Tiger Woods isn’t the only recent comeback in golf. Duffers will find more cotton than has been seen in years thanks to the natural fiber being linked with performance features, a combination that’s being embraced to a greater extent by designers — and consumers — in the golf apparel market.

"We know that this customer likes to have a variety of materials available to them and appreciates the hand feel and natural properties that cotton provides...But what is different about our cotton polo is that it is still packed with technology."

-Alex DePallo,
Brand Marketing Manager, Callaway Apparel

Izod’s new Z-series collection, targeted toward the Gen Z customer, includes pants, shorts, polos, base-layer knits, and button-front shirts, and is made predominantly of a performance cotton blend.

“Back around 2004, there was a shift from 100 percent cotton to wicking polyester,” says Izod’s Robert Solis, senior design manager. “While we were at the PGA show in January, we noticed that a lot of other brands were offering cotton blends. I noticed this trend back in 2018 but this year it had expanded. We felt that our target customer would be receptive to the feel of cotton but with wicking capabilities.”

While the majority of golf shirts offered at retail (63 percent) contain moisture-wicking performance features, most are not made of cotton, according to the Cotton Incorporated Retail Monitor™ Study. In menswear, 23 percent of knit tops are polo shirts. But golf-specific polo shirts account for just 14 percent of all men’s polo shirts offered at retail.

However, makers who offer performance cotton golf shirts are positioned to stand out from their competitors. That’s because more than 8 in 10 consumers (81 percent) say cotton is their favorite fabric to wear, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey. Additionally, nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) say they prefer their activewear to be cotton-rich. And the majority (55 percent) also prefer their activewear tops be made of cotton.

“We know that this customer likes to have a variety of materials available to them and appreciates the hand feel and natural properties that cotton provides,” says Callaway Apparel’s Alex DePallo, brand marketing manager. “But what is different about our cotton polo is that it is still packed with technology.”

Callaway’s new Tour Authentic mercerized tech, 100 percent cotton polo features “sweat hiding technology,” which was developed in collaboration with Cotton Incorporated. Callaway was the first golf brand to feature the innovative technology, which utilizes a dual application process comprised of a high-performance wicking finish on the inside of the fabric and a breathable moisture barrier on the outside. The inside of the fabric absorbs and spreads moisture to enhance comfort and reduce fabric cling, while the outside creates a breathable barrier to prevent sweat marks from showing through.

DePallo describes Callaway’s Tour Authentic Spring/Summer 2019 collection as being “designed for the elite player seeking the best in form, function and fashion.” This season’s collection, he says, was conceived by leaders in technical apparel and is specifically designed for golfers.

“Tour Authentic is pushing the limits of product innovation while providing golfers with the exquisite craftsmanship and refined style that they demand,” he says.  The concise collection features one cotton polo, as well as a cotton/poly-blended pant and short.

The U.S. imports 595 million polo shirts annually, which are valued at $2.7 billion, according to Otexa. Golf shirts account for nearly 1 in 5 polo shirts offered at retail, with the average price running at about $50 each, according to the Retail Monitor™ Study.

Solis says Izod believes its target customer will appreciate the company’s new collection.

“In addition to the new fabric, the fit is slimmer than our primary Izod Golf line,” he says. “There aren’t that many slim-fit golf collections and with most of the PGA tour players getting younger and slimmer, there will be a demand from consumers. The collection lends itself to a fashion-forward look with attention to details that make a statement.”

Other golf collections that offer performance cotton pieces include Nike’s Dri-Fit, as well as its Natural Performance polo shirts; Under Armour’s Charged Cotton Scramble polo; Travis Mathew, which offers a wide selection of cotton-rich golfwear in both its Lifestyle and Casual Performance collections; Puma’s FusionYarn Flex line; Vineyard Vines’ Edgartown polos; Bobby Jones’ eFX cotton polo shirts and Ashworth’s cotton-rich Primatec polos, which wick moisture, enhance breathability and are naturally antimicrobial.

Besides its TransDRY® technology, Cotton Incorporated offers brands some other performance options for cotton apparel. WICKING WINDOWS™ technology is a moisture management finish that forces the transfer of moisture away from the skin to the outside of the fabric, where it can evaporate, keeping the wearer cooler, drier and more comfortable during exercise — or errands. The Nanotex® DRY INSIDE technology (a collaboration with Cotton Incorporated) moves moisture away from the body and spreads it across the fabric surface, allowing the cotton fiber to quickly dry while reducing cling. And STORM COTTONTM technology is a durable water-repellent finish for any cotton garment that can outlast other standard finishes.

With market week wrapping up for Izod, Solis says the new Z Series line was being well received among retail buyers. “They’re loving the newness and the concept,” he says.

And after its recent arrival in retail locations, DePallo says Callaway’s Tour Authentic collection is already a strong performer.

“We are in some of the best country clubs and resorts around the world,” he says, “and are able to offer those members a product unlike anything they have seen in their shops previously.”