The items which deserve the title of fashion classic are few, but the polo t-shirt is definitely one of them. It’s a t-shirt with a collar closed by two or three buttons and sometimes a pocket on the chest. In some cases, the buttons can be replaced by a hinge, or not present at all. They are usually made in jersey cotton pique or synthetic fibers.
Icon of casual and informal apparel, the polo t-shirt is a versatile garment that can’t miss in any wardrobe.
The exact origins of the polo is not certain, what is known is that it’s undoubtedly originated in parallel with the game of polo, especially when, at the end of the nineteenth century, this sport became quite common in England and the players begin to wear a specific outfit for the game. The polo clothing was often made of: cotton t-shirts with long sleeves, to which was added a collar similar to the shirts but stopped by buttons, to make sure that this doesn’t annoyingly flourishes during the gallop on the field.
Not much later, John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder of the American brand Brooks Brothers, went to England for a business trip and during a polo match he noticed the particular collars of the players, returned to his homeland, the ‘applied to his shirts, which took the name of button-down. In 1896 the model was launched on the market and Brooks Brothers still calls this shirt: the original polo shirts.
Twenty years later, Lewis Lacey, an Argentine polo player-Irish origins, opened a men’s clothing store in Buenos Aires selling polo-shirt with an embroidered polo player.
Another key figure was the French tennis legend Jean René Lacoste, to which many give credit for having “invented” the modern game of polo. A bit like in the game of polo, even tennis clothes weren’t practical and comfortable. The shirts had long sleeves and button-up collars, but the game needed functionality, so Lacoste designed a suitable alternative to his needs: a t-shirt with short sleeves and in a specially pique cotton that gave breathability. He wore it, for the first time, in 1926 (at the U.S. Open Championship, which he won) and applied a small drawing of a crocodile when newspapers began to nickname him the “alligator“, perhaps because of his prominent nose or perhaps for his passion for travel bags in crocodile. It’s said that this polo was the first piece of clothing, specifically for the sport, to have such a visible a brand.
From that moment, the polo t-shirt replaced the previously used classic clothing for tennis and a little later in the game of polo, where they chose to adopt shirts in pique cotton fabric, which was used to hold up the collar on his neck avoiding sunburn.
A few years later Lacoste retired from professional tennis and born La Société Chemise Lacoste, a fusion from the ideas of the French tennis player and the knitwear manufacturer of Andre Giller, which produced this polo t-shirt in different colors, soon sold in high-end department stores and also worn out from the tennis field.
In the 50s another tennis legend, Fred Perry, created his own version of the original Lacoste polo, which quickly became the head rush among the teenagers of the time, allowing the jump from sports clothing to fashionable garment.
Another significant event occurred in 1972, when the newyorker Ralph Lauren gave birth to a new company of casual apparel, but also stylish and timeless, dedicated to an élite. Key leader of his collections, which are closely related to the sport of polo, it was, obviously the polo t-shirt. The 80s were the golden era of this garment, characterized by a constant challenge between the brands, partly won by Polo Ralph Lauren, because the one with a higher level of quality.
Over the years the polo t-shirt were taken as uniform even in the game of golf, and now is a leader in the western world: an American classic, a status symbol of a way of life.