DJ doesn’t like orange because it reminds the University of South Carolina supporter of the rival Clemson Tigers. Jon Rahm likes to wear red not to honor a certain 14-time major champ, but in support of his favorite soccer team, Athletic Bilbao. Tyrrell Hatton is drawn to purple and Sergio Garcia loves bold colors, often going out of his way to even match his hats to his polos. Garcia was also ganged up on by the rest of the Adidas guys at a recent photo shoot over wearing an older style of golf pants. The tapering peer pressure eventually got him to change.
“I think they’re looking to us to make them look cool,” McHugh said. "'How are you guys going to help me look great on tour and set myself apart?,' because they’re all creating their own brand as well.”
And now it’s time to make me look cool. Well, at least, try. I'm presented with my own storyboard as well as the July 1 color story from which my outfits will be drawn— meaning some of these looks will be seen by Xander and Co. at the British Open—because my major/annual buddies trip, the HGGA Championship, is scheduled for the beginning of August. Shaun says he’s studied my “clean look” on social media and that I have a “great sense of style,” describing it as “classic sophisticated.” He's probably just being nice, but I’ll take it! Then he dives into the day-by-day outfits he's put together for me.
Shaun happens to be from the Syracuse area, where this year's trip will be contested at Turning Stone Resort & Casino, so he sticks with lighter colors from the palette because he knows how sticky August in New York can be. Unlike DJ, Shaun knows I'll dabble with orange so he's tossed in a striped number "that will really pop." My love of light blue is well represented, while Shaun has correctly detected my distaste for purple (Sorry, Tyrrell) and left that color out completely.
Like the real Xander initially, I’m a bit reluctant to provide much feedback. After all, I’m dealing with the experts in this area. I enjoy Shaun describing the white shorts, something I’ve never worn, as a “safer" look. It seems pretty bold to me, but like Sergio recently switching up his older slacks, I’m willing to learn and give it a go. And while I can hear Mr. Style saying the print on one of the blue shirts is "too subtle for TV," I realize that won't be a problem for the HGGA Championship.
However, I do point out that I also have a potential green jacket pairing to worry about after the final round. That prompts Shaun to suggest swapping the Sunday orange with the Thursday outfit. Much better.
I decide not to mention that I usually wear red on Sunday in honor of a certain 14-time major champ because I’m at the home of the three stripes, not the Swoosh. But I wonder if there’s a way to break up that sea of blue that's from Friday to Sunday. Shaun quickly grabs more options. And by quickly, I mean quickly, because we are surrounded by product. There are shirts hanging in a closet built into the wall, there are shirts hanging underneath the conference room table, and there's a huge storage room a few feet away:
Shaun then takes me through several before a striped beauty jumps out at me. He checks to make sure I don't mind the "clashing" of two different shades of blue logos (one on the sleeve and one on the back of the shorts). As someone who shot my career-low round wearing a bathing suit, I assure him it's not a problem. Ultimately, we decide on moving this new inclusion to Friday and the orange shirt to Saturday (Fresh weekend start!). After trying on some clothes for sizing, Shaun makes notes of the changes, and voilà! I had a new storyboard.
After officially signing off on a wardrobe I will wear for four days that are still more than four months away, I feel more organized and prepared than ever. Maybe I should start scripting what I wear to work each week? In any event, I'm no closer to winning our coveted green jacket or playing like a PGA Tour pro this summer. But at least, I'll be dressed like one. And I have to say, I'm already feeling more confident about my chances. When I win, good luck to Adidas keeping that blue shirt/white shorts combo in stock.