DRESS FOR SUCCESS: In a world that seems to be going mad, not everyone subscribes to the belief of ‘whatever.’ Rick Martin, founder of Fairway & Greene, is one of those who feels that way and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. “Tiger Woods use to be an elegant dresser. Now he looks like a muni player with a tight shirt and the the shoes he wears. All he needs is a package of Luckys under his sleeve,” remarked Martin. “At the US Open, Y.E. Yang wore yellow pants with a red shirt. He looked like he works for McDonalds,” he added.
Martin sold Fairway & Greene in the mid 2000’s, impeccable timing some might say, but he’s back in the golf apparel business with Martin Golf Apparel, since the more things have changed, they’ve actually stayed the same to him. Martin said he has loved golf since first discovering it in the 1940s, and was drawn to the professional game by the likes of Jimmy Demaret, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. “It was not only their skill, but their persona on the course, — elegant, serious men who competed against others as gentlemen,” Martin explained. “They inspired me not only by their behavior, but by their appearance.
“Beginning in the 1970s,” he continued, “as the Tour was developing new stars, many of the players were drawn away from anything considered classic. Soft color was replaced by a palette that could be best described as ‘anything goes’ — garish plaid pants bookended by matching white belt and shoes. Then bright-hued poly-cotton blends and other synthetic golf shirts began replacing 100% cotton as the golf shirt cloth of the moment.”
By 1995, borne of his frustration with contemporary, synthetic golf shirts, Martin said he began a two-year search to develop the kind of fine cotton golf shirt fabric that had virtually disappeared years before. His endeavor resulted in the creation of a 100% Long Staple Pima Cotton Lisle fabric that could prevent fading and almost eliminate shrinkage – “a golf shirt that will keep its shape and also its luster after years of play,” Martin says.
That same lisle yarn was developed into the unique soft knit collar that completed the shirt that, according to Martin, “became the benchmark that all other golf shirts were compared to.” However, Martin couldn’t understand why most makers moved away from this costly process and away from Cotton Lisle. “Instead, the industry was mesmerized by a version of that Polyester bug that has been around since the 1960s,” he said. “This time, however, with a new young audience, there is no mention of the term ‘Polyester.’ It has been replaced by terms like dryfit or tech. Makers decided that golf shirts needed to be styled like bowling shirts or, in some cases, a logoed-up shirt befitting NASCAR sponsors,” he said.
“So, here in the spring of 2012, I find very similar conditions exist compared to 1995,” Martin observed. “Contemporary styling, synthetic fabrics and almost all labels in them can be interchanged with one another. I call it ‘Group Culture.’ Since the legacy of the shirt I developed was abandoned, I wanted to see first if the desire and technology were still present in the vendors I trusted and believed in. Would making fine 100% Cotton Lisle shirts be possible once more?” he said. “I don’t know who was happiest to reconnect,” he said of his old vendors, “Me or them!”
His 100% cotton lisle golf shirts have what he calls, “a drape and a stance that allowed for the free motion of their swing. The classic styling and the fact there weren’t logos didn’t upstage their talent.”
Under Fairway & Greene, Martin catered to a specialize market, the private member. “Private clubs are more mature. They are different and members buy a cotton shirt for all seasons. They buy one and often another. We had a cult following before with Fairway & Greene. Members would know when a shipment was coming, for example. I’m known for good tastes and the market that I know best are looking for garments that also look good off the course. A man will buy more than one shirt if you provide addition colors that consist of good taste and is understated rather than overstated. Costume shirts, as I call them, are either hit or miss. Not everyone is going for the Rickie Fowler look,” he said.
“There is a limited place for what I offer,” Martin said. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. What we offer is representative of the member at the private club.” The martinworld’s finest Pima cotton will be the main ingredient in the company’s lines, starting with the Spring 2012 collections, which begin delivering in November 2011. “For nearly a year, discussions and on-site prototypes and yarn trials have resulted in two unique 100% Cotton Lisle fabrics that make up our initial offering,” Martin said. “Sunflower, Cozumel and Natural White were catalysts for the color in the 2012 line, and the finish of the product is very rich. The Ancient Madder and Decoupage collections can be displayed together and work very well and complement each other.”
Martin Golf Apparel, whose slogan is “Timeless as the Game” will be sold by an ultra-high account base, ideally the nation’s top Private Golf Clubs. It won’t be found in any department stores. “This is not about branding,” says Martin. “It is about a beautiful garment that men will want to wear.”
The collection is already making waves in the industry, according to Martin. With his new company’s first launch, Martin hopes for nothing less than the high standards that have earned him a trusted name in the golf world. “So far acceptance has exceeded expectations at the top private golf clubs in the country, and it is our goal that these garments will distinguish themselves as we have planned. I’ve been told it’s the best I’ve ever done.” For more information on Martin Golf Apparel, visit them online at www.martingolfapparel.com