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A Brief History of the Polo

Cory Ohlendorf

Exploring the evolution that made this easygoing shirt a sporting icon


When it comes to sporting and performance wear, few items from a century ago are still being worn today. The polo shirt is one of the rare exceptions. A staple in men’s wardrobes since at least the 1930s, a good polo shirt remains an essential piece all active men rely on—especially this time of year.

 

 

And while you’ll find the shirts cut from all sorts of materials and finishes these days, in our eyes, there’s nothing better than cotton piqué. The geometric waffle-like pattern of the knit makes for a shirt that’s comfortable, breathable and durable as hell. We took ours to the next level—introducing moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties to keep you dry and fresh for longer while retaining its classic shape and style.

 

After all, the simplicity of the design is what has made it such a lasting icon of sporing style. In the early 20th century, tennis players wore starched, long-sleeved oxford shirts. Reneé Lacoste—a world-class tennis star by the time he was 20 and one of the most famous (and stylish) sportsmen of his era—set out to make a more comfortable, short-sleeve style. He was inspired by Anglo-Indian polo players, who managed to play in extreme heat and bright sun thanks to their lightweight jerseys, cut from cotton piqué.

 

 

In 1926, Lacoste made one for himself. A white, short-sleeve style with a soft ribbed collar he could fold up to block the beating rays of the sun, a short buttoned placket and a lengthened shirttail in back (often referred to these days as a tennis tail). The relaxed shirt was credited with providing freedom of movement and enhanced performance on the court.

Soon, the soft sport shirt became the uniform of all competing players and as its popularity soared on the courts, it quickly evolved into a symbol of the sun-drenched sporting lifestyle to which so many aspired. Other brands began interpreting the style and the short sleeve shirt became a bonafide sportswear staple.




But it’s not just sports. The polo’s appeal eventually grew to suit a range of street styles—from London’s “youth quake” and New York’s yuppies to the popped collars of the ’80s prep revival, not to mention nearly every James Bond. The polo continues to prove that it just may be the perfect shirt—comfortable and cool, polished yet prepared to take on anything.

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