You’ve Rene Lacoste to thank that you’re not sweating it out playing mixed doubles in a dress shirt and tie. We kid you not, tennis players of the 19th and early 20th century were decked-out like modern day businessmen enjoying their lunch in the sunshine, all rolled-up sleeves and a loosened ties. The inventor of the tennis shirt (a.k.a the polo shirt) developed the garment to free himself and his contemporaries from the restrictive, stuffy attire that wasn’t doing anyone’s game any favours. The crocodile emblem came about due to the French tennis champ’s nickname, courtesy of the American press. Naturally, Mr. Lacoste embraced his moniker; who wouldn’t want to be known as ‘The Crocodile’. What a badass.
The polo shirt is a true sportswear staple, it’s been applied to everything from golf to curling. In civilian garb you’ll see the polo shirt on primary school children, coffee chain baristas and tech entrepreneurs alike. For professionals and as a part of a uniform, it treads the line between formal (a flat collar, placket and buttons) and casual (short sleeves) all the while remaining practical in breathable, pique cotton with pockets for your fancy mechanical pencils and the like.
In contemporary fashion it’s been a preppy icon (see Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss et al.) since Gatsby’s time. They can’t get enough of it! See the multiple popped collars? *DISCLAIMER* SHAREIGHT staff do not condone this kind of behaviour.
In the more subversive cultures, the Fred Perry polo was a casual favourite of the Mods, staying in circulation as they dissipated into the suedeheads and the skinheads then popping back up during the Indie/Britpop days. We say ‘popped back up’ but this is a style that’s never really gone away, in the UK, at least.
See also the terrace casuals and football hooligan attire of the late 1980’s, characterised in the *ahem* Danny Dyer film The Business and The Football Factory or, uh, Awaydays.
For a tried and tested smart casual look, a blazer can be thrown over a long sleeved polo. This one’s always a safe bet for when you feel you might be overdressed for an occasion or you simply want to look like Jason Statham in his Lock, Stock heyday.
The polo shirt deserves a spot in every man’s wardrobe, and we’re not just saying that either. Silk scarves? Calfskin gloves? You can take them or leave them, but the polo has the versatility to be teamed with almost anything – even another polo shirt! Okay, maybe the preps had it right after all…
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