Originally created 04/09/04

Camp shirts hit courses

The polo is the golf equivalent of a doctor's white lab coat.

The ubiquitous golfing uniform has moved over the years from the links to the streets, but now a clothing trend is moving from the spectator stands to the golfing greens.

The bowling shirt, now known by the more genteel name of camp shirt, has been seen on spectators for years. The brightly colored, and often wildly decorated, button-up shirt is gaining popularity with both weekend warriors and professional golfers who want to stay comfortable while expressing their creativity.

"The golf market has stayed so stagnant and sterile for so long that they're embracing and welcoming newness and freshness and innovation," said Lucio Dalla Gasperina, the vice president and co-founder of Tommy Bahama, a luxury tropical-inspired clothing line.Clothing designers pull out all the stops when it comes to camp shirts. Tiki prints, martini glasses, 1940s pin - up girls and classic cars – just to name a few popular motifs – jostle for space across a landscape of loose cotton, linen and, yes, polyester.

"I think we've all seen every style of polo available on the golf course," said Patty Nast Canton, the president, CEO and designer for The Nat Nast Co ., "but I think someone who really wants to be a little bit of an individual puts on a camp shirt."

Mr. Gasperina contends that individuality has sparked a surge in camp- and bowling-shirt sales, which has made them a more common sight on golf courses around the country.

"Because the industry wanted to bring it to the next level or to add some excitement and sizzle to it, you know, they kind of found us and golfers found us and our shirts are cut a little fuller, they're easy to move in, they're very comfortable, they're stylish," he said from his Seattle office. "It's not the traditional American red, white and blue cotton polo."They wanted something a little more fresh, with a little more pizzazz."The camp shirt, an updated version of the bowling shirt popularized in the '40s by Ms. Canton's father, Nat Nast, is not for the timid because it often comes emblazoned with wild patterns, colors or even a history attached literally.

Ms. Canton said embroidered camp shirts from The Nat Nast Co. often are designed around a specific story, such as a golf hole, fishing hole or pitching mound. The company makes the shirt a conversation piece by including the shirt's history and story when it's sold.

"It is a lifestyle brand and, you know, our guy is really not a bowler, although it is inspired by the post-war 1940s bowling shirts and camp shirts," Ms. Canton said from her offices in South Norwalk, Conn. "I think a lot of it has to do with the personality of the golfer. They want to be a little different and make a little bit of a statement."

The shirts, which range in price from about $20 at discount outlets to more than $100 for luxury brands such as Tommy Bahama and Nat Nast, appeal to a more relaxed attitude both on and off the greens, Mr. Gasperina said.

"Whether someone could actually live the lifestyle to its fullest or just, you know, a barbecue on the weekend or a Friday afternoon or a weekend on the golf course," he said. "That was kind of our mission."

Reach Erica C. Cline at (706) 828-2946 or erica.cline@augustachronicle.com.


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