Break out the polos, we’re going to town.

The polo was my go-to look last Spring and Summer. I wore the hell out of the simple shirt, whether it be to Rockies games, house parties, that girl’s couch, and anywhere else that required proper clothing be worn in order for service to be provided. I realized though, looking through my closet this past weekend, it’s time to upgrade the polo collection and retire the weakening, fraying, and hipster-esque H&M threads. I grabbed a choice red from J. Crew for a cool $12 (on sale) Sunday and a white a few weeks prior. While I keep shopping around at my go-to companies (Bean, Polo, and Crew, etc), a little history of the famed piece of clothing. Stay tuned later this week, too, when we debate the appropriateness of wearing polos and ties together. Acceptable?

The More You Know:

A polo shirt, also known as a golf shirt and tennis shirt, is a T-shaped shirt with a collar, typically a two- or three-button placket, and an optional pocket. Polo shirts are usually made of knitted cloth (rather than woven cloth), usually pique cotton or, less commonly, silk, merino wool, or synthetic fibers.

  • the “tennis tail” prevented the shirt from pulling out of the wearer’s trousers or shorts
  • History of the tennis shirt

    In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, tennis players ordinarily wore “tennis whites” consisting of long-sleeved white button-up shirts (worn with the sleeves rolled up), flannel trousers, and ties. As one might expect, this attire presented several problems for ease of play and comfort on the court.

    René Lacoste, the French 7-time Grand Slam tennis champion, decided that the stiff tennis attire was too cumbersome and uncomfortable. He designed a white, short-sleeved, loosely knit piqué cotton (he called the cotton weave jersey petit piqué) shirt with an un-starched, flat protruding collar, a buttoned placket, and a longer shirt-tail in back than in front (known today as a “tennis tail”; see below), which he first wore at the 1926 U.S. Open championship. Beginning in 1927, Lacoste placed a crocodile emblem on the left breast of his shirts, as the American press had begun to refer to him as “the alligator”, a nickname which he embraced.

    Lacoste’s design mitigated the problems that traditional tennis attire created:

    • the short, cuffed sleeves solved the tendency of long-sleeves to roll down
    • the soft collar easily could be loosened by un-buttoning the placket
    • the piqué collar easily could be worn upturned to block the sun from the neck
    • the jersey knit piqué cotton breathed

    In 1933, after retiring from professional tennis, Lacoste teamed up with André Gillier, a friend who was a clothing merchandiser, to market that shirt in Europe and North America. Together, they formed the company Chemise Lacoste, and began selling their shirts, which included the small embroidered crocodile logo on the left breast.


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