If you were to ask someone to draw a golf shoe, they’d likely conjure up an image of a dress shoe. The pronounced heel, the stitched welting, the rich leather and thin laces in all. Throw on some spikes, and then for the finishing touch, an FJ logo.
Celebrating its centennial this year, FootJoy has been around so long that its monogram logo has become a symbol of the sport itself. These days, its shoes are being hyped up not just by country club regulars and tour professionals, but by a young and diverse crowd who have recently taken to golf. Leaning into this momentum, the brand is pulling off collaborations, or Energy releases, left and right. From streetwear golf label Metalwood Studio, to fashion savant Jon Buscemi, to menswear evangelist Todd Snyder and eyewear craftsman GLCO, none of them can get enough of the Massachusetts brand’s latest creation: the Premiere Series.
FootJoy’s traditionally styled shoes have gone through a number of evolutions. In 1989 the brand launched DryJoys: its full-grain leather, tour performance golf shoe. 20 years later came the ICON which offered a wider range of colors and customization options. The ICONs were discontinued in 2014, right around the time that the golf industry seemed to collectively decide that saddle shoes were out, and athletic looking golf sneakers were in. But in 2021 the Premiere Series arrived as a successor to the DryJoys and ICONs, and just like that FootJoy announced that the classic leather golf shoe was back.
Three silhouettes initially made up the line, the Packard, Tarlow and Flint, each getting its name from FootJoy forefathers. The brand has continued to refine this selection, replacing the Flint with the Field and adding a fourth silhouette this year, the Wilcox. Each is a different interpretation on the classic dress shoe, playing around with decorative perforations, toe-caps and saddle sections. And although the brand has experimented with sneaker-like options such as the HyperFlex, the Premiere Series is now very much the FootJoy shoe.
For our deep dive on FootJoy, Hypegolf spoke to a range of designers, creatives and otherwise sartorially inclined golfers to get their perspective on the brand.
100 Years of Heritage
How does a brand stay relevant for 100 years? In simplest terms, by refusing to compromise on its core ethos and values, allowing it to ride the wave of public opinion. When it comes down to it, FootJoy isn’t doing a whole lot different now compared to what it was doing 30, 60 or 90 years ago.
The key is that FootJoy makes quality products for its core following: the golfer. “The Premiere Series isn’t tennis, it isn’t basketball, it isn’t baseball, it’s a golf shoe,” says Brad Gehl, a former pro golfer who has since shifted his focus to golf course architecture. “I mean there’s not a lot of flair, it’s just a rock solid shoe. That goes back to the heritage part where FootJoy is maintaining their classic identity and then letting the fashion cycle work around it.”
“The Premiere Series isn’t tennis, it isn’t basketball, it isn’t baseball, it’s a golf shoe.” – Brad Gehl, Former Pro Golfer
From FootJoy’s point of view, choosing their collaborators intentionally ensures that it doesn’t alienate the people who have stood by the brand for so long. “That goes back to the root of Metalwood and Cole Young,” says Gehl about the founder of Metalwood. “He’s an authentic golfer. He grew up loving the game and he grew up playing, so everything that he does is coming from that soul of the game. And that’s where FootJoy as a brand is maintaining its heritage aspect.”
The New Rebellion
How can FootJoy, a brand that is synonymous with the old guard of golf, feel current at the same time? For many the epitome of golf-meets-streetwear is the Jordan golf shoe. When those first began arriving on the scene it was a statement to wear a shoe designed for basketball and rock it on the golf course. And for many it still is.
But there’s something equally powerful in taking something from another time and place, in this case FootJoys, and reappropriating it to take on a new meaning. These days, wearing FootJoys can show you’re keeping up with trends just as much as wearing the latest retros from Jordan.
“I never thought I would live to see the day that there would be ‘hype’ for a golf shoe.” – Drew Westphal, Co-Host of Group Golf Therapy Podcast
The brand is aware of this too. It’s actively speaking to this growing segment of the golf community by collaborating with those aforementioned brands. Drew Westphal, a content creator and co-host of the Group Golf Therapy podcast, says that “Seeing FootJoy collaborate with those brands you mention has been revolutionary for them and us as consumers. I never thought I would live to see the day that there would be ‘hype’ for a golf shoe.” Meanwhile, Andrew Haynes, who serves as creative director for the social golf platform Fairgame, says that “it really shows you that the brand isn’t just aware with what’s happening in golf, they’re embracing golf’s new vibe.”
Not all collaborations come off as authentic, but what has allowed FootJoy’s to land is the freedom they give their partners to lead the messaging and creative direction. In that sense, it becomes a win-win for both sides. FootJoy borrows the cool factor of a Metalwood, and Metalwood in turns gets all the exposure and marketing force from one of golf’s most deeply rooted institutions.
