The 2016 Ryder Cup will be held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. And unlike at standard golf tournaments, where the players can wear their own outfits, the Ryder Cup features team uniforms. The American team's official outfitter, Ralph Lauren, recently unveiled this year's designs.
— PGA.COM (@PGAcom) August 29, 2016
— PGA.COM (@PGAcom) August 29, 2016
Pretty straightforward golf attire, right? But let's take a slightly deeper dive and examine five things to know about the Ryder Cup uniforms:
1. You won't see any maker's marks. If you were watching the recent US Open tennis tournament, you probably noticed that the Ralph Lauren logo was pretty hard to miss on the ball boys' uniforms. Ditto for the recent Team USA uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Rio Olympics. But although Lauren made the Ryder Cup uniforms, you won't be seeing the company's logo. The logo of the team's official cap supplier, New Era, also will be absent. Why? Because the golfers all have their own endorsement deals with various manufacturers (Nike, Under Armour, etc.) and can't be seen wearing the Lauren or New Era marks. So the Ryder Cup is one of the few remaining corners of the sports world that doesn't feature lots of corporate sportswear branding.
2. This is the first time the uniforms are available for sale. Perhaps even more surprising than the logo situation is this: Authentic Ryder Cup attire has never been offered for sale until this year.
"Prior to 2014, the captain would always choose the uniform supplier," said Michael Quirk, senior director of merchandising and licensing for PGA of America. "So in 2010, it was Corey Pavin, and he chose Peter Millar; in 2012, it was Davis Love III and Ralph Lauren; and so on. That basically didn't allow for the creation of an ongoing retail program, because there was no continuity, no consistency."
Ralph Lauren was retained as the American team's official outfitter in 2014, with a long-term deal that runs through 2020. But authentic gear was not offered at retail in 2014. "There was still a little sensitivity about selling the exact players' uniforms," Quirk said. "There was the thought that those should be reserved for the players." So the 2014 retail versions included the Lauren logo and in some cases the letters "USA" were swapped out for Lauren's "RLX."
But this year the merchandise line will be exactly the same clothing that the golfers are wearing. "If Phil Mickelson is out there and gets a stain on his shirt during the second hole, we can go to the merchandise tent and get him a new one, and it'll be the same exact thing," Quirk said.
3. The captain and his wife help to create the designs. Tradition holds that the Ryder Cup captain's wife is involved in shaping the team's look. That raised an interesting situation this time around, because this year's captain, Love, was also the captain of the 2012 team, so he and his wife, Robin, have been through the uniform process before.
"In 2012, I did pretty much all the men's clothing myself, with a little bit of Davis looking at pictures at home and giving feedback," Robin Love said. "But this time, he's been much more hands on with the guys' stuff. We went to the Ralph Lauren offices in New York in the summer of 2015, and they had lots of patterns, sketches, fabrics and shirts for us to look at, which was great. It made it much easier."
Davis Love focused more on the uniforms from a golf performance perspective. "We wanted to make sure the clothes are comfortable for the team to walk, swing and spend a full day in, even in inclement weather," he said. "But uniform designs also promote team unity and pride. The Friday pinstripe pants have a USA logo on the pant leg, there are stars and stripes incorporated into the camouflage design on the knit and outerwear pieces and even an American flag etched onto the back of the belt buckle that the team will wear all week."
Ralph Lauren is also making the clothing that the golfers' wives will wear, and Robin Love is particularly excited about a new development on that front: "Whatever bottom the guys are wearing, the wives can match it. If they're wearing navy pants, we have navy pants or navy shorts. If they have a red and blue striped shirt, so do we. That's new. The wives have never been coordinated with the guys like that."
4. And speaking of the captain ... Up through 2012, the Ryder Cup captain wore the same clothing that the golfers wore. But this year, for the second consecutive time, the American captain will have his own uniform. "2014 was the first time we did that, with more of that distinguished look," Quirk said. "It was a question of, 'Do we want to be like MLB [in which the managers wear the same uniform as the players] or like the NFL [in which the coaches have their own attire]?'"
No photos of the captain's attire have been released yet, but you can get a sense of the look from these sketches.
For 2nd consecutive Ryder Cup, Team USA captain (Davis Love III) will wear separate uniform, distinct from players. pic.twitter.com/YxojbteXrF
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) September 12, 2016
5. Party like it's 1999. No discussion of Ryder Cup uniforms would be complete without a mention of the bizarro shirts that the American team wore in 1999. Widely ridiculed at the time, they've now become something of a "so bad, it's good" sentimental favorite. Could something like that ever be revived, or at least used as the inspiration for a similarly bold design?
"That shirt did its job because everyone talked about it, and now we're still talking about it 17 years later," Quirk said. "A current-day version of that shirt? It's definitely possible."
Robin Love said those shirts generated a lot of attention -- not all of it negative -- back in the day. "I can't tell you how many called us after that Ryder Cup and said, 'Can we have that shirt? Can we have Davis' shirt? Is it for sale somewhere?'" she recalled. "Sure, it was crazy, but when everybody's wearing it, you really don't worry about it too much."
Something to keep in mind for future Ryder Cups down the road.
Paul Lukas writes about uniforms for ESPN.com. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.