A polo shirt, simply described, is a T-shaped garment with a knitted collar, short sleeves, a two or three button placket and is made from a knitted fabric.But what are the origins of this knitted shirt and why is it called a “polo shirt”?
POLO SHIRT-THE BEGINING
The exact origin of the polo shirt is unknown, but its widely recorded debut came in the late 19th century in the birthplace of Polo - Manipur, India. After British Soldiers witnessed a match while stationed in Manipur, they set up the first polo club of its time.
Originally, polo players wore thick, long-sleeved shirts made from cotton. These shirts tended to be uncomfortable and too warm for the hot climate. The shirts were updated with a button down collar to ensure the collars wouldn’t flap while galloping. By 1862 the sport was introduced to England along with this early version of the polo shirt.
BROOKS BRINGS POLO SHIRT TO USA
John E Brooks, grandson of the successful US firm Brooks Brothers, came to England to watch the famous Polo matches and was drawn to how the players collars would not flap around in the wind. Upon returning to the US, he applied this button down technique to dress shirts and made one of the original polo shirt designs. By launching this iconic style, he changed the face of menswear forever.
LACOSTE’S SUBSTITUTE TO TENNIS WHITES
In the 1920s, Jean Rene Lacoste, the French seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion,looked for a more functional substitute to the ‘tennis whites’ of the day as the tennis attire was too rigid. He designed a short sleeve shirt in lightweight cotton pique which gave breath ability and is still a fabric of choice to this day.
In 1927, Lacoste won the US Championship, wearing his first design with a tiny crocodile logo, a tribute to his nickname, le Crocodile, making this the first visible sports brand in history.
Sportsmen all over took note and began to replace their traditional outfits with the Lacoste Tennis Shirt. This updated style was readily adopted for use in polo too. Polo players all over adopted the pique woven cotton shirts, particularly appreciating that the fabric allowed them to turn up the collars of the shirt to stop them getting sunburnt.
FROM SPORTSWEAR TO STREETWEAR
Fred Perry, another tennis legend, was in direct competition with Lacoste. In 50’s America, Perry's popularity ensured his polo-shirt was able to mount a genuine challenge to Lacoste's original design and it became the garment of choice for teenagers. This marked the beginning of sportswear used in fashion to create a statement.
MODERN BRANDS & POLO SHIRTS
By the 70s, tennis, polo and golf players all had adopted the polo shirt, however it wasn’t until New Yorker, Ralph Lauren gave it the brand name ‘The Polo’, named after this wealthy sport, that the design stood for social grace and a timeless aesthetic.
An undisputed fashion phenomenon the polo-shirt is comfortable stylish, sporty and unwavering popular.Today the polo shirt is no longer purely worn as sports attire, but it is now a stylish casual wear essential. This classic top has surely come a long way since the late 1800s!
The Cotton Team!