The Polo shirt has been a staple of the fashion, music and sporting world for decades. Whether it be on the tennis courts or on stage. The golf course or the runway. The ever reliable garment has been a top seller for countless brands over the years.

Where did it come from though? What made this particular item something so versatile that it could fit in with a variety of cultures and styles?

From India to Britain-The Polo shirt journey

Originally a piece of kit for Polo players in India in the late 1800’s, it was bought, along with the game itself, to Britain by soldiers stationed in Manipur. Along with jodhpurs these items were primarily aimed at the ruling classes. A new love for outdoor sports had blossomed and Polo was en vogue.

The original shirts though were more like dress shirts and the collars flapped in the wind. Players had to find a way to fix this and took to pinning the collars down. This was an inspired move and John E Brooks of the famous Brooks Brothers took it upon himself to add button down collars to all his shirts from then on. Then in 1896 he launched the first mass marketed polo shirt by gicing a debut to, “The original button-down polo shirt”.

Polo Players in India-Early 1900’s

Evoloution and Revoloution

The shirt we more commonly see today though was born out of a different sport though-Tennis. Players wore “Tennis whites” but the 7 time grand slam Champion Rene Lacoste was not a fan. Too cumbersome, too uncomfortable and probably a little too warm! It was with this that a legend was born.

Lacoste painstakingly designed the shirt we all now know and love. It’s debut , the 1926 US Open. The Crocodile that now stands out as the branding for Lacoste followed a year later. The inspiration? The press had taken to naming him, “The Crocodile”.

Then in 1933 following retirement, the shirt went mainstream after Lacoste teamed up with a friend to launch the now World famous brand. Roughly 20 years later, Fred Perry launched his own, although originally only available in black and white.

The ever trendy Rene Lacoste on court.

Other brands took the Lacoste design but it was the Frenchman that saw the most success as his brand became a prominent player. Then in 1951 an American company-Izod-reached an agreement to produce and sell the shirts in the USA. They were an instant success.

As with anything change comes fast and the rise in popularity of polyester saw a new more durable polo shirt come to the fore.

One person not a fan though was a new designer on the block, Ralph Lauren. He disliked polyester and wanted to give a nod to the more original garment. In 1972 the Ralph Lauren polo shirt was launched. With the simple tagline-“It get’s better with age”. Even though polyester was still highly rated due to its beneficial properties, the shirt from Ralph Lauren became so popular it became known as, the polo shirt. It has been a best seller ever since.

The Polo shirt today

Whilst still seen on the sports fields, the shirt was soon adopted by various sub cultures. Brands such as Fred Perry, Gabicci Vintage and Trojan all catered for the interest and it’s certainly not uncommon to see many lines of these brands available in clothing stores.

There seems no sign of the popularity slowing either. In 2020 GQ ran a feature headlined, “The best polo shirts are the easiest way to look handsomer.”

The Polo shirt is certainly here to stay and at Apache we have plenty of great designs and brands to choose from. Check them out today and don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to hear about new products, special offers and more!

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