You cannot argue with the statistics. Billy Horschel is a five-time PGA Tour winner and the 2014 FedEx Cup Champion. He is also golf’s G.O.A.T. when it comes to style. Billy-Ho is in select company, joining other athletes such as Jordan, Kobe, and Jeter as those who have “three-peated.” In Billy’s case, he has topped GolfThreads best-dressed list for the past three years and earned a total of five Threadies. Not surprisingly he has great insight into golf fashion and how embracing the evolving trends can help grow the sport.
I recently had the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with Mr. Horschel. We talked about a plethora of subjects, including his longtime relationship with Ralph Lauren, designing his own FootJoys, which players top his best-dressed list, fashion pet peeves, and of course, octopus pants.
Airing Dirty Laudry
On your website, you say you are from a blue collar family and both your parents worked long hours to support you and your brothers. I assume you didn’t have limitless access to clothes growing up, let alone Ralph Lauren. What were your first memories of taking an interest in what you wore? Have you always considered yourself ‘stylish’?
“At an early age, I cared about how I looked. Things like ironing my clothes the right way. I remember when I was 12, my mom would sometimes shrink my shirts in the laundry, and I would complain. She told me to do my own laundry. So, I did. From that day on I did my own laundry.”
“We did have a blue-collar background and my parents did work hard. There were times, growing up when only one of my parents had a job so I shopped at places like TJ Maxx, JC Penny, and Dillard’s to find past season Ralph Lauren and things like that. That taught me to look for things that caught my eye and develop my own sense of style.”
“My dad influenced my style a great deal. He was a little crazy with his clothing and that probably allowed me to develop the confidence to wear something like the Octopus pants…..”
History Of The Octopus (Pants, This Is)
You’ve always been considered fashionable, but you became a legit golf fashion icon at the 2013 U.S. Open with your Octopus pants. Tell me about the first time you saw these pants and how you thought they would be received?
“The month before I had won Zurich and shortly after that victory I received a call from Kelly Broad, the Director of Marketing for Golf at Ralph Lauren. Kelly called me and said they were putting my U.S. Open look together. She asked me to wear Octopus pants. ‘No big deal,’ I thought. I’ll wear whatever they ask is how I approach our relationship. She said she’d send me a photo. When I got the picture, I realized they were actual Octopus pants! I figured they were a type of fit or something.”
“My wife, Brittany asked what I was going to do. I told her I would wear them. Originally they had me wearing them on Thursday or Friday and then asked me about switching it to Saturday. Then Kelly suggested that I move them to Sunday. I was going to do whatever they asked me to do. Fortunately, I was playing really well and in one of the final groupings on Sunday with Jason Day.”
“The pants were promoted prior to the tournament and generated a lot of buzz in the media. People either loved it or hated it. My manager calls and said that the pants were going crazy (the shorts had already sold out). She told me I was on Yahoo’s Top 5 Trending search topics. That was crazy!”
The Brand And The Ambassador
You’ve been with Ralph Lauren since 2011. How did you initially get hooked up with them?
“Growing up Ralph Lauren was “The Brand.” I would wear their sweaters to school. They were the Iconic American brand I wanted to be associated with.”
“In 2009 I was wearing TravisMathew and my manager was contacted by Meredith Bach at RLX, who thought I would be a great fit. However, the first offer wasn’t great and I stayed with TravisMathew for my rookie year.“
“In the summer of 2010, there was a change in the golf division at Ralph Lauren and Tom Nolan came on board. They offered a deal that was more what we were looking for (though not quite a Mike Trout type of deal). Which essentially meant I would be more a part of the Ralph Lauren team. That is what any golfer really wants in their apparel deal because it allows us to develop our own brand.”
Eight years is a long time for a PGA Tour Pro to stay with the same apparel brand. What is it about the relationship that has kept the two of you together so long?
“The people; we’ve grown together and have a shared vision. The entire Ralph Lauren family are great people. I was well liked and well received. Every day I wake up and pinch myself that I am able to represent Ralph Lauren and am blessed to be able to wear the brand.”
In 2018, Ralph Lauren released the RLX x Billy Horschel capsule collection and it was the first time Ralph Lauren ever did a collaboration with someone. How involved were you in the process and did you enjoy it?
“I have been involved a little in the past. Little snippets here and there. When they called about the collaboration I was over the moon. I was speechless, which doesn’t happen often, and honored to be the first person to do a Ralph Lauren collaboration. Think about all the celebrities that wear Ralph Lauren! And I was the first person they ask?”
“I was really involved from start to finish; looking at colors, accents, stripes, focusing on fit and details that made the pieces in the collection pop and stand out. And when we got to the pants, I knew I wanted to do an Octopus 2.0—since that is what really put me on the fashion map. So, we did the shorts that I wore during the practice round of the 2018 PGA Championship.”
“We tweaked some things from the original pants to make them unique, but they were still reminiscent enough of the pants I wore at Merion in 2013. I was also really excited about the digi-camo design when I saw it and thought it would look really cool on pants. We did it on the 5-pocket pants which were relatively new at the time.”
“Overall, I really enjoyed the process. It was a lot of hard work by the entire team. We knocked it out of the park, and I was thrilled by the finished product. However, I wanted to create something that I loved but also wanted to make sure it would sell. It sold well! In fact, the orders had to be re-upped multiple times, it sold so well. The collaboration exceeded all of my expectations.”
Any plans to do another collaboration?
