Every item of clothing we wear has a history, a unique story as to how it came about. The polo shirt is no different.

Polo shirts are seen in so many contexts throughout our lives that they are now considered a staple part of a person’s wardrobe, particularly for workwear and sportswear due to its durability and breathability whilst still maintaining that smart/casual look.

As you might expect from the name, the modern polo shirt originated from the game of polo, played by the British from as far back as the 1800’s. Long sleeved shirts made of cotton were worn, with a traditional style collar, however this was deemed highly irritating by the players, who began to button down their collars to their shirts to prevent them flapping around during game play.

This practical addition to shirts soon became a fashion must, with John E Brooks, founder of the iconic Brooks Brothers taking the idea back to America after being inspired watching a polo match on a trip to England. This concept of a button down collar was then added to their dress shirts, creating a timeless style of shirt that is still worn today.

Moving forward to the 20th Century, the evolution of the polo shirts of old into the modern polo shirt we know and love began. Jean Rene Lacoste, the French tennis legend, is widely known as the “inventor” of the polo shirt. As a tennis player, he faced similar issues with the shirts players were expected to wear. Long sleeved, heavy shirts paired with flannel trousers and even ties. The reason for this attire was that tennis was deemed to be for the upper classes, and players were expected to dress accordingly, however impractical it might’ve been.

Lacoste crocodile logo

 Lacoste was unhappy with this trend and set about designing his own shirts which were far more practical. He designed a short sleeved shirt with an unstarched collar and a “tennis tail” which could be tucked in more easily and would be less likely to become untucked. He also made his shirts from pique cotton, making the shirts much more breathable and durable. He also added the now famous crocodile logo onto his shirts, perhaps creating the first branded sports shirt.

The new style polo shirt became an instant hit with tennis players after Lacoste wore it to the 1926 US Open and won, with many of them replacing their old attire with this new shirt. Other sports began to take note of this trend, replacing their own old fashioned shirts with this new style polo shirt.

Over time, Lacoste expanded his range beyond the world of tennis, marketing them in high end department stores frequented by the American elite looking for the latest trends. They proved highly popular, even being worn by President Eisenhower whilst playing golf.

Not long after this another tennis legend, Fred Perry, created his own version of the Lacoste shirt, creating a look that proved popular with teenagers, bringing the polo shirt from the sports field to the world of fashion.

It was Ralph Lauren, however, that truly cemented the polo shirts popularity, making it a staple garment in many people’s wardrobe. With the fashion line “Polo” his shirts were embellished with the now famous image of a polo player and pony embroidered onto the left breast, becoming an iconic garment worn by many.

Polo shirts are now worn in many sports including golf, but are also worn for a range of non-sporting purposes including retail and tradesmen’s workwear and school uniform. They are a truly timeless solution where clothing needs to be versatile and durable, whilst maintaining a smart appearance.

Cobra Workwear supplies a wide range of polo shirts perfect for workwear purposes. All our polo shirts can be embroidered with your company’s logo and branding at competitive prices. Get a great look for your business today!