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Modern classics: Catching up with Holderness & Bourne

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If you haven’t heard of Holderness & Bourne, well, for one thing, you’ve missed a couple of our gift guides. We’ve lauded the Rye, New York-based apparel manufacturer on more than one occasion for making some of the best polos in the business.

H&B, not surprisingly the product of two men named (Alex) Holderness and (John) Bourne, is quickly establishing a reputation for classic styles in tailored fits using modern materials. In addition to both performance and cotton polos, Holderness & Bourne makes sweaters, vests, bags, and other accessories.

I spoke with Alex Holderness about the company’s growth and what’s next.

BA: We first spoke a couple of years ago, but things have really taken off since then. Tell me about the growth.

AH: It’s been a great few years for us. We’ve basically tripled the past few years. We’re now stocking more than 150 clubs around the country and some great clubs abroad as well. We’re seeing traction for the brand; we’re seeing momentum. A lot of people like the concept of the brand, which is classic style with a more modern approach to fabrics and fit…and it’s working, so we’re trying to grow carefully based on that.

BA: What did establishing traction look like for you?

AH: It’s been steady all along. There wasn’t a point where the tide turned and things started to get good when they weren’t good before. But it is tough to get traction in green grass, and we feel very fortunate that we were based in New York…early in the history of the brand, we landed Winged Foot…Greenwich Country Club and a few others in the area really early on…So we were very lucky…because traction in green grass for brands like us is driven by perception, so if you can align yourself as a brand with the better clubs and public facilities around the country it can be very favorable. A lot of times, it results in people…calling us, because they’ve heard it [our apparel] did very well at Winged Foot or some other club. So that’s our general approach to green grass.

We’re not snobs about it by any means. It’s not like we have some grand strategy to only stock the top 100 clubs. But we care a lot about making premium products and being a premium brand. As a results of that, we are a natural fit for higher-end facilities, whether they’re public or private. We’re not going to ever be the cheapest brand in the shop, and we’re not going to be on clearance for 70 percent off…we’re very careful about what we’re building, and as a result of that, having these relationships with facilities around the country has been really helpful for us…and it’s helped us generate momentum in terms of getting inbound inquiries.

But it has taken a while. We’re four years into this thing, and it’s a day-by-day, year-by-year process..It’s not like we went out and raised $5 million in investor capital. We didn’t go out and try to be an overnight success…and get into every club. We only raised a small amount of capital, and we’re trying to kind of bootstrap: make great product, sell it, then use those proceeds to broaden our assortment. We want to add additional categories and get into more clubs every year, but it takes time.

BA: Can you talk a bit about your core consumer and how you’re appealing to him in ways that maybe other brands weren’t?

AH: My business partner John and I are both guys in our late 30s, married with kids and all that, but young enough to want a cleaner, more modern fit without sacrificing the classic look. We just knew that the combination of fit and style that we had in mind would resonate with plenty of guys, because we started out looking at this whole thing from the customer’s perspective. We also wanted to put some real soul into the brand, creating something very authentic within golf, because we didn’t always feel we were getting that as customers buying golf apparel in the past.

BA: Can you talk a little bit about the balance between e-commerce sales and green grass?

AH: Green grass has been the focus for us so far, but it’s a nice overall split. I think these days any relatively new brand needs to have a website where their customers can reach them directly, but for us the relationships we have with the clubs and public facilities that stock our brand are certainly just as important. Those places are the real stewards of the game and golf culture, and our brand has proven to be a strong fit for them.

BA: You’ve been pretty selective in your marketing and messaging…can you talk about that?

AH: We’re just kind of old school about it. We don’t care to shout about the brand or pay a bunch of money for marketing and PR. Our thinking has always been that if we focus on designing and manufacturing excellent products and get them into the right people’s hands, the brand will grow nicely as people tell their friends about the brand. We also put a huge emphasis on customer service for that same reason. We want people to have an excellent experience with us, even if that involves solving a problem for them, and that approach has been a good one so far.

BA: Talk about Roberto Castro wearing your wares, as it were…

AH: We are really proud to have Roberto onboard as a brand ambassador, and he’s become a great friend of ours as well. He found out about us a couple years ago by reading a piece about new golf brands on the blog Red Clay Soul, and reached out. We weren’t looking to sponsor tour players, but we got to know him and realized that he is the perfect guy to have out there representing the brand. He’s a big family guy, humble and low-key, and he just let’s his game do the talking, all of which we admire. And the guy has got tons of game. He made it into the field at the U.S. Open again this year, so we’re headed out to Shinnecock next week to cheer him on.

