Gimme shelter: outerwear sheds its extra layers

Something’s missing from this year’s fall outerwear: bulk and cookie-cutter styling. Gone is the suit of windproof and rainproof “armor;” new fabrics have produced sleeker, more efficient outerwear.

This is not about cutting the sleeves off a rain shirt to create something “new.” Advanced fabrics–some of which are created by bonding a nylon shell, waterproof membrane and wicking liner into one material layer–have eliminated the need for a jacket’s extra flaps and billows. The advancements have touched nearly every side of the outerwear market, putting a little heat into the Adidas Golf-Nike Golf rivalry, causing Greg Norman Collection and Ping Collection to invent new outerwear categories and forcing venerable companies like Sunderland of Scotland to do some soul searching.

Paul Sunderland, president of Sunderland of Scotland, said his new GT Pro and GTL Pro collections give the company a place to keep up with fabric technology and modern styling. Both Adidas Golf and Nike Golf are creating performance pieces with sporty hooks true to their heritages. TaylorMade-Adidas, in fact, spotlighted new ClimaShell outerwear as one of its brightest growth opportunities in last week’s year-end results.

Add teflon or polyurethane coatings to the mix, as Nike Golf and Adidas Golf do this season, and it’s easy to confuse water-resistant windshirts with waterproof rain suits that also keep out the cold. Those lines will continue to blur, said Michael Stein, Greg Norman Collection’s head of design. The pipeline of fabrics now available in golf outerwear–including Greg Norman Collection’s new polyester knit wind and rainwear pieces–are the tip of the iceberg of high-tech change that will transform the whole market, Stein said.

It’s not far off when a simple polo will also be a rain shirt and cold-weather piece. “The things being developed now for outerwear are just amazing,” he said.

Ping Collection is taking its new high-concept outerwear offering to the top, literally. The Perry Ellis International-licensed line is offering a limited edition rainsuit for $1,000–several hundred dollars higher than other green-grass shop products.

The collection will have 50 rainsuits for sale by special order, starting April 1, of the 600 made this season for the company’s touring pros. It took PEI more than two years to develop the suit, crafted from Sympatex waterproof membrane, with cuffs shaped to shed water away from the club’s grip, and an adjustable collar to prevent dripping down a golfer’s back. The result, the company said, is “the ultimate golf piece.”

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