The Masters: Green with envy

What makes the Masters Green Jacket the most desirable piece of clothing in sport, wonders Kevin Markham

The Masters: Green with envy

Here are eight facts about the famed garment.

The origins

It was Bobby Jones who introduced the Green Jacket to Augusta National.

During a visit to Royal Liverpool he saw club captains wearing red jackets and, upon his return to Augusta, agreed with Augusta co-founder Clifford Roberts that they would introduce a similar jacket for all members. The ‘Masters Green’ is Pantone 342, which was chosen to match Augusta National’s fairways. However, the colour of the jacket has changed over the years due to a change in manufacturers and tailors. As a result the Green Jacket has many different hues.

If the cloth fits

Hamilton Tailoring Company, in Cincinnati, Ohio, makes the actual jackets and has done so since 1967, but the component parts come from Connecticut (custom brass buttons), North Carolina (breast pocket Augusta patch) and Dublin, Georgia (the jacket’s tropical-weight wool).

Each jacket takes four weeks or so to make and requires two metres of fabric. The approximate cost to make a jacket is $250 (€203)… although they sell for far more than that (see 7 below).

The Masters champion

The Green Jacket has been awarded to the Masters champion since 1949 (won by Sam Snead), although the nine winners of the earliest Masters (1934-1948) were awarded jackets retrospectively.

Augusta National members began wearing them in 1937, the objective being that visitors would know who to approach when looking for information… although the jacket also signposted who was to receive the bill when members hosted guests in the clubhouse. Today there are roughly 300 members. This does not include all former Masters champions who are honorary members. The Green Jacket remains the winner’s personal property, but apart from the current Masters champion, no-one can remove the jacket from Augusta National.

Jackets are stored in a designated cloakroom. A golfer who wins multiple times uses the same jacket… assuming it still fits. Six-time winner Nicklaus first won in 1963 and won for the last time 23 years later; that’s a long time in which to keep your body in perfectly identical shape. Not that it mattered in Jack’s case…

Jack’s missing Jacket

When Nicklaus claimed his first victory in 1963, the jacket Arnold Palmer slipped over his shoulders was far too big.

“It was like an overcoat. It just hung on me,” Nicklaus later quipped. That should have been corrected by the time Nicklaus returned in 1964… only it wasn’t. There was no correctly sized jacket in his Augusta locker. None too bothered, Jack simply borrowed the jacket of Thomas Dewey, the former governor of New York… and continued to do so. Even after his back-to-back victories in 1965 and 1966, he was not fitted for the famous attire. Dewey’s jacket continued to be borrowed for the Champions Dinner, until 1972. Nicklaus won for the fourth time that year and decided that rather than causing a fuss he would have a jacket made himself. Hart, Schaffner & Marx made it for him but it was neither the right material or right colour so Jack reverted to borrowing jackets from members.

It was only in 1997, 11 years after his sixth and final victory that he told Augusta National’s chairman, Jackson Stephens, that there was no Green Jacket with his name on it. Jackson was horrified and told Nicklaus to get correctly fitted… which he did. Finally, at the 1998 Champions Dinner, Nicklaus wore his own bespoke jacket, 35 years after he first won at Augusta.

Donning the Jacket

In the earliest days, the winner was helped into his jacket by Bobby Jones, but when Jones was confined to a wheelchair following spinal surgeries in 1948 and 1950, the tradition changed and it became the honour of the previous year’s winner to present the Green Jacket to the new champion. Only three golfers have ever won the tournament back-to-back: Nicklaus, Faldo, and Woods. At the winner’s ceremony, Nicklaus put on his own jacket, while both Faldo and Woods were helped into theirs by the Augusta National chairman.

Eyes on the size

Consider that Nick Faldo (6ft 3”) presented Ian Woosnam (5ft 4”) with the Green Jacket in 1991, and you’ll appreciate that this is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Augusta National keeps several jackets of various sizes stored on site and, as the leading golfers battle it out at the end of the final day, officials select the most appropriate jacket sizes for the potential winners.

One wonders at what stage someone realised Jordan Spieth’s jacket might be needed on Sunday. When Patrick Reed was helped into his Green Jacket it is not the one he will keep — he will be custom-fitted at a later date — but he will wear it when he appears on the Jimmy Fallon show in the coming days, something that has now become a tradition for the Masters Champion.

The ‘lost’ Green Jacket

In April 2017, a Green Jacket was put up for auction. Little was known about the garment’s history, other than that it was purchased from a thrift store in 1994 for $5 (€4) and that it dated back to the 1950s. Was it, people asked, even authentic?

The owner’s name, which is attached to each Green Jacket, had been removed so proving such authenticity was a challenge. Augusta National Golf Club confirmed the jacket was indeed authentic but refused to answer questions on the original owner’s identity.

That made little difference to the bidding war that followed. The opening bid was pitched at $5,000 (€4,059). Thirty-five bids later it was purchased for $139,348.80 (€113,126.59). Sounds a lot, doesn’t it! But that’s peanuts compared to Horton Smith’s jacket. In 2013, relatives found the Green Jacket won and worn by Smith in 1934 and 1936. It was tucked away in a closet. They put it up for auction and it fetched €682,229.45 (€553,748.36) — a record price for golf memorabilia.

The Krispy Kreme conundrum

Only the current Masters champion can remove his Green Jacket from the grounds of Augusta National. Not only is it one of the most distinguished and distinctive items in sport, it may also be the most exclusive. What a surprise then for the staff at a Krispy Kreme drive-thru when Phil Mickelson drove up wearing his Green Jacket after winning the 2010 Masters.

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