The Tiger Woods Effect
Arnold Palmer, Payne Stewart and Adam Scott are just a few of golf style icons who have worn FootJoy through the years. But it was a certain global athlete breaking from his contract with Nike that gave the Massachusetts brand one of its greatest successes ever. Returning from the injuries he sustained in a 2021 car crash, Tiger Woods walked onto the hallowed grounds at Augusta National for the Masters Tournament. On his feet were not the Nike TW 13s or the Air Zoom 20s, but the FootJoy Premiere Series Packards. It was a surprise, to put it mildly, given Nike’s insistence on its athletes wearing the Swoosh head-to-toe. But the GOAT does what he wants.
Why the switch? It was less of a fashion statement for Tiger, and more of an adjustment to the limitations of his body as he recovered from his injuries. “I needed something different,” said Woods at the Masters press conference. “Something that allowed me to be more stable and that’s what I’ve gone to.” Regardless of the intention, the brand got the stamp of approval from possibly the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of spikes, and he did it at the most watched tournament annually in golf.
The Number 1 Shoe in Golf
Shoes that look like your grandfather wore them might be on trend right now, but ever since the year World War II ended FootJoy has been the most worn shoe at every single PGA TOUR event. It’s also been preferred by the likes of Brad Gehl.
“When I started playing, it was such a classic silhouette that made me feel like I was going to shoot under par just by lacing them up,” he says. “It was a golf shoe for a golfer in the most specific sense of the word. Whereas a lot of different brands were out there making running shoes and then they make a golf shoe, FootJoy was the one brand that’s making golf shoes and that’s their core identity.”
“When I see a guy wearing a cleated white pair of shoes that are meant to look like sneakers instead of golf shoes, I don’t get much out of that.” – Cole Young, Founder of Golf Apparel Brand Metalwood Studio
Gehl captures a sentiment that is shared by others like Cole Young, whose collaboration with FJ was almost universally well received. What they admire about the brand is its lack of pretense. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. And from Young’s perspective, there’s a certain swagger in dressing to honor golf’s traditions, but making it better. Think properly fitting pants and polos, thoughtful layering and of course a fly pair of shoes. “When I see a guy wearing a cleated white pair of shoes that are meant to look like sneakers instead of golf shoes, I don’t get much out of that,” says Young. “I don’t get that you’re an influenced person that listens to interesting music and is interested in art and knows about the best wine bar in Los Angeles.”
Given that Young’s brand is inspired by the golf style of yesterday, FootJoy represented the ideal collaborative partner. He continues: “Having grown up playing golf and loving FootJoy shoes, it’s the golden standard, right? It’s the ultimate, the number one shoe in golf. When that offer came across the table it was not something that we had to reconsider or consider in the first place. We just knew that this is the definition of a true collaboration, to tip your hat to this golden era of golf where people got dressed to play golf instead of wearing yoga clothes.”
Bringing the Energy
The timing of FootJoy’s Energy releases has been well calculated, with each of them coordinated to land at key moments in the professional golf calendar. The Metalwood collab was released the week of the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, part of the West Coast Swing. Picking up on that theme, the brands decided on a snakeskin saddle section and a campaign that screamed Clint Eastwood westerns. The following month at the Players Championship in St. Augustine, Florida, FootJoy renewed its partnership with Buscemi where the two released a shoe that evoked snapping Florida turtles with a spotted neck midsole print. And then ahead of May’s PGA Championship Todd Snyder was called on once again, this time bringing boardroom confidence to the Premiere Series with glitzy patent leather.
Each time, FootJoy maximized the exposure for its most exclusive releases, and in doing are creating a bridge between the fashion and competitive side of the sport. Or as Neil Tan, founder of the brand Public Drip described it, “connecting the new wave of golfers and reigniting existing golfers who appreciate style and function.” Celebrating the Metalwood x FJ collab before the Genesis Invitational, a party was held in Los Angeles at Metalwood’s storefront, located in one of the city’s trendiest shopping districts. That night, a collection of creatives, musicians, artists and otherwise unconventional golfers intermingled with FootJoy representatives over burgers and beers. The next day, FJ ambassador Will Zalatoris arrived at Riviera Country Club to find the limited edition pair waiting for him in his locker. Metalwood Studio x FootJoy? He just discovered his new favorite brand.
Looking to the Future
When you go to a golf course today, you see people wearing adidas, New Balance, Nike and Jordan golf shoes that look like basketball, tennis and running shoes. All of them have all been styled after another sport and then updated to make them more functional for golf. Likewise, FootJoy’s classic silhouette is essentially a dress shoe that has undergone the same process of retooling. But there’s nothing about it that’s more inherently true to the sport.
The question becomes, what is the new golfer going to prioritize? Do they care about looking like the golfer of the past if they don’t have a frame of reference for what that entails? Perhaps they want something that looks more like what they wear on an everyday basis. Maybe they can’t justify buying a golf shoe if they’re only playing a handful of times per season. And they may not buy into the idea that wearing a traditional golf shoe gives them any sort of performance advantage over a normal sneaker. These will be the factors that determine what type of golf footwear people are wearing for the next 100 years.