A Brief History Of The Polo Shirt

A Brief History Of The Polo Shirt

The game of polo originated in Persia in the 6th century BC and was played all across central Asia. The name of the game is thought to derive from the word “pholo”, the Balti language of Tibet’s word for ‘ball’ or ‘ballgame’. In the 19th century, it became a favourite among British military men, and those players stationed in Manipur, India began to wear a uniform much like that worn by the Indian polo players, a comfortable, long-sleeved cotton shirt. The British did make one change, however, the loose collar tended to flap around in the wind, so they added buttons to hold it down during the match.

The British brought the game back to the west where it became a huge hit, and continued to spread around the world. The polo uniform hasn’t changed much since that time, but now the iconic shirt isn’t just worn by players, men’s and women’s polo shirts are a popular leisure wear item worn for a variety of activities, or just for lounging around.

Going back a bit, Brooks Brothers’ former president John E. Brooks attended a polo match in England in 1896 where he noticed that the players’ shirt collars were buttoned down to keep them from flying up in their faces and getting in the way. This simple fix inspired him to launch a new line of clothing, the Brooks Brothers “original button-down polo shirt”, which, along with the sports shoe, was destined to grow into an immensely popular staple of 20th-century American casual fashion.

The famed mounted polo player logo was created in the 1920’s by Canadian-born Lewis Lacey, a British polo player. Lacey opened a sports shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he began selling the shirts with the now iconic logo sewn to their breast. During the same period, Jean René Lacoste, a French tennis player who had the nickname ‘Le Crocodile’, decided he didn’t like the traditional long-sleeved tennis uniform, so he created a shirt nearly identical to the polo shirt, but with a crocodile logo embroidered on its breast for tennis players. In 1951 tennis player Fred Perry launched yet another version of the shirt named after himself, this one with a Wimbledon-inspired laurel wreath logo. Three-time Wimbledon winner Perry’s shirt became a favourite with professional tennis players in Britain, and soon spread to the public at large.

All three brands of polo shirts were adopted by college athletes on both sides of the pond, and sportswear quickly grew in popularity among the populace at large, with everyday people embracing the shirt with gusto. Famed American clothing designer, Ralph Lauren put the finishing touches on making the polo shirt an international hit when he launched his now world-famous polo shirt line in 1967.

Today the polo shirt in all its makes and models can be found nearly everywhere, it is a ubiquitous piece of casual sportswear enjoyed not just by athletes, but people from all walks of life. From Australia to Asia, from Africa to South America, you can see people wearing polo shirts wherever you go!