A couple of years ago I visited the PGA Merchandise Show for the first time in Orlando. For those who have never been, it's a pretty impressive display of what the golf industry has to offer in just about every category. All of the major manufacturers have extraordinary booths that rival some of the best retail storefronts you will ever see. Interestingly enough, one of the brands that I came away most impressed with was a small, unassuming booth. It was from an upstart golf apparel brand named State Apparel.
Recently I got a chance to try out their competition pants, which is their flagship product meant to be played in less-than-optimal weather conditions. I was pretty blown away by the quality and I'm happy to share a little more about the company and its story.
A One Man Shop
State Apparel is not run by a team of people like most of us would expect of an apparel company. It's a one-man shop headed by Jason Yip. He does everything from sourcing materials, overseeing manufacturing, marketing, sales, running a physical store and a host of other responsibilities that any entrepreneur has to think about.
For 13 years Jason worked in Silicon Valley at internet startups. He helped other people realize their dreams of building their own companies. All along, he wanted to take his knowledge and apply it to one of the main passions in his life - golf.
His goal was to make something different in the apparel space that would address golfers' needs in different playing conditions. He began designing State Apparel's flagship product, which is their competition pants and shirt. His initial plan was to make something for the competitive golfer and get proof of concept on his idea.
Jason approached some of the top competitive high school golfers in his area and started to make clothes for them based on their needs playing in Bay-Area weather. If anyone has ever been out to San Fransisco they know that conditions can range from damp, windy and cold to suddenly sunny and pleasant all in the same day.
Breaking Into the Golf Industry
After moving forward with his initial designs Jason debuted State Apparel to the golf industry. I initially met him at the 2017 PGA Merchandise show where I was impressed by his designs and the quality of his materials.
Since then he has opened a physical store location in San Francisco and started to expand distribution into resorts, pro shops, and online sales.
For the most part, Jason told me that the industry has been receptive to his ideas. It has been a little harder for him than most companies because he was a complete outsider to the golf world before launching State Apparel, but he feels confident that his products have received enough positive feedback to keep growing the company and expanding their offerings.
What makes his products very different is that everything is manufactured in San Francisco. Jason told me that this provides him a unique opportunity to monitor quality, but more importantly, keep his business within his local community. There is a large population of immigrants from Hong Kong and China who have set up manufacturing facilities that allow him to source the best materials and ensure everything is made exactly to his specs.
In short, Jason's goal is to make the best quality product out there - cost cutting is not his priority. Many apparel brands in the golf industry are using cheaper fabrics, but he wants every golfer who purchases his products to know that they are built to perform better and last longer.
What Makes Their Competition Pants Different?
Recently I had a chance to try State Apparel's competition pants. They are built to be worn in nasty conditions. Their website recommends them for use in "55 degrees and below. Rain, mud, and wind." Many people describe them as the best pants to take on a trip to places like Bandon Dunes or Scotland. To my knowledge, I have not seen a pair of pants out there that are designed for these conditions. Most golfers resort to wearing an extra layer beneath their normal pants or slipping on their rain gear when the weather is colder and damper.
The competition pants are built with a thicker layer of performance fabric that keeps you warm and offer water resistance. They also have some extra functionality that I have not seen before. The pockets and cuffs around the feet are lined with a material that allows you to wipe excess dirt and moisture from the golf ball or your club.
This video gives you a visualization of how it works:
For the past month, I have gotten a chance to try out these pants for the opening rounds of my spring golf season. The weather has been downright miserable in New York, and I mostly have worn them in conditions ranging from 45-55 degrees.
What initially struck me about the pants, and what I think is their strongest feature, is how warm the interior lining is. You can immediately tell the difference once you slip them on. There were times in the round where I actually felt a bit toasty after walking up a couple of hills. Usually, I would wear a layer of Under Armour tights on a day like that, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that these pants will keep you warmer than your normal golf pants. As a bonus, you can slip your hands into the pockets to keep them warm.
From a design perspective, I think the pants are really sharp. The fabric looks great and they fit perfectly. My main complaint with many of the mainstream golf pants is that they fit awkwardly and aren't at all stylish. I would put State Apparel up against other premium brands in that department.
Lastly, these pants have some extra functionality that comes in handy. If your ball is wet or dirty you can clean them with the layering inside your pocket or on the side of the pants. You can also flip the bottom cuff open to wipe any excess dirt or moisture off your club before you swing. I wouldn't say the material is capable of cleaning any major dirt off the grooves of your clubs or your golf ball, but it can certainly handle light moisture and debris (like grass).
Overall, these are incredible golf pants. They look great, keep you warm and dry, and even help clean your clubs and golf ball. If you are going to be playing on those days where the weather seems to gnaw away at you as the round goes on, I highly recommend them.
They are a bit more expensive than most pants out there at $205, but I don't think they fall into the regular golf pants category. I would consider these more outerwear, and it is not uncommon to pay more money for a quality pair of rain gear or a top layer.
Smaller, Independent Companies Can Make Superior Products
I always love to come across the "little guys" in the golf industry who are making superior products. State Apparel is a great example of when you combine passion, attention to detail, and better materials you get better results.
Their line has expanded quite a bit since they first started. They have other pants available for warmer conditions and a great line of shirts and outerwear. If you're looking for an new apparel brand I would certainly check them out.
You can purchase their products and learn more about the company on their website.