Free Your Game
If we were playing a word-association game, and I said Kensington Market , what words would come to mind? Hippies? Big Fat Burrito ? Vintage? Hipsters? Whatever your psyche, I doubt that the word you'd offer up would be "golf." Nevertheless, shopkeepers Rachael Tate and Jeff Walter brought their golfwear emporium Free Your Game to the Market this year, where their fancy wares are bringing in the curious...and those who've been waiting for a store like this all their (golfing) lives.
The Nycole St-Louis set the tone for the whole store. These handmade golf shoes ($250) hail from Montreal and come in a rainbow of lollipop shades. They boast things like toes of shiny gold, cherry-red, and snakeskin, and come in patterns like neon-green crocodile print and black-and-white polka dots that made me wish I had a green on which to strut 'em. (And, considering my abhorrence of most sporting activity and the attire that goes with it, that says a lot for their supreme stylishness!)
The select models lounging on their pillars are typical of the tiny, bright-white store with its small selection of hard-to-find golf-y things for the fashionable set that are colourful, fitted, and slick, rather than the uptight golf ensembles and accessories of the past. (The graffiti-splashed exterior--done by Slon and Bacon--helps with the hip factor, too.)
Tate says that she likes to buy as close to home as possible, and carries a surprising number of Canadian brands, such as the Ottawa-based Triple Bogey . The line's soft cotton polos feature eye-catching images not usually sported on the back-nine like a group of golfers silhouetted at twilight, or one busting a club over his knee in frustration ($46). The store also carries some hard-to-find brands like London's Bunker Mentality ; the shirts ($120) are a North American exclusive, and include interesting colour combos like orange and brown houndstooth.
There are a few sleeveless tops in sherbet shades from Canadian lady lines like Lela Designs ($80-$100) and Oom ($60), both of which work in eco-friendly organic cotton and bamboo (This is a common theme over at Free Your Game, which is starting up an eco-friendly golf consultancy, and has a fledgling "urban tree farm" outside the store.)
Chicks who wanna look stylish while wielding their clubs are better off peeping the accessories on offer here. These include candy-coloured Iomic high-performance grips in yellow, teal, red, and fuschia ($16-$18), cool-looking black golfballs from Golf Refugees ($36 for 12), and super-soft leather gloves ($45) in chartreuse or purple by Hattie Smart .
"We are the new golf!" says Tate. And, she said, people have been digging it so far. With the couture colours and cuts on display here, it's enough to make me believe--Kensington locale and all.