Stephen Malbon needed to find a new group of friends.
The creator of Malbon Golf has been a fan of the game since he was 12, but because his buddies had no interest in the sport, he gave it up for many years.
He returned to the game as an adult — even taking a job as a caddie during college so he could golf for free on Mondays — and “got obsessed again.”
Although he played on and off over the years as he moved around the country for school and to launch his creative agency, golf was always in the back of his mind.
But it only became a business when he began posting about the sport on Instagram. It didn’t take long for his golf-hating buddies to tell him to stop and he realized “golf has a bad reputation,” he said, particularly among young people. “Everyone said, ‘We don’t care about golf, please stop.’”
So to spare his friends from having to check out posts about courses and equipment, he created a new Instagram account, Malbon Golf, where he could indulge his passion without the pushback. Soon after, he realized he had amassed a following among other golf enthusiasts who enjoyed the five to 10 images a day he posted of “classic to obscure weird golf stuff,” he recalled with a laugh.
The seed of a business was planted.
“My wife said, ‘I think we have something here,’” Malbon said.
Since launching his company in 2017, Malbon and his wife Erica have managed to build a brand that straddles the world of traditional golf and street style. As it describe on its website, Malbon Golf is a “lifestyle brand inspired by the game of golf.”
He explained: “It became obvious that there was room for a golf brand that wasn’t stuffy.”
In the past few years, it has partnered with such larger companies as Nike, Dockers, Spyder, New Balance, Budweiser and Wheels Up and developed a following among “creative, stylish and active people” who are attracted to a line with “unmistakable branding and playful curation.”
The line has been seen on everyone from Justin Bieber to Travis Scott, and its two retail stores on Crosby Street in New York’s SoHo and in Carmel, California, in the shadows of the legendary Pebble Beach links, are popular spots for golf aficionados and others who are drawn to its distinctive logo — a cartoon-link golf ball partial to bucket hats — and nontraditional apparel and footwear.
“We actually did everything backward,” he said. “We developed a community and an audience first and then saw what they needed.”
The brand started with hats and then moved into polos and other golf-skewed items such as quarter-zips that could be worn on or off the course. Today, it offers a range of polos, shorts, chinos, hoodies and other traditional silhouettes in non-traditional patterns.
Although neither of the Malbons had worked directly in fashion, both had an entrepreneurial bent. Erica Malbon founded The Now, a spa and massage parlor, and her husband started Frank151, a creative agency that worked with clients including Toyota, ESPN, Coca-Cola, HBO and Nike and also published a streetwear-skewed magazine of the same name.
The goal of Malbon Golf, he said, is to introduce young people to the sport and one of the best ways is through fashion. Although he’s worked with a lot of different brands, he said the most successful collaboration to date has been with Beats by Dre. Together, they created a small speaker that could be placed on the dashboard of a golf cart and helped introduce the brand to a new customer segment.
Now it’s time for Malbon to launch a new line that pushes the envelope again. Called the Yacht Club Collection, it is inspired by both his love for the water and the sport of golf.
In his dreams, Stephen Malbon and his family are sailing around the world on a yacht, making stops at different locations to disembark and shoot a round. “And you have to wear clothes,” he said. “You need linen polos and seersucker suits and button-up shirts.”
As a result, the offering will include seersucker shirts, linen blazers and pants, linen bowling-style shirts, cardigans, knit vests, graphic pocket T-shirts and polos, along with hats, golf bags, towels, head covers, passport holders, duffels and even toiletry bags and a floating key chain. Prices will range from $42 to $395.
“It’s more of a lifestyle collection for people who love to golf,” he said. But it can also be worn on the course. “There’s nothing to say you can’t play in a linen shirt,” he said.
To promote the collection, which comes out on Tuesday and will be sold on the brand’s website and at its two U.S. stores, Malbon has tapped former pro golfer Jesper Parnevik, who is known for his eclectic and colorful fashion choices, and his daughter Peg to appear in the campaign, which was shot on a boat as well as on a golf course.
“He used to wear a cycling hat on the course and ties with vests,” Malbon said. “He really pushed the envelope.”
So Parnevik fits squarely in Malbon Golf’s wheelhouse. And it just may serve to bring the line to another level.
As Parnevik put it: “I love Erica and Stephen and what they’re doing in golf, but I didn’t join them to influence what people wear on the course — been there, done that. I actually think they can change the world.”