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Fashion blog: Tiger in transition

By ROBERT LOHRER
Fashion Editor

It has been said before about apparel marketed under the marquee names of Michael Jordan and Greg Norman. So Tiger Woods and Nike Golf are not entirely on new ground.

The logic goes something like this: When the superstar in question reached a certain age – say, 30, 40 or 50 – his taste in off-the-course (or court) sportswear would change in concert with his evolving fashion sense and lifestyle. So his eponymous apparel line had to keep pace on the design front.

With that in mind for spring 2008, Nike Golf has introduced TW Platinum. It’s positioned at a significantly higher price level than most Nike apparel and likely will be limited in distribution to retailers whose customers won’t wince over items with price tags well above $100.

The TW Platinum collection breaks ground with “no-sew” technology that reduces weight and bulk in places like plackets, sleeves and collars, and gives the simple knit shirt a sleek, modern look. In slate and gunmetal grays, it’s meant to have a look of sophistication that borders on club wear – and by that, we don’t mean the country club.

Using high-tech knitting machines, where complex computer programs choreograph how the needles dance, TW Platinum will have patterned shirts that lack the weight of traditional jacquards. In other words, if you turn a traditional knit (with a complex pattern) inside out, it looks like the frayed upholstery on a frat-house couch. But the TW Platinum shirts, inside and out, look like they arrived from someplace in the future.

And they’re futuristically priced with the Platinum wind pullover at $140 and Platinum jacket at $210. Long-sleeve polos range from $110 to $140, and there are bonded outerwear pieces from $160 to $300.

Just as it was said about Jordan and Norman, it’s fair to consider that Tiger’s tastes have changed. As he seeks to maintain his dominance over the next several years, he also is moving into a role as the game’s ambassador and statesman. Not only is he at the apex of his playing prowess, he’s a new father and an emerging course designer. Chronologically, he’s a young guy, but golfwise he’s in rather limited company.

People unaccustomed to the idea that golf sportswear could be fashion- or design-driven may have raised eyebrows when Calvin Klein Golf launched earlier this year. But that was really almost overdue, considering Polo Golf has been built around the design aesthetic of Ralph Lauren for nearly a generation.

There’s no less emphasis on design at Nike, albeit with the stated intention of performance. Moreover, you could swap out the creative, design and merchandising staffs on Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., campus with any 7th Avenue fashion leader and the résumés of the staffs would be hard to distinguish.

The difference, of course, is that Nike’s staff will be supplying all of this innovation and fashion to the world’s most visible athlete.

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Robert Lohrer is Golfweek’s fashion editor. To reach him email [email protected]

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