In the world of upmarket golf apparel, Peter Millar is a household name. It counts PGA TOUR players such as Brandt Snedeker, Chez Reavie and Harris English – and dozens of others – among its cadre of brand ambassadors. But what separates a $100 golf polo from less expensive alternatives? It’s a reasonable question and one we tend to hear a fair bit – particularly when we venture into any conversation with equipment or apparel that reasonably qualifies as expensive.
A good bit of the answer is a preference, though there are some substantive stylistic and material differences to highlight. Now, whether those distinctions make any difference to you – is well, entirely up to you. Score one for consumer demand and free choice.
This brief overview focuses on several pieces in the 2021 line. However, its luxury performance sportswear division is a relatively recent add-on for the brand that started as primarily a semi-formal menswear company. But we’re not here to talk about blazers and cardigans. What’s clear is that Peter Millar’s golf apparel maintains continuity with its decidedly luxe approach to the apparel and accessories market.
Stylistically, I’d classify Peter Millar’s approach as bold but not loud. It’s clean and classic but with enough variation to stand out. Just enough. It’s a fine line when you want to be noticed but not exude obnoxiousness. It’s a bit of a tightrope act, which Peter Millar handles with admirable dexterity. If you’re looking for wild patterns, neon colorways and something to match your Aunt Elda’s curtains, Peter Millar ain’t it.
Included in its 2021 collection is a series of lightweight apparel, which Peter Millar believes gives golfers a more robust menu of choices for a variety of playing conditions.
Solar Cool Performance Quarter-Zip
The Solar Cool Performance Quarter-Zip is a lightweight quarter-zip with “innovative performance yarns that reflect infrared rays producing a two- to four-degree cooling effect on sunny days and a clean, classic sportswear aesthetic.” We haven’t tested performance apparel and specific claims around temperature management, but at the very minimum, it’s an intriguing proposition.
At the risk of over-sharing, my engine tends to run a bit hot. If anything, I’d rather be too cold than too warm. The last thing I want when I’m playing golf is a layering piece that feels like I’m wearing some Sherpa adventure gear. Also, if I’m going to drop $150 on a quarter-zip, I want to be able to wear it. A lot. The basic, solid colors provide ample versatility and, frankly, this is the type of pullover I’d wear the hell out of until it gets consistently above 60 degrees.
Hyperlight Fuse Vest
As the name implies, Peter Millar bills the Hyperlight Fuse Vest as a more technical piece. Again, citing Peter Millar’s marketing materials, the vest is ergonomically engineered from lightweight four-way stretch performance fabric with a wind and water-resistant front panel. It features 40 grams of interior insulation, a welded chest pocket with integrated logo, two-way zip front, hand pockets and a streamlined style for on- and off-course wear.
Translation: It’s a nice-looking vest that should help keep you reasonably warm and dry if the weather gets a little dicey.
The vest space is divisive. Meaning, it seems to me some golfers love vests while others loathe them. Generally, I steer clear of insulated vests simply because they make me look poofy in a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man sort of way. Admittedly, that’s more of a “me issue” than anything. However, the Hyperlight Fuse Vest fits more like quarter-zip sans sleeves. That bit of extra room allows me to indulge in several additional pints of ice cream and still comfortably layer a polo underneath.
At first glance, I thought the camo print was, well…a bit much. But in person, it’s far more subtle than it might appear on the website or in a catalog. As an added bonus, it provides some cover if you happen to hit your tee shot into the woods and need to pull out the ol’ foot wedge.
According to Peter Millar, its featherweight polo is lighter than your favorite T-shirt, features UPF 50 sun protection and antimicrobial four-way stretch fabric. It comes in a variety of custom prints with vibrant hues.
My take: This is Peter Millar letting its hair down a bit with a polo that has a very specific use case, i.e. when it’s super freaking hot. In fact, the first time I put it on, my thought was, “Is it possible to be both naked and clothed at the same time?”
This is the polo Peter Millar would suggest you wear when it’s borderline too hot to play golf but you need something that adheres to the bare minimum dress code requirements. To help mitigate odor retention, the featherweight polo also uses antimicrobial fabric and for the first time in Peter Millar’s history, offers UPF 50 sun protection. If you’re not familiar with UPF, a rating of 50 means that the fabric blocks 98% of the sun’s rays.
A word of caution. If you’re a male with robust body hair, thin fabric is not your friend. Seriously. If you have dark, coarse body hair, I’d be extra cautious with this featherweight polo or any lightweight/sheer polo. There’s nothing worse than stepping up to the first tee looking like a well-dressed Chia pet.
Dollar Bills, Y’all …
OK, we have to talk price. If you were to take a database average of every piece of golf apparel sold throughout a year, Peter Millar would certainly be more expensive than the majority of options.
Some golfers go full-on Jerry McGuire freak-out mode when they see a $98 price tag on a polo that, on the rack, looks like the $65 one next to it.
I hear ya. A couple of truisms …
First, the existence of higher-priced products doesn’t preclude the availability of lower-priced alternatives. So, before you grab your pitchforks and light the torches, no one is forcing you to drop $100 on a golf shirt or $170 on a vest. But it is an option.
Second, sometimes a price is indicative of quantifiable distinctions in quality, features and/or benefits. That said, whether those differences make any difference to you is ultimately the real difference.
It’s not an oxymoron. I’d contend that value and cost aren’t mutually exclusive. And in the case of Peter Millar, this is an integral part of the story. Beyond the aesthetic, two often discussed benefits of an upscale purchase are fit and durability. By using more advanced textiles, designers can create apparel that is more likely to retain its shape over longer periods of time. Functionally, this means a shirt you purchased in the summer of 2020 will likely look, feel and wear the same in spring of 2021. I get that might come off as a bit salesy. But, speaking from experience, cheaper apparel simply doesn’t last as long. Especially if you tend to read care instructions are more a suggestion than an absolute rule.
Once a shirt gets stretched out or starts to suffer from bacon-collar, it’s pretty much game over. Again, I get that this might not matter to you. Then again, that’s the beauty of preference and a market that provides myriad options at various price points.
Also consider that plenty of golfers shop based on a “that looks good, give me two” mindset. If they like it, they buy it. And they probably buy more than one. Whatever cost difference, it’s marginal and it isn’t going to impact the final decision.
Softgoods present unique challenges in terms of assessment. Shirts don’t have MOI values. And we don’t put pants on a launch monitor to record ball speeds and launch angles. At least, I don’t believe so. As such, the category tends to lack the type of quantitative analysis we like to use in order to produce definitive statements around performance. However, as with almost any good or service, there are varying degrees of quality. And golf apparel is no exception. Some products are simply better than others.
At a minimum, top-end apparel should include four-way stretch fabric, some level of sun/UV protection and anti-odor technology. No doubt plenty of other brands list similar features and technologies as key selling points. As always, there’s some nuance involved. Some manufacturers opt for spray-on anti-bacterial coatings as opposed to technologies that bake it directly into the fibers. Some companies offer UPF 30 and others offer better UV protection.
Ultimately, the golf apparel seesaw still favors preference over performance. That said, perhaps the pendulum is working its way back to the middle.
All that aside, Peter Millar doesn’t pretend that what it offers will appeal to every golfer. However, Peter Millar believes it offers an entire package for the golfer who doesn’t mind spending more and wants all the technical benefits of performance apparel but prefers a more traditional look.
As always, tell us what you think.