It’s slimming without being feminine. It’s casual without being inappropriate. It’s stylish but comfortable. It is “the polo.” What we know today as the polo shirt – short sleeves, soft fold over collar, buttoned placket at the throat, and pique knit cotton fabric – started as athletic apparel. It has since become a standard shirt in any athlete’s wardrobe as well as a casual staple. Many even wear it as a job uniform. It used to be you could only get it with a crocodile or polo player embroidered on the left breast. But now, with customizable printing services, most companies print their logo on polos and use them as casual business attire.
Who really started it?
Three men vie for the honor of saying that they created the polo shirt. No one seems too concerned to find a winner in this competition though. We just say, “Thank you,” for their contribution to our comfort.
John Brooks of the Brooks Brothers created a formal shirt with button down collars in the 1800s. He had seen polo players do something similar to keep their collars down in the wind. This was the first shirt to become known as the polo shirt. However, though the name is the same, the style is not. This style is known today as a mens button down shirt with button down collar. Not the polo as we know it.
Then there was seven-time champion, René Lacoste, who with his winning status could afford to get away with inappropriateness. He decided he was done wearing long sleeve button up shirts and created the “polo” shirt we know today. It was readily accepted and was called a tennis shirt. After polo teams adopted it, it became more widely known as the polo shirt.
The popularity of the name “polo” was helped along by Ralph Lauren, who in 1972 named his casual wear line “Polo” to give it sophistication. You know you feel sophisticated every time you put on a polo. That’s what Lauren would have consumers believe anyway. The style of polo shirt created by Lacoste was featured in this fashion line with a mini polo player embroidered on it. This was a huge boost for its popularity and moved it into wider use.
Print it, wear it, share it
Polo shirts are perfect for advertising because of their dual function. They are the crossover of business and casual. Sponsors plaster their logo in large on athletic polos. Corporate businesses advertise with smaller logos on business casual polos. Fashion companies sprawl their names in every way imaginable across casual polos. Can you say “logos on polos” 10 times fast? Then the next time you are looking for the right clothing item to advertise your company, you’ll remember that logos on polo shirts have helped more than a few successful businesses.