BA: Speaking of the Tour, apparel is in an interesting and dynamic place, isn’t it?

AH: Definitely. We think it’s great that there are a number of new brands out there pushing things forward, and it’s not a winner-take-all market. Things are certainly competitive, but brands both within and beyond golf are becoming more niche, which helps customers find the ones that specifically work for them. We don’t really pay a lot of attention to the apparel game on tour specifically, to be honest. We care just as much what’s going on out on the mid-am scene, where a lot of guys who obviously aren’t getting paid choose to wear our stuff simply because they like it better.

BA: Beyond deliberate growth, what’s on the horizon for H&B?

AH: We’re now stocking more than 150 pro shops around the country (and abroad – Sunningdale in England and Toronto Golf Club up in Canada have picked up the line), so we are excited about that momentum. For 2019, we’ve got big plans to expand our apparel collection, with a broader range of shirt fabrics and styles, some very cool layering pieces, and more premium accessories such as belts, hats, and bags. As designers, we really feel like we’re just getting started.

BA: Thanks, Alex.

You can find Holderness & Bourne on the web here.

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  1. Simms

    Jun 8, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Nothing is better then the original Ashworth line of golf shirts, extra room in shoulders and a little longer sleeve. Greg Norman still has some that have the extra room. I still have a couple of the higher priced Ashworth that are past their prime but the fit is just so good and the quality was there (not the ones you buy today for $20 to $30)

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Apparel Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Linksoul golf apparel

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Product: Linksoul golf apparel

Pitch: From Linksoul “Linksoul is more a philosophy than a brand. More of an experience than a clothing company. Linksoul is the collective life’s work of people who care about each other and enjoy collaborating. We believe in creating products we value, with the people we love, for the good of our families and our community. Our roots are in golf. We descend from a long line of golfers, craftsmen and artists. But now we fill our time with many interests, including surfing, skiing, hiking, yoga, travel, cooking, parenting, dog walking…We believe that these everyday practices teach us the most about ourselves.”

Our Take on Linksoul’s golf apparel

Linksoul, whose mantra is “Tempus Fugit” (Time Flies), primarily provides golf clothing made to be just as appropriate and comfortable to wear on the course as off of it. The company has a range of different types of polos, tee-shirts, shorts, and pants available, but it was a button-down shirt from the company which I was most intrigued to check out.

Right off the bat, the brand’s Anza Heathered Button-Down shirt impressed with its ultra-soft fabric. To complement that softness, the shirt is wonderfully light and boasts an excellent fit. The length of the shirt sleeves is ideal, so you won’t need to keep fidgeting before and after each shot, and the comfort and fit combined gives you that added flexibility in your swing. The collar fits naturally the moment you put the shirt on and marks the clear quality that went into its creation.

It seems many are on the fence about whether button-down shirts on the course are for them (I was one of those!), but my take now is that they are the ideal summer shirt on the course. In the heat, comfort has to be the number one priority, and the button-down structure gives you so much more air. With Linksoul’s Anza button-down you’ll experience maximum breathability.

Linksoul offers the shirt in six color codes (White, Black Heather, Tidepool Heather, Ink Heather, Dark Gray Heather, and Dawn Heather). For $80, considering the caliber of the shirt, the only gripe I could make is that there aren’t more exotic colors available!

The brand’s Boardwalker Shorts are another piece of apparel that I found to contain the perfect blend of comfort and quality, as well as looking great. The shorts contain a four-way stretch fabric which gives you a plethora of flexibility during your swing, while the weight of the shorts I also found to be on point. The shorts are lightweight but not so much as to take away from the durability and quality of the shorts.

 

There is plenty of mobility on offer with the Boardwalker Shorts, while I also enjoyed that the shorts are a classic style length and sit right at the knee.

You can choose from eight different color codes (Black, Chalk, Khaki, Dark Gray, True Black, Bronze, Navy, Army, and River), and the shorts retail at $76. With their no-fuss look, high quality, and a clear focus on comfort, Linksoul’s Boardwalker shorts offer everything you’d want in a pair of golf shorts.

For those that prefer to play solely in trousers, you’ll be glad to hear that the company provide the same product in a pant style—the BoardWalker Pant.

There’s a huge amount to like about the apparel Linksoul is offering up, and at prices which are extremely reasonable considering the quality provided. Their site Linksoul.com offers a multitude of polos, button-downs (in both short and long sleeve), shorts, pants, and tee-shirts. If high-quality adaptable golf apparel is your thing, then it’s a company well worth checking out.

