Fashion blog: Protection from above

Fashion Editor

Professional baseball pitchers should donate their rotator cuffs to science. Football players, we’re learning too late, are fighting the ravages of compound cerebral concussions.

So what’s physically at risk when you tee it up regularly?

The answer is skin deep.

That’s right, look no further than the mirror. It’s your epidermis that’s at risk when you play golf for a living or even a dozen times each summer. Well into the dog days of summer, we hope this advice is not too late.

Apparel marketers have joined the battle against cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, touting the UV protection in their golf sportswear (shirts specifically, but also pants and shorts). And of equal or greater importance in prevention is the pre-round slathering of sunblock.

Apparel’s performance in blocking harmful UV rays is judged by ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), a measure similar to sun protection factor (SPF) numbers used to differentiate sunscreens.

The highest possible UPF rating is 50+. If the UPF number is inverted, a consumer can gauge how ultraviolet rays pass through a garment: A shirt with a UPF of 30 allows 1/30th of the sun’s harmful rays to pass through the surface.

For most performance or polyester golf shirts, the UV protection is a consequence of fabric construction because of the knitting process. Most cotton shirts, especially pique knits, can’t
be knit as tightly as fine-gauge polyester, meaning the cotton product is more porous to the sun’s rays and requires a chemical application before it’s labeled with UPF properties.

Adidas ClimaCool golf apparel, shirts and pants, has UV protection of 15+, although garments in colors other than white test closer to 50+. Nike Dri-FIT UV for fall ’07 has UV protection of
30 UPF. Nike only labels products with UPF of 40 or above.

And even then, a hangtag will indicate UPF 30. Greg Norman Collection’s performance pieces, under the names ML 50 and 2-Below, offer UV protection in select styles up to 50+.

Most of the active apparel and golf sportswear leaders conduct rigorous tests to determine howUPF factor holds up through repeated laundering and exposure to sunlight. Nike, for instance, will do initial pre-wash readings for UPF, test wash a garment multiple times, send it to Florida for 100 hours of sun exposure, then bring it back to its Oregon headquarters for retesting. Only if it sustains a high enough UPF rating upon retesting will Nike label it as UV protective, according to a representative of Nike Golf.

The SPF number in sunscreen is determined by dividing the minutes it takes a person’s skin to burn wearing sunscreen by the minutes it takes to burn without the sunscreen.

So if you burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen, you’ll burn in 150 minutes while wearing SPF 15 sunscreen.

If you’re going to play golf from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., apply sunblock before you go out when the body is still cool, and reapply at the turn. As for the amount to use, here’s a phrase to remember: “With sunblock or cream, a little dab won’t do, but a shot-glass full will see you through.”

And there is one great protective accessory that is often overlooked: a cap or visor goes a long way toward covering the head and face.

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Robert Lohrer is Golfweek’s fashion editor. To reach him email

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