Once again, Tiger Woods’ mock neck shirt sent shock waves through the golf community. En route to winning his 15th major and staging one of the biggest comebacks in sports, Woods wore a familiar non-traditional golf shirt at Augusta.
Woods first debuted the mock turtleneck style golf shirt in 2003 at the Buick Invitational. It ignited a debate on the appropriate-ness of the collar-style on the golf course. He’s continued to wear the shirt since, including at his last win at the Masters in 2005. Mock neck shirts are similar to turtlenecks but have a lower collar that is not folded over and typically fit a bit looser. It translates great into golf because the simplicity provides for a distraction-less swing, the relaxed fit is comfortable to play in and, when styled right, creates a clean and sophisticated look.
The Nike Dri-Fit shirt Woods wore at Augusta is infused with performance-ready elements that make it even more appropriate for golf. The polyester-cotton blend fabric has a ton of stretch that will move with you, but retain shape to avoid the baggy stretched-out look. A drop shoulder gives a little extra room for an unimpeded golf swing and the sweat-wicking technology allows for superior moisture management.
Mocks and turtleneck shirts are no stranger to golf. While Woods has worn the most athletic version of the style, high necks have been seen on at least three Claret Jug holders at the Open Championship. Jack Nicklaus wore a turtleneck under a sweater when he won in 1962, Tony Jacklin had a purple mock in 1969 and Gary Player, who consistently wears the collar style, had it on it holding the trophy in 1968.
Now, Woods and these players all have one major theme in common. Any style risk can be deemed successful, if you have the game to back it up. You can’t make too much fun of the guy holding the trophy, when your hands are empty.
That, of course, didn’t stop all the critics. The shirt was hotly debated throughout the weekend, with countless Steve Jobs references and anti-mock neck opinions.
The move away from traditional collars in golf has represented a relaxing of the culture of the game. Professional and casual golfers alike are showing up to the course more athletic-looking apparel, sneaker-like shoes and speakers blaring with music.
Whether Woods’ shirt choice is fueled by historical significance, style or comfort, he certainly likes the style.
“I thought it was a pretty neat look back in the day,” Woods said in a press conference before the Masters. “I was probably in a little better shape back in those days, but I had won events wearing the mock, and I just think that it’s ‑‑ I’ve always enjoyed wearing them.”
Nike has a similar top on its site marked “coming soon.”
While not technically a mock turtleneck, Woods’ also popularized the blade style collar. It’s a similar non-traditional collar look that has the same casual, cool, yet sophisticated look.