A decade ago, Bunker Mentality was founded with the goal of putting new twists on the sartorial traditions in the game golf. Since then, the brand from Nottingham, England has brought a new vibe to the fairways with dynamic colors, aggressive graphics and a strong attention to detail. Along the way, Bunker Mentality has excelled at offering seriously stylish threads, while maintaining a sense of humor and not taking itself too seriously.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Bunker Mentality’s Brand Creator, Robert Hart, about the inspiration behind the brand’s New Dress Code for the links, his favorite pieces in the soon-to-be-released Spring 2015 Collection and the best ales to drink when the clock strikes five on Friday afternoon.
What was your inspiration for starting Bunker Mentality?
Some 10 years ago, I happened to pick up a now defunct magazine called Bogey at an airport. This was a very different style of golf magazine, as it was created by snowboarders and surfers. It showed that other types of people were actually keen golfers.
This gave me the idea of creating a modern golf brand that was similar in spirit to the surf brands and focused on ‘lifestyle’.
I played a lot of golf as a kid, growing up in Scotland, and my father was the original ‘golf addict’ so I think the brand existed in me as a way of playing, long before we launched the clothing. I grew up in Glasgow where ‘style’ was, and still is, a way of self-expression and escaping the every day norm. As a youth, clothes were always very important – it was ‘your look’ and you spent a lot of time on it. It allows you to be aspirational and style is a matter of self-expression. It’s really not done for the benefit of anyone else. It’s your mentality! So style is a key influence, but not the ‘argyle’ jumpers, but something much more modern and with a different spirit and attitude, a Bunker Mentality.
How has that inspiration and vision evolved over the years?
The inspiration is still very much the same. We work to create Modern British Golf with an additional focus on ‘life style’ as we see it. This is what makes us different. We take inspiration from street wear and fashion, which is all about creating your own style. Golf is such a great game with a strong history of cool players dressing well to play the game and we don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t embrace this and make a statement about style.
In the last 5 years, the brand has evolved into thinking more about outfits. If you are going to a wedding, you think about the suit you’ll wear, the right shirt to go with it and the shoes with the formal tie framing it all correctly. We think like this when we are designing new collections. Coordination is important today as it is about looking and feeling your best to play the game…in your style.
Some readers in the US may not be familiar with Bunker Mentality. Who is your target market?
In broad terms, people who want a sense of personal style both on the course and throughout their life, whether they are taking their kids to the park, shopping with the wife or going down to the pub.
Our customers love golf and also enjoy our golf inspired ‘casual wear’ such as graphic t-shirts or Club House polos, all making a clear statement about our love of the game.
For me, how someone dresses is a good indication as to how much they still want out of life and our customers still want a lot! Our customers tend to range between 25 to 48 years old. They may have responsibilities but they still want to ‘live life young’.
Men who are 40 years old think of themselves as 30 years old. They run, workout and enjoy physical strength sports such as cycling or circuit training. However, they are clear that golf is an important part of their lifestyle as it still allows them to meet with friends and have a round on the course and in the bar. All of this makes them individuals who still want something out of life and it is all about making the effort. Bunker Mentality provides that effort and sense of style.
There is a section of your website called the “New Dress Code”. What is the “New Dress Code” according to Bunker Mentality?
The ‘new dress code’ is about dressing well and with style to show you are still a player in the game of life. Our clothing has a strong modern and fashion forward spirit that can be worn from the ‘first tee to last orders’ at the bar. Why create clothing that looks like you should only wear it on the golf course? So the reason we have a ‘new dress code’ is to make it clear that the world has moved on and the old dress code is out of date. No more knee-high socks when wearing shorts or argyle-patterned jumpers. The NDC section also helps give a little guidance on how to create outfits that work well. Style is always important.
You have a unique ambassadors program that is open to real golfers. Tell us more about that.
Since day one, we have had people of all levels of ability ask us to sponsor them. We began to send out a few shirts but pretty soon it became unsustainable. Also, we discovered that people like to get things for free, but in general do not value these things.
We created the ambassadors programme to allow us to manage these requests in a more structured way. We believed it was important to have people pay for the gear as that would demonstrate their real interest in the brand.
Each ambassador gets a page of their own on our website on which they can blog and post pictures of themselves wearing Bunker Mentality. This has been tremendously successful as last year we got around 750 applications for around 30 positions.
Just to be clear, this is not about ‘free gear’. This is about being part of the Bunker Mentality team. They wear their gear with pride and respect, and become fantastic ambassadors for the brand. They are a lot more than another customer. They are integral to spreading the ‘Bunker Love’.
You’ve been sharing some images in social media of your upcoming 2015 Collections. What should we expect from Bunker Mentality over the next year? What are a few of your favorite pieces?
Next year we have, in my opinion, our best collection yet. It offers some core fundamental pieces for new Bunker fans, product with all the fashion interest that people love from us, but showing a cool and understated look.
We then have our largest technical collection as we have enjoyed huge growth from warmer regions over the last 2 years. There are some really special pieces in the Cmax Collection. My favourite pieces are the Bunker 5’O Hawaiian polo’s and the Racing Stripe Cmax Polo’s. These are great Bunker garments — full of colour and self belief and make a superb statement about our Modern British Golf style.
Next year is already a very exciting season for us as we have agreed to a sponsorship deal with, in our opinion, a real stylish British golf pro. He loves his clothing and was all over the collection when he visited our showroom to discuss the deal. Unfortunately, my lips are sealed until January 1st but he is going to be terrific for the brand and a really exciting addition to the team
Those that follow you in social media know that Fridays usually end with an image of a pint at the pub. What are the beverages of choice for the Bunker Mentality crew at the 19th hole?
Yes, we do love golf but we also love our British ale. We have a great pub about a mile from the office and it’s on our way home so we stop off and have a couple of pints just to close off the week. It’s not a big session. Just a couple for ‘beer o’clock’ and then its off home before the curry is delivered.
We are a Nottingham brand and, therefore, our favourite ale is Castle Rock, a local brewer, which has some great beer and great pubs. Other fine brewers are Adnams from Southwold and Innis & Gunn up in Edinburgh. These are what you would call ‘craft beers’ but over here we call them ‘real ales’ and we really enjoy many different styles and flavours.
Which pieces from the Bunker Mentality collections transition especially well to the pub?
Well, that’s an interesting question as I personally use what I call the ‘pub test’ on every Bunker garment. Our style is to create clothing that goes beyond the course so I ask myself ‘could I go to the pub in this shirt’? If I think yes, then it’s ok. It goes in the collection. We cannot create garments that look like traditional golf gear, so all our gear needs to pass this test. However, I am a t-shirt junkie, so all of our crew neck graphic t-shirts are fantastic for the pub or the 19th hole.