 

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Apparel Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Air Jordan ADG golf shoes

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Product: Air Jordan ADG golf shoes (available at Dick’s and Golf Galaxy). 

Pitch: Via Jordan: “Jump up the leaderboard in the Nike Men’s Air Jordan ADG Golf Shoes. Famed for its incredible comfort and lightweight feel, the ADG features a Zoom Air unit for responsive cushioning and an integrated lacing system for a secure, supportive fit. The Integrated Traction pattern offers you enhanced grip on every terrain and the signature Jumpman logos give you extra style on the course.”

Our take on Air Jordan ADG golf shoes

Confined to the feet of Keegan Bradley for years, the iconic sneaker brand seems to have proof of concept in the golf space, as evidenced by the growing roster of tour players (Pat Perez, Harold Varner III), and numerous retail offerings.

We got to test one of said retail offerings: the just-released spikeless Air Jordan ADG. Now, the Jordan style may not be for every golfer (can’t imagine them catching on in Tuesday morning senior leagues across the nation), but if you like the look of Js on the court or street, you’ll love the look of these. Indeed, you’ll probably love the look of all Jordan offerings for the fairway, as the company has done an excellent job of bringing its aesthetic to golf, rather than the opposite (if that makes sense…tacking the Jumpman logo on a pair of saddle shoes was never going to work).

So, appearance wise, the elephant print leather upper and other signature brand elements look great (and the translucent sole is an awesome touch). However, when it comes to golf shoes, particularly of the spikeless variety, we’re always concerned about stability during the swing (both in terms of contact with the ground and within the shoe internally) and appropriate support/comfort for the five-plus mile trek that is a round of golf.

On both of the aforementioned fronts, these shoes are superb. You can feel the comfort and support the instant your heel hits the Jumpan Golf logo on the insole, and the shoes do everything you’d ask a spikeless shoe to do on course. Highly recommended; we look forward to seeing what his Airness’ cordwainers come up with next.

A look at the white colorway, via Jordan, below. 

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Apparel Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Callaway Golf Apparel

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Callaway apparel?

Yes, apparel, seriously.

Go ahead you can admit it, as will I. When you think of Callaway what generally comes to mind is hard goods golf gear, things like Epic Flash drivers and Chrome Soft balls. Personally I never really thought too hard about their apparel before, BUT one encounter with the lineup and I can assure you that when you think of Callaway you will think of shirts and apparel being as high on your must-try list as Apex Irons.

In the golf apparel game, there are a lot of players. From boutique brands geared towards the extreme high end to more “value” offerings that hit the mark on price but have almost no chance of holding up over a full season of use. To gain traction and find your “zone” as an apparel company you have to separate yourself, whether it be through distinctive cuts, patterns & designs, fabrics, quality, or finding the right ways & places to distribute. For Callaway Golf Apparel whatever combination of these they are doing, they are doing it very right! From quality to distribution, they are crushing it. Seriously!

How much are they “crushing it” you might ask… How about to the tune of over 690 percent year over year. Yes, that’s NOT a TYPO – 690 percent! Thanks to a glowing Q1 report (something you can easily access since they are a publicly traded company) Callaway’s apparel is leaps and bounds ahead of where they used to be for a number of reasons:

  • High-quality fabrics
  • Great cuts
  • Attention to detail

Since this is a spotlight on the apparel, I’m going to focus on my favorite pieces in the line – the polos. As I have said before there are a few things I look for in a nice golf shirt; overall fit (this dad bod has still gotta look good on the course), style choices, and quality fabric — I’d rather spend a bit more money for a classically tailored well-made shirt than something that is inexpensive but won’t last five cycles through the wash.

The highlights for these shirts are in the variety of options, the quality fit, and little extra details that allow these to be placed alongside some of the most recognized brands in off-course retail and pro shops around the country. Sleeve length is perfect and comfortable — no need for the old shoulder hike before every shot. The fabrics have stretch but not too much that the shirt feels flimsy, which a big no-no for me. Flimsy fabrics and poor seems are the typical issue with very value friendly brands but there’s none of that here! The collars don’t have stays but the way they are designed, cut, and reinforced keeps them looking firm and right where they should be.

Last but not least, Callaway’s full lineup of apparel has a huge selection of sizes for both men and women to make sure no matter your measurements you can find the outfits that fit your shape so you can feel comfortable on and off the course. If you don’t have access to a retailer you can shop their website.

 

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