The polo shirt is not a new fashion creation. It first appeared as part of the fashion scene in the late 1800s. Oddly enough, and fittingly so, polo shirts were first described as such in reports on polo players. Male Polo players of the Hurlingham Polo Club actually wore them in Buenos Aires in 1893. This makes the Polo shirt, possibly, as one author suggests, the first true sports shirt.
Polo shirts had a specific purpose. They were a lightweight and practical shirt to wear for a sporting event. Writers described them as being ideal for hot weather. Over time, the polo shirt has come to be considered the perfect sport shirt.
By the 1930s, the polo shirt was firmly entrenched as a fashionable and practical article of clothing. Although traditionally considered as white, colored shirts had been available as early as the late 1920s. Pastels, greens, blues and reds soon joined the stereotypical color scheme. The gender changed as well. American women were wearing them in the 1930s.
The polo shirt, therefore, has a long and proud sporting history. It is best known because of one man - Rene Lacoste. Erroneously, it is considered a Lacoste invention. He and Andre Gillier joined forces and produced a version of the polo shirt. Lacoste however, didn't market his shirt until 1933. Moreover, his advertisements indicate he referred to it as a "golf" and not a "polo" shirt. His shirt type was not marketed in the United States until 1951.
In the 1970s, Lacoste's gold shirts became considered a status symbol. These polo shirts were still referred to as golf shirts but the marketing indicated they were suitable for both home wear and for out on the tennis courts. Their long tail made them easy to tuck in the back of shorts or skirts.
The popularity of the newly remarketed polo shirt is the result of the philosophy of the age. The preppy look is very in, in the 1970s. Other companies follow Lacoste's lead and market their own version of the polo shirt. It appeared everywhere. You could wear them to work, at home and in actual sporting events. Firms branded their version with one or another "cute" symbols.
After the 1970s, the polo shirt lost its place in the popular culture. Fashion passed it by until the turn of the new century. The early 2000s saw the reintroduction of Lacoste's version in a limited edition – a black Lacoste polo shirt with a silver crocodile. By 2006, polo shirts began to emerge, once again as the preppy choice. Lacoste, Nautica, Ralph Lauren (Polo) or Tommy Hilfiger polo shirts were all becoming fashionable, appearing on and off the courts and greens. The polo shirt has been making a comeback among women's fashion.
Why is this happening? The reason is the same as it was for its earlier existence. Polo shirts are about serving two disparate needs: function and style. Not to malign the average T-shirt, but polo shirts have the ability to address the casual with a status style. They are versatile as well as functional. Moreover, they have a designer's touch, that little brush with "fame" granting each garment a special status.
People still wear the polo shirt in an athletic environment. It appears on golf courses and on tennis courts. Polo players sport them in their matches. They add a touch of class to a skirt, jodhpurs, shorts or pants. Yet, today, the polo shirt appears on the backs of people performing their day-to-day and mundane tasks. Its adaptability, however, allows it to become part of their social and semi-professional daily obligations. Suburban moms can wear it to do practical things then move onto social affairs. Designers such as Leon Levin are able to tailor their polo shirts to active women for use on the coarse or at home.
The polo shirt possesses versatility. It is good for both casual and social functions. Anyone can wear it. In truth, it is adaptable to today's women's fast-paced lifestyle.