In the 1880’s, Jefferson Howard was the 42-year-old son of a freedman who had made a name for himself as a chic fashion designer among the well-to-do. Jefferson was a good-natured soul, grateful for his station in life. He had established himself as a top fashion designer of men’s formal and leisure wear in New York City, with an impressive list of clients.
He generally had no qualms with white people, especially those who were decent and respectful. One of few exceptions was the leisurely pastime of golf. Howard thought it was a silly game with senseless, obscure protocol and rules that, like tennis, were made deliberately difficult. He also saw it as an awful waste of land; not to mention the time and effort required for maintenance. Howard had grown up on a farm and equated open land to potential for nourishment. And if that wasn’t enough, he’d had a few unpleasant run-ins with golfers and considered them snobby elitists.
But in an odd twist of fate, one of Howard’s top clients, Richard P. Thompson asked him to design golf attire for the “modern” golfer of the late 19th century. Thompson’s family owned the Sycamore Sportswear Company, one of the biggest and most successful of its kind. Thompson saw an opportunity to capture a growing market of wealthy whites who golfed devotedly on weekends. The sport had originated in Scotland; with the traditional wide-cut pants in checkered patterns and the flat caps could still be seen occasionally.
This gave Howard an opening to create some outlandish clothing styles that golfers still wear to this day. In later years, Howard admitted “Those people behaved like buffoons, so I thought it was only right they looked the part.”