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May 05, 2008

Renaissance Man: Dressing for the Links

Bobby Jones would be proud.

VitruvianmanConde Nast Traveler stuntman Mark Schatzker is on a mad quest to make himself into a modern day Da Vinci during a month's stay in Europe. His first task: learn golf in Scotland.

Having been a victim of color blindness since the day of my birth, I know better than to dress myself. Normally, all wardrobe decisions are vetted through my wife. But since my wife couldn't come with me (a Renaissance man is 32 percent hobo, after all), I sought guidance from a higher authority: a real-life New York fashion editor.

The fashion editor in question is named Hyla Bauer, and for someone who works in the fashion department of a glossy Manhattan-based magazine, you could not ask for a more friendly and down-to-earth kind of person. I routinely try to goad the magazine into outfitting me no matter what the story. For example, if they ask me to check out a new restaurant to see if it's worthy of this year's Hot List, I'll say, "Listen, if I'm going to get to the heart of that story--if I'm going to fit in and not look like a tatty journalist--don't you think I need a new Armani suit, Chanel watch, and a pair of Pantherella silk socks?" The answer almost always is no. But when it came to playing golf, I was able to borrow a well-worn line beloved by my wife: I don't have a thing to wear. I tried it on my editor, Ted, at which he said, "You'd better give Hyla a call."


Two weeks later a box of fresh golf duds showed up at my door. Through the magic of international courier, Hyla had given me the means--not to mention the courage--to wear an Argyle sweater for the first time. There was also: a pair of khaki golf pants, a couple of polo shirts, and some rainwear, all straight out of the Bobby Jones Collection. To round out the look, I was sent an iPhone. For my feet, I donned my first-ever pair of white leather shoes, made by the aptly named FootJoy, a company that makes a pair of golf shoes that retails for almost $3,000.

The big worry on the first day was: Do I wear my golf shoes? I didn't know whether or not to put them on in my room and then saunter through town in them, or wait until I got to the golf course. I decided to put them on in my room, and as I walked out of my hotel I felt like the golf equivalent of someone walking into a sauna in Aspen with a pair of ski boots on.

As though reading my mind, Jim Farmer's first words to me were, "You look nice." It was one of only a handful of sentences he said to me that didn't contain some version of "You're still favoring your right hand."

A most unfortunate fashion statement.

Almost everyone at St. Andrews looks nice. Almost. There are a fair number of golf pilgrims who show up in period dress. Invariably, they're American, Geman, or Swedish--I saw a group of Americans teeing off in plus-fours, which are those pants that stop abruptly at the knee and spill over foppishly around the wearers calves. The locals had a good laugh.

Funnily enough, though, it's that inflated sense of gentlemanly propriety you find stateside that's always made me, you know, hate golf. During television coverage of the Masters Tournament, when the action fades back in from a Geico commercial and they cue the intro with classical piano music as the cameraman zooms down the green and shows everyone standing there in their nice V-neck sweaters, the whole pageantry shtick strikes me as inauthentic to the point of hilarity. At actual suburban golf courses, there's something about commission-hungry salesmen pretending to be gentlemen that just rubs me the wrong way.

Well, there's none of that in Scotland. The Scots may have invented golf, but they seem allergic to pretension, which makes a good deal of sense given their affection for wearing kilts and eating sheep's heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. (It's called haggis.) Not long after Jim Farmer complimented my dress, I saw a woman practicing putting in a pair of ill-fitting jeans. Jim Farmer complimented her technique.

And yet, I love my white leather golf shoes. They look good. Period. I'm considering buying a second pair, removing the spikes, and wearing them for non-golf purposes. I'll have to run it by Hyla, of course. In the meantime, I think I'll eat some haggis.

<< A Few Whiffs on the Fairway | What Did You Shoot? >>



Lookin' slick, Schatzy.

What did you shoot?

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