Stylish, breezy and versatile - the polo shirt has it all. It has the simplicity and functionality of sportswear, with a sartorial edge that allows it to bridge casualwear and tailoring with ease. It’s a garment so ubiquitous today that it’s easy to overlook it’s near hundred-year history.
The polo shirt was, notably and very confusingly, not designed for polo at all, but for tennis. In 1926 French tennis star Renee Lacoste found that traditional tennis whites, which were long-sleeved and very stiff, were both uncomfortable and impractical. He designed an alternative for himself, made of breathable cotton pique, with short sleeves, a short placket and a soft collar - and with it started a revolution in menswear. Lacoste himself went on to found his eponymous, reptile-centric apparel brand, and his tennis shirt travelled the globe, finding an ideal home amongst America’s East Coast Ivy League set - ever the early adopters - who loved it for its sporty sophistication and subtle status-signalling.
So why is it called a polo shirt? Since the late 19th century, polo players had most commonly worn what was known then as a polo shirt - but which to our eyes would be called an oxford-cloth button-down shirt. Indeed, the button-down collar was originally invented by Brooks Brothers specifically for playing polo in, and was used as such for a half-century. The short sleeved tennis shirt began being adopted by polo players as early as 1940, but it was the savvy marketing of one Mr. Ralph Lauren in the early 1970s, seeking both to pay tribute to the sport’s clothing and promote his own nascent Polo brand, which saw the garment permanently rebranded as a polo shirt in the public consciousness.
In many ways, the polo shirt’s enduring popularity can be attributed to the same qualities that informed its initial design. It’s light and breathable, it carries a certain sporty, insouciant air that nods at it’s leisure-class roots. It’s notably adaptable by virtue of its collar, which lets it sit smartly under a blazer or suit jacket.
For our new Italian-made knitted polos, we’ve channelled a little of The Talented Mr. Ripley’s inimitable Dickie Greenleaf - the patron saint of elegance if ever there was one. We’ve used a soft cotton jersey, available both plain and with a subtle roped rib, giving them beautiful drape and a much softer, more luxurious handle.
Our latest cutaway collar polo is the go-to option for spring and summer. Cut from a cotton pique which has texture it is lightweight and airy for those hot summer days. It has been designed to look completely at home with the usual suspects - denim, chinos, shorts - but with a dressier finish and a more robust collar shape that lets them sit smartly with a tailored trouser or under a jacket. However you choose to style yours, they’re a stylish, timeless piece that will earn their place in your wardrobe with ease.