Polo shirt: origin and history of this garment

Polo shirt history

Polo shirts are one of the most common garments that can be found in any person’s wardrobe. Although they began with connotations of prestige and power, nowadays they are garments that are accessible to any pocket.

In this article we show you the history of the polo shirt. Let’s get started!

Origin of the polo shirt

The origin of the polo shirt (garment) is closely related to polo (sport). At the end of the 19th century, British soldiers observed a peculiar game in India, which was to become the sport we know today as polo. 

To play the sport, a new type of garment was needed, so a long-sleeved shirt was created, to which a collar and a pair of buttons were added. Thus, primitive polo was born.

The arrival of polo on other continents

As the sport arrived in England, the polo shirt began to attract the attention of people from all over the world. Among them, John E. Brooks, who introduced these shirts in the United States.

In fact, in 1896 he did so by launching the first original long-sleeved polo shirt on the market. This model had two buttons on the collar for fastening.

It is worth noting that an Argentine polo player opened a shop selling these polo shirts some 20 years later in Buenos Aires.

Relevance of polo in sports

As we have seen, polo is closely related to the sport of polo. However, it also has a history in other sports, such as tennis.

Around the 1920s, René Lacoste (I’m sure his name rings a bell) was one of the most valued tennis players; in fact, he won several Grand Slams. However, he did not like the clothes in which the sport was played, he found them uncomfortable. 

To tell the truth, he was right. A long shirt with a tie and long trousers is not something one chooses to wear when playing sport nowadays. But that’s how things worked back then. So he set out to design something better.

The result was a comfortable garment that maintained elegance, the short-sleeved polo shirt. This garment had a flat collar, which protected against sunburn, and two buttons at the bottom of the collar. It was white and had short sleeves. The tail was longer than conventional shirts, making it more difficult for the polo shirt to slip out of the trousers.

It is worth noting that polo players started to wear this shirt when they first became acquainted with it.

When this design first appeared, the crocodile logo for which the Lacoste brand is known worldwide was already added. As the years went by, these shirts became more and more common, although Lacoste began to sell them at a higher price, so they were considered more exclusive.

In fact, it was in one of those sports considered to be for aristocrats, golf, that this fashionable shirt began to be worn. This was especially due to the fact that the then president of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, wore the white polo shirt to play this sport.

From the aristocracy to the common man

As we have already mentioned, the rising price of this garment made it more exclusive. For this reason, the people who wore this garment on a daily basis were rather upper class people. But this was soon to change.

In 1972, Ralph Lauren introduced this garment in his “Polo” collection. This shirt was not exclusive to the sport of polo, but it did use a symbol reminiscent of the sport: a polo player on a horse. This logo survives to this day.

The development of this product succeeded in expanding this garment to other cultures. In fact, thanks to this innovation, the Ralph Lauren brand was able to establish itself internationally. It is its creator, Ralph Lauren, who is considered the person who brought this look (which until then was considered of the aristocracy) to people of different culture and class.

At Smile Vintage you can find the classic Ralph Lauren polo shirts, check out our catalogue!

The polo shirt today

Nowadays, the polo shirt is a basic garment for any man, as it can be worn in many different situations. It can be worn for casual style, for work, and even for some formal situations.

In the sports scene, the polo shirt has also reached more areas. Thus, it is common to see football and rugby kits in which the polo shirt is worn. In addition, in golf, polo is mandatory. In tennis it is not compulsory in all tournaments, although it is worth noting that a white polo shirt is always worn at Wimbledon.

The garment, which was originally intended to increase comfort, came to be considered a higher level and inaccessible to everyone. However, as time went by, the polo shirt became more accessible to everyone, becoming one of the most worn items of clothing all over the world.

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