“I don’t think collaborations will be a regular thing because that takes away from it being special. It is like the printed pants; people want and expect me to wear it all the time, but there is a lifespan on the stuff. Wear it constantly and people will get tired of it.”
RLX Meet Polo Golf, Polo Golf Meet RLX
This year you are wearing both RLX and Polo Golf. How did that come about?
“Marketing. People weren’t associating RLX with Ralph Lauren. They wanted to market both brands together and grow the exposure of RLX. Funny story, recently I was on a plane and was wearing my RLX cashmere hoodie and the guy next to me said. ‘I love RLX, such a great car!’ He thought I was wearing the Acura logo (laughs)…..”
With that many options, how do you determine your scripting for an event? How much input does Ralph Lauren have versus you being able to wear whatever you feel like wearing?
“We get scripted for every major tournament. I have veto power, but I’ve never vetoed anything. I look at it as part of my contract, it is just part of the deal to wear what they ask me to wear.”
“For most tournaments, I put together my own looks but sometimes because of the weather the Ralph Lauren team might suggest something. Other times they are just excited about a particular item and want to bring it some exposure.”
These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things
I think the RLX outerwear is incredibly underrated. One of my favorite pieces is the RLX Stretch Wool Golf Jacket. That thing is fantastic. Do you have a favorite piece of Ralph Lauren apparel?
“That Stretch Wool Golf Jacket is one of my all-time favorite pieces, too. I’ll be at a tournament when it’s cold and guys will have multiple jackets on to stay warm and I am wearing one jacket. They will ask me how I am warm enough! I wear this jacket all the time. I love it. The cashmere hoodie is unbelievable too. That’s another item I wear constantly.”
At the PGA Merchandise Show in January I had an opportunity to see Ralph Lauren’s upcoming golf collections. Many pieces to be released in the coming months bring me back to the ’90s with the Polo Golf shield and a somewhat retro feel. Earlier in your amateur career, I recall you popping your collar. Any chance you will bring that back?
“I’ve thought about it. My sponsors wouldn’t be too happy though (laughs). Ralph Lauren has offered to put the logos on the underside of the collar, so they’d be seen when popped it, but I don’t think so right now. Maybe someday. When I turned pro I had a coach tell me it was time to stop popping the collars and dress like I am a pro. I took his advice and it seems to have worked.”
You are bucking the trend somewhat on Tour by NOT wearing athletic-styled shoes. You stick with the classics. Typically, you wear a mix of FJ ICONs and MyJoys, however, on Saturday at THE PLAYERS you wore the FJ 1857 Collection. What is your take on the 1857 Collection?
“I saw the FJ 1857 last year when they were previewed at the PGA Merchandise Show and loved them! They complement Ralph Lauren’s styling perfectly, as do the Icons and MyJoys. I love the athletic style shoes and the science behind them. Flex is a great shoe, and I wear them with shorts on the range regularly, but the issue I have with an athletic shoe is how they look with the rest of my outfit, especially Ralph Lauren’s pants. I can’t get past the imagery in my mind.”
“I like to pull an old, classic look into my outfits and the athletic style shoes don’t pair well. I’ve almost created an expectation that I am going to wear a certain type of outfit and I am trying to figure out if it will work if I change the style of shoe I typically wear.”
Do you design your own FootJoy’s or do you work with someone at FootJoy to do it?
“I do design my own shoes for the most part. I work with the two FootJoy Tour reps for feedback and such. Those guys are also great to work with. I am really lucky to work with so many wonderful sponsors. Mainly I do it myself, though.”
Who are the best-dressed guys on Tour?
“Justin Thomas. He is unbelievable, week in and week out. He might have the most impressive collection of belts I have ever seen!”
“Sam Ryder. He does more of a sporty look but does it well. Recently I was busting his chops about his pants. He said, “Billy, you wore Octopus pants!” I know Rickie has worn Joggers before, but Sam does Joggers really well and should do it on a regular basis without diluting it because he looks good in them.”
“Brandt Snedeker. He does the classic southern look perfectly and probably doesn’t get enough credit for his style. His build helps him. Brandt has broad shoulders that look really good in sweaters. Peter Millar and G/FORE are a great match for him.”
“Justin Rose. I love him in Bonobos. And with their logo on the right sleeve, it leaves room on the left chest for some prime sponsorship. I think he’s waiting for something big….”.
What do you think of the current state and/or trends of golf fashion and how it can help grow the game?
“The current trends are youthful while still respecting the game and traditions. Golf allows you to wear what you want to wear. Look at the ’60s and ’70s. A good example is some of the printed pants. They are done in a way that they are really cool looking pants. They have a bravado but are still respectful to the game.”
“There are really stylish and technical jackets that help us play the game longer when it is colder out. Shoes have come a long way too. They are less traditional looking now and have so much technology.”
“Anything that golf can do to make apparel that can be worn on and off the course is good for the game and to attract people to the sport. We’ve seen the street look come to golf and golf to the street. Yet, I think it is still honoring the game, just with a different flair that appeals to a younger audience–which in turn helps grow the game. Back in the day, I wouldn’t wear my golf clothing off the course, because golf wasn’t considered cool and I didn’t want to look like a golfer!”
Finally, any fashion pet peeves?
“One of my pet peeves is that my colors need to match exactly on things such as my belt, shoes, hat. If you notice, in the past, I only wore white and black PXG hats, because I couldn’t get past the blue they offered in their hats not matching exactly the shade of blue on my shoes and belt. However, I think we’ve got that taken care of going forward. Oh, and white belts with anything other than white pants is a no-no!”