Golf shoes are changing thanks to streetwear and sneaker culture

Streetwear – a long-time origin of New York’s hip-hop and California surfing culture – is making its way onto the green grass of golf courses.

“Golf has become cooler and it has become less confrontational because there are parts of the sneaker community that have adopted it,” said Jacques Slade, a YouTuber and golfer who spoke of the need for more golf shoes that reflect sneakers. culture.

Hip-hop culture and sneakers have always had a close relationship, but the connection between hip-hop and golf may not be too great, said Ankur Amin, owner of New York’s streetwear boutique Extra Butter. He said the pursuit of golf has helped his style connect with his clients.

“What we do in street culture is the pursuit of a good life,” he said, “and so much in golf is the same as Moët & Chandon or Louis Vuitton.”

Nike-sponsored Tiger Woods led many new fans to the sport in the late 1990s, but declining interest in its products in the 2010s paved the way for street golf crossovers. Nike and its Jordan brand subsidiary have begun producing collectible silhouettes in the form of golf shoes such as the Air Max 1 and the original Air Jordans.

Snickerheads saliva. “You have people who grew up with the Jordan brand,” said rapper and golf entrepreneur McLemore, who has worked with Jordan on sneakers. “It makes sense that people go crazy.”

And the impact of sneaker culture on golf is only continuing to grow. While the pandemic has devastated a number of institutions, it has also increased participation in golf as well as other activities that promote social distancing such as running, hiking and cycling, according to NPD Group, a market research company.

“As soon as the golf courses started to reopen, the business just went away,” said Matt Powell, vice president of the NPD Group and sports business analyst, who said participation had also increased slightly before the pandemic.

According to him, many people bought golf kits at starting prices in 2020, which indicates that beginners are fond of sports. “Any beginner who buys golf kits for $ 400 won’t spend $ 120 on golf shoes,” he said. “They will play in sneakers.”

Sneakers have always been a staple of the millennial generation’s fashion choices, but now some adults in their late 20s and 30s have a cash income to play golf – or at least try it. Top Golf and Five Iron Golf have also opened across the country, in a sense equivalent to bowling, making sports more accessible in urban areas where it is harder to find.

“Golf is a very traditional game, but if you look at millennials and all the generations that follow them, they are never afraid to do something a little different,” said Gentry Humphrey, a former vice president of footwear in Jordan. The brand that led the company to enter the sport.

Credit …Charlie Haley / Getty Images

Before Humphrey retired last fall, he also spent time running Nike’s golf business. Part of Humphrey’s philosophy was to turn the Nike and Jordan sneakers that collectors want into shoes that can really be used on the fairway. “Kids want to go out there,” he said, “and they prefer to go out there in something fresh.”

While making these golf sneakers may seem as simple as adding a high-grip sole, there are other considerations such as waterproofing and changing the cushioning.

“We didn’t want it to be just basketball shoes that moved to the golf course,” Humphrey said, adding that Nike had developed new footwear technologies such as an integrated bottom – a rubber sole without hard spikes that players could wear all day. . .

Another part of Humphrey’s strategy was to provide a broader platform for novice golf brands through collaborative products. For example, Eastside Golf, a brand founded in 2019 by professional golfers Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl Cooper, who played together at Morehouse College in Atlanta, aims to diversify the sport and introduce young people to it.

“Who said you can’t play golf in a T-shirt?” Said Cooper, the first African-American golfer in Delaware. “When they created these rules, minorities were not even allowed to play. People are trying to stick to a tradition that has already been broken or spoiled. ”

Adjanaku, who designed the trademark for the Eastside Golf clothing line, in which a black man in blue jeans is wearing a gold chain and a baseball cap waving a club, said the significant placement of the colored person on the company’s products was a milestone.

“In fact, having the logo of a black man playing golf on our clothes speaks to everyone who didn’t feel wanted in the sport,” he said.

The Eastside Golf logo was prominently featured on the tab of their Air Jordan collaboration, which used the silhouette of the original Air Jordan IV, a retro sneaker that is highly regarded among sneakers. The golf spikes were removable so sneakers could also be worn off the field.

Shoes, which are foldable or easy to go from green to club, are one of the key innovations that have helped open up the culture of golf sneakers. For people who are into fashion, half-inch spikes on the bottom of sneakers can significantly change the aesthetics of shoes. As a result, brands are increasingly choosing a thin grip on the bottom of their golf shoes instead of straight spikes.

“There were so many people who bought joint golf products but didn’t even play the game,” Humphrey said. “My phone rang more for a collaboration at Eastside Golf than for some of the projects we were doing with Christian Dior. Sport is looking for another surge of energy, and it was a great way to bring something new into it. ”

While touring, eagle golfers or sneaker collectors may have noticed these shoes on the feet of 43-year-old Buba Watson or 31-year-old Harold Warner III, but even young professionals also bring another arrogance to the PGA Tour, Slade, YouTuber sneakers said. Many of the players on the tour, he said, “grew up listening to Travis Scott or Tyler the Creator. They come to this world from a completely different perspective. “

Last summer, Extra Butter, Amin’s boutique, collaborated with Adidas on a streetwear collection for golf inspired by the movie “Happy Gilmore,” which included golf shoes, sneakers, swords and club cases. The store also presents in its inventory new golf-based brands such as Radda, Whim and Manors Golf.

“From the beginning of hip-hop culture, there’s always been a desire to present what you’re aiming for,” said Bernie Gross, creative director of Extra Butter. “We come out of an environment that doesn’t represent that, but that’s what we hope to achieve one day. Golf is part of it. ”

Rappers are also climbing into the golf business. Drake launched a 10-item golf collection from Nike worn by Brooks Koepka, a four-time major champion. And McLemore, a rapper from Seattle, launched his own golf line – called the Bogey Boys – in February 2021.

McLemore started playing just two and a half years ago while on vacation, and immediately fell in love. But even before he got out of the bunker on the fairway, he was frugal for the classic golf of the 1970s. He started his independent golf brand because he saw the market in new players who wanted to bring a unique style to their appearance on the court.

Since its launch just over a year ago, the Bogey Boys, whose looks are inspired by golfers such as Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevin, has sold out its first limited edition collection in partnership with Nordstrom and opened its first retail store. location in Seattle in September.

However, in addition to collectivity, style and functionality, the founders of Eastside Golf believe that for traditional sports there are even greater outcomes.

“Golf can learn in the culture of sneakers,” Cooper said. “The culture of sneakers is an individuality. That’s what golf was missing. “

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