Significance of the ‘Red Jacket’

13/11/2015

Red jackets have been worn by golfers since the earliest golfing societies were formed in the 18th century, and very probably beforehand. Such jackets reflected the standing of the wearer – ie. a gentleman – and were worn for other status pursuits such as hunting. They also emulated military uniform, with many gentlemen golfers serving or having served as officers in the armed forces. Finally, as golf at that time was played on common ground, used for all sorts of activities from racing to drying washing, the red jackets also warned other users of the links that golf was being played, and therefore to keep an eye out for flying balls!

With the formation of golfing societies in the mid-18th century, red [and very occasionally blue] jackets became a club uniform that members were expected to wear, on the course and particularly when dining – a major part of early golf society life; members could be fined if not properly attired on such occasions. Clubs tailored their jackets with buttons bearing the club crest or with collars of different colours and materials. As earlier, the jackets reflected their place within the club, community and society. The use of this ‘uniform’ declined in the mid-1800s, with jackets largely only worn for dining and latterly – as remains the case today – only by the captain for ceremonial occasions.