One of the more surprising conversations last year in the golf industry was about leggings and hoodies on the golf course. When it comes to fashion, does pop culture have a place in golf?

We sat down with Marty Hackel, known as “Mr. Style,” an acclaimed golf fashion stylist to discuss what’s currently trending in the golf space.

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.

Alyson Johnson: I just want to know what is your take on pop culture and golf- does it fit and how does that work with the traditional side?

Marty Hackel: There’s too much conversation about hoodies and leggings. I mean, let’s get real. So why should we have to put on some costume that’s acceptable to someone who lived 25 years ago, that isn’t relevant today? I love hoodies. I wear leggings in the gym. I think those things are perfectly acceptable and it frustrates me that people, on the one hand, want to make golf more inclusive and then, on the other hand, create all of these rules.

Adam Grubb: You said there’s too much conversation about the topic that you have had a storied career in. Is this good for the game, is this not good for the game? At the end of the day, there is no uniform for golf- in some cases, required clothing but there’s no uniform, you could and should wear what you want. What is new, what is happening, and trending that people are upset about that you love?

Marty Hackel: There’s this whole controversy about, “does it have a collar? If it doesn’t have a collar, it’s not acceptable.” Nike and Cutter & Buck, 25 years ago, created something that’s called a “mock” neck. I’m having a very, very hard time with a design that, I think should be very acceptable, that is a “mock,” that’s a “pretend” collar. I think people should be allowed to wear collarless shirts when they play golf. I’m not saying they should be wearing heavily logo-ed, heavily printed cotton t-shirts- that maybe is going way too far. But I think a plain white shirt is perfectly acceptable. It was perfectly acceptable for Byron Nelson when he won 11 tournaments in a row. And he was a pretty elegant and sophisticated guy. I asked him once if anyone ever objected to him wearing a t-shirt, and he looked at me like I had three heads and he said that no one ever said a word about it.

Alyson: One of the things that you know keeps women from getting in the game is they feel uncomfortable going to the course. They don’t know what to wear, what to do. So what do you recommend for guys and girls getting into the game? What are the basics that they should have?

Marty Hackel: I think good taste is the best sort of guide here. I think when in doubt, you make a phone call or you look it up and you find out what the ground rules are. With a little bit of research, you can save yourself a lot of heartaches. So I believe that people should be comfortable, I think you should be allowed to play golf in reasonable clothes. Sometimes, these shorts on the LPGA tour get a little bit short; but to me, wearing a shirt that has eight logos on it is way more unacceptable- because they look like a billboard. They look like a race car, and you know they’re terrific golfers. Just be a golfer. Keep it simple.

Adam: The main question that I have is very simple: what is your job? Alyson said that you are responsible for the fashion on the PGA and the LPGA Tour and that you’ve been working with golfers for years. What does that mean? Do they call you and say, “what should I wear tomorrow?”

Marty Hackel: It means that my role in life is to help other people look as good as they can and look to be as confident as they can possibly be. When they look good, they feel good, they play good. I have a bunch of ground rules. For example, one of my key ground rules is- if you have to stand in front of the mirror for longer than 10 seconds, just go change.

Alyson: One of the things that I think is really interesting for people is, what we sometimes take for granted is the behind-the-scenes stuff. Let’s talk about when someone’s on-site at the PGA Championship, and they walk into that merch tent and there are so many options. How do those brands get selected to be a part of that merchandise town- whether it’s the US Open, or the USGA or PGA Tour, or the PG of America. What’s the general scoop on that? 

Marty Hackel: All of those venues are run like a retail store, where there is a merchandising team and there are people that are selecting the products that are going to be placed in that store. In most cases, the governing bodies for each of those tournaments invite people to make a proposal to present their merchandise. It costs them something to sign up and to fixture the area and then they have the responsibility of staffing it and helping sell the merchandise. So,  there’s a little bit of a process and that’s someone making judgments on what will be appropriate, what will fit a proper void. I’m not always certain that that’s selected with style in mind, or with a price point in mind. It’s usually selected by those that want to pay the most, have the best chance of getting in.

Adam: The latest in golf fashion is that there are no rules, except that the only rule is that there’s a lot of rules. There seems to be so many different fashion rules, specifically that you have to know and learn. There’s a lot of athletic brands that are coming into the merchandise space, that are bringing their athletic apparel into the golf world. You’re seeing a lot of cross brands now that have not been in the golf space forever, all of a sudden in the golf space. Is that exciting to you to see new, up-and-coming brands hit the market?

Marty Hackel: Absolutely, it’s terrific. And perhaps you are referring to brands like Under Armour or Lululemon. Lululemon is now available at a lot of golf clubs and if you turn on the television on Sunday you will see various tour players wearing Lululemon. I think it’s great because it’s functional apparel, it’s apparel that’s technical enough that it allows you to perform to your best ability. I’m always amazed when people tell me that if they wear a slightly larger shirt, that will allow them to swing their clubs more freely and I always say, “well let’s look at the Olympics. Do you think those sprinters wear baggy pants because it allows their legs to go faster? I don’t think so.” And then people say “well, what about the NBA?” And I say to them, “well, let me tell you something I’ve been in an NBA locker room and underneath those very baggy pants, they have very snug athletic bottoms. So, go change.”

Watch the full interview here to learn more about Marty’s thoughts on Adam’s “zippies,” as well as other trends he wishes were more popular in professional golf.

Key Takeaway: Dressing your best helps not only your confidence but also your game.