The polo shirt is exactly what it sounds like: a shirt designed for the comfort of athletes in other sports and polo players. The shirt took over the long sleeved, buttoned down, collared, cotton fabric, undoubtedly uncomfortable ones that had been worn in the 1800s. In the 1930’s Rene Lacoste, a tennis player, cut off the long sleeves and only applied buttons part way down on his shirts for tennis players. The collar still protected the back of the neck from the sun, but was more comfortable with the top buttons open.
Lacoste appliquéd an alligator on his shirts as an indication of the longer back, or tail, of the shirt.
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Argentine polo player, Lewis Lacey, appliquéd a polo player on his brand of the shirt and the “Polo Shirt” had arrived. Polo players found this design much more comfortable than those that had been traditionally worn. The “new” shirt was made from softer fabric as well. This change made play much more comfortable, easing their movements on the horse. Today, it has become a staple of all men’s attire–most of whom have never played polo.
Polo Shirts became a fashion necessity when Ralph Lauren included them in his 1972 fashion line that he tagged “Polo”. As the years passed and business casual grew to be acceptable (at least one day a week), these shirts became part of every man’s clothing closet. Polo Shirts (tucked in) are acceptable in most casual situations.
A Polo Shirt is dressier than a t-shirt. It has a collar and 3 or 4 button placket. Usually the shirts are made of knitted cotton pique or jersey. Soft and comfortable materials which are easy to care for and have “give” for active movement. They have become favored in golf and other sports due to their positive playing qualities. Gradually various appliqués have been added as decoration, many now indicate specific teams or even company logos.
The Club Room Polo Shirts are made from soft pima cotton (Macy’s Brand.) They have ribbed cuffs and come in a variety of colors. Since they are more casual than a woven button-front shirt, but dressier than a T-shirt, Polo Shirts, with their customized, embroidered logos are accepted uniform wear for many businesses and schools. The Gap’s pique Polo Shirts appear more expensive than they actually are. They come in colors not available from other brands and are the traditional pique fabric Ralph Lauren used, but cost much less. Gap also makes long sleeved shirts manufactured of light-weight summer cotton. They have a three-buttoned placket and have finely ribbed cuffs. They are the ideal shirt for sun safety and comfort on a breezy day.
Old Navy provides value brand Polo Shirts with rib-knit collars, the traditional two-button placket, vented sides, in an array of basic colors. They come pre-washed, so they won’t shrink. Their Polo Shirts come in stripes and argyle patterns as well as solid colors. Today, most major apparel brands have a line of Polo Shirts; some offer knitted silk, merino wool, and other fabrics. They have become a staple of every man’s wardrobe.