The Evolution of the Polo Shirt: from Sportswear to Workwear

The ubiquitous polo shirt – used in sports kits and smart-casual fashion, designer brands and uniforms. But how did the garment cross over from sportswear to workwear? And was it really named after the polo game? Read on, as we take a look at the intriguing evolution of the polo shirt.

The Polo Shirt in Sports

During the British Raj, the Indian version of polo was played in stiff, long sleeved shirts. But as the game spread from East to West, buttons were added to stop collars flapping about. Brooks Brothers adapted this idea in 1896 and created the button-down “polo” dress shirt.

We cut to the 1920s, when the standard tennis shirt was just as uncomfortable as the one for polo. Both games were popular with the upper class, so standard “tennis whites” were stuffy long-sleeve dress shirts with starched collars. Enter the world number 1 tennis player of the era. René Lacoste (yes, that Lacoste) was dissatisfied with the heavy fabric and impractical sleeves of the tennish shirt. Lacoste designed a new shirt using a strong pique fabric that allowed the garment to breathe. He added a longer back to tuck in during play, and a ribbed collar that could be turned up to shield players from the sun. This became the benchmark for the polo shirt we wear today: comfortable, durable, and flexible.

Lacoste created a sensation when he debuted the new polo shirt at the 1926 US Open. Other sports, including polo, took note and adopted the comfier style. In 1933, Lacoste co-founded the clothing company of the same name, and sold the fashionable new polos with his trademark Crocodile logo; an early example of brand names on clothing. By the late 1940s, “polo shirt” was the generic term for any shirt of this type, despite its origins in tennis.

By the 1950s, other versions began to appear in the fashion market, such as the Fred Perry style. And in the 1970s, Ralph Lauren launched the “Polo” range, which cemented the polo shirt as the preppy fashion staple still popular today.

The Polo Shirt in the Workplace

Embroidered Professional Polo Shirts Business Sportswear Thetford Norfolk

                          Embroidered polo shirt proofs for Thetford businesses.                                      Clockwise from left: Hugos, Sonny Gardens, Thetford Town Cricket Club and Tiger Fitness.

Nowadays, the benefits of the polo shirt apply to a range of sectors and businesses. It’s a popular choice for School Uniforms and branded Workwear, as polo shirts are both presentable and ideal for physical activity. It’s the best garment for embroidered logos and branding, to help you identify pupils and staff alike.

Our polo shirts are made with strong, flexible and breathable cotton – great for long-lasting uniforms, and suitable for all companies and activities. You’ll have seen builders, plumbers, gardeners, trades people and, of course, sports teams wearing them. Yet, polo shirts also make a great casual office option (such as here at Peels4U Towers). The lightweight design makes it perfect for the summer, and easy to layer up in the winter.

Peels4U provides short and long sleeved polo shirts to give your school or business a professional, uniformed appearance. We supply every size and colour with our affordable branded Workwear service, and offer quick turnaround times. Showcase your name, logo and branding with our high quality embroidery service for stylish, comfortable polos. Who knows, your design could be the next Polo Ralph Lauren, or Lacoste Crocodile… Request a Quote now to #GetNoticed with our Polo Shirts.