A Modern Throwback: Cole Young Calls his Own Shots
Cole Young has had vintage golf clubs in his hands ever since he was 3 years old in Carlsbad, Calif., swinging sawed off Ben Hogan Redlines that his grandfather cut down for him. Shortly thereafter, he took group lessons as an elementary school student and switched to private instruction in fifth grade. “I knew early on that I wanted to be the golf guy. That’s where I was planting my flag.”
Young remained passionate and serious about golf all the way through the junior circuit of his teenage years. And he was good, too. So good that Loyola Marymount’s then head golf coach, Alex Galvan, called him up one day during his senior year of high school and offered him a spot on the team.
Going to a D1 school to play golf wasn’t just a huge accomplishment for Young, it was serious business. At that time, he held onto to the idea that going pro was a possibility, and he was there to see just how realistic that was. But that tenacity didn’t align with the elder statesmen on his own team. “The older guys pulled me aside and told me to chill out,” Young smiles.
Whether it was that particular intervention or his own promise to himself to get the full college experience, Young’s dream of the next level faded and he ended up not playing at all by the time he was a senior.
For his entire educational life in North County, Young had worn a uniform to school. That changed at LMU. “I had no idea how to dress. I was living in L.A. and had to figure that out.” He took a serious interest in fashion as a sophomore and by the time he was a senior, he had hunted down an internship with an apparel company, where he learned sales and marketing and worked at trade shows. Despite the fact that he was no longer on the golf team, he knew there was a huge potential for a crossover with the game he loved and the lifestyle fashion world in which he was now immersed.
Confluence of Interest
In April 2017, Young was a year out of college and now on the buying side of the apparel world. Still, nothing he had seen in person or online truly blended golf with lifestyle fashion in a way that appealed to him. Then a friend showed him Malbon Golf, and everything changed.
Steve and Erica Malbon had launched the brand that Young had been waiting on for years: progressive, fashion-forward golf apparel that shattered the norm and occupied a lane worthy of its Fairfax Avenue address. And he had mixed feelings when he found out about it.
“I remember being equal parts pissed that I hadn’t thought of it myself and equal parts excited something like this existed,” he recalls. “I sent Stephen a message telling him I had to work for him.”
For nearly four years, Young played an integral role in wholesaling and marketing for Malbon Golf. The brand was growing and simultaneously leading and redefining a genre with each subsequent drop. But Young had started to scratch an itch that only became more evident as his time with Malbon Golf continued. What if he could do this for himself? What if he could launch a brand to his exact taste and liking? What if he could call his own shots? And what if people really liked what he had to offer?
Metalwood Studio started as an Instagram account while Young was still selling for Malbon. It was an unheralded side project that allowed him to post 90s golfers in baggy pleated pants and give a subtle nod to an era of the game that he adored. Blades and bargain-bin clubs were worshipped. Fred Couples was a demigod. And cord grips with the logo down were canonized.
Among the early onlookers who found this post were Young’s bosses at Malbon Golf, and they were curious about the motivation. Young was shocked. “You saw that?” He assured them that it wasn’t a brand, just a creative outlet with a logo and a name.
But then the pandemic hit, and Malbon Golf, like almost every other place in Los Angeles, shut its doors and started doing business from home. This allowed Young much more time to build Metalwood, which had indeed become a brand that was doing actual business selling apparel in the golf space. As Young barreled down a path toward a blatant conflict of interest, he couldn’t help himself. This was his passion. This is what he had to do.
His Own Empire
Malbon Golf and Cole Young inevitably parted ways. Young insists that Stephen Malbon is a mentor, not a competitor. “I learned a lot from Stephen. I know how to run my business because of him.”
In June 2020, Young was just another guy in the pandemic without a job. Metalwood was growing, but it wasn’t enough to pay the bills, so he got a gig at a production house, where he didn’t have to choose between a steady paycheck and a promising side project. He could do both.
During this time, Young taught himself how to build tech packs and use Photoshop. Metalwood, which was being run out of his apartment, began to outgrow the space. Less than a year after getting on someone else’s payroll, Young walked away and went out fully on his own. “I was done helping people build their own empires. I knew I could do it, so I was just going to do it for me.”
In just 24 months, Metalwood Studio went from an online mood board to a fully-fledged business with investors, employees and diehard fans. In early 2022, Young moved into a coveted space on La Brea Avenue, two miles away from Malbon Golf’s former location. To this day, Metalwood has collaborated with Garrett Leight, the BMW Championship, Jones Golf Bags and Skratch TV. And there are some big, unannounced partnerships coming up later this year.
Cole Young is a niche designer operating in what he calls “a subculture of a subculture of a subculture.” To look at Metalwood’s offerings is to gaze into an oxymoronic kaleidoscope. It’s high-end, yet unassuming. It’s vintage, yet it’s never been done. It’s rooted in golf, yet often has nothing to do with the game.
The brand has been predictably lumped into the streetwear category, something Young is reluctant to embrace. “That’s the bucket we get put into. Streetwear has been ruined by ‘sneakerheadism.’ People think owning something that someone else could never own is a personality trait. They think they’re from this select group because they bought something, but really, they only hang out with people who also bought the same thing.”
Metalwood’s self-awareness is often accompanied by self-deprecation where Young frequently uses his own product descriptions and Instagram captions to make fun of himself. This counterbalance is paramount in the “anti-pretentious” identity that Metalwood has established, and one that typically contradicts apparel companies occupying a similar scene.
The Hogan Redlines, the school uniforms, the college scholarship and the fashion internships have all led to this: Cole Young has built a brand to his exact specifications. And in the same way that he once waited for something like Malbon Golf, he’s now found out how many people were waiting for something like Metalwood Studio.