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HISTORY OF THE POLO SHIRT

16.04.13

There are few items as essential for a man’s wardrobe as a preppy polo shirt. Just as stylish donned at a garden party as it is on a golf field, a polo is one of the most versatile casualwear pieces a man can own. But where did the sporty staple originate from? We look back at the polo shirt’s terrific timeline.

The 1800s

Although the exact origin of the polo shirt is unknown, the style made its first appearance in the late 19th century in Manipur, India. Renowned for putting the game of polo on the map, Manipur is where British soldiers first witnessed the horseback sport being played.

The soldiers set up the very first polo club which quickly grew in popularity with the British Army and British tea-planters in India becoming regular players. Focus soon turned to the polo playing-kit which consisted of thick, long-sleeved shirts made of cotton. These uncomfortable shirts were updated so the collar was attached to the shirt, ensuring they wouldn’t flap while galloping on the field.

By 1862 the sport was introduced into England, along with this early version of the polo shirt.

1920s

The polo shirt went through another important reinvention in the 1920s with the help of French tennis legend, Jean Rene Lacoste. Similar to polo attire, tennis get-up was incredibly impractical. “Tennis whites” were long-sleeved, button-up shirts that were usually worn with the sleeves rolled up, while the outfit was finished off with flannel trousers and ties.

Dissatisfied with these stiff and uncomfortable tennis shirts, Lacoste decided to use his worldwide status to design an alternative style that would fit his needs perfectly. Ignoring the trend of rolling up sleeves on the court, he made his design short-sleeved. Lacoste also used Pique cotton to allow breathability, which is an attribute that has stuck with the polo shirt to present day.

1950s

By the 1950s the polo shirt had really come into its own and reached extreme popularity across the world. It became an essential piece of casualwear that was just as likely to be worn about town as it was on the golf field. Polos were well and truly style staples in America in the Fifties, with guys opting to wear them over milkshakes at their local diner. They would usually pair their polo shirt with a plaid sports jacket – a style that has truly made a comeback for SS13.

1960s

By the time the “Swinging Sixties” arrived, mod culture had well and truly hit Britain. Dubbed a “fashion-obsessed and hedonistic cult of the hyper-cool”, male mods took on a smooth and sophisticated look that emphasised tailored suits, thin ties, button-down collar shirts and of course, polo shirts. With brands such as Lacoste and Fred Perry rising to prominence, the polo shirt became a must-own for all members of the mod movement and beyond.

1990s – Present

 The polo shirt became part of the standard informal business attire for the high-tech industry during the 1990s, before spreading to many other industries. Regularly used as part of a uniform, businesses recognised the benefits of branding a polo shirt with their name and logo.

Today, the polo remains one of the most popular pieces in menswear and deserves a prime place in every man’s capsule wardrobe. Our SS13 selection nods back to the 1950s in particular, with retro-inspired styles such as Bergdorf in blue or rose.

Buy into the trend now.