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history Polo shirt

The classic ‘polo shirt’ was invented and designed in the late 1920s by French tennis champion René Lacoste. Made from cool and airy piqué – a soft knitted cotton fabric – it was an elegant but more comfortable alternative to traditional woven shirts.

history Polo shirt

History Polo Shirt

The classic polo shirt is a knitted short-sleeve shirt, usually made from cotton piqué, with a soft ribbed collar and a three-button placket.

Although the name suggests it derives from the game of polo, the shirt was invented and designed by French tennis champion René Lacoste in the late 1920s (a similar piqué ’polo shirt’ was launched by English tennis champion Fred Perry in 1952). The design is thought to have been inspired by the more informal clothing worn by British polo players at the turn of the century.

Lacoste’s tennis shirt was innovative in many ways and revolutionised sportswear. Knitted piqué was softer and cooler than the traditional woven fabrics still worn by athletes at the time. A finely textured material with a pattern of small perforations, cotton piqué is both airy and absorbent which made it more comfortable to wear in the heat of the courts.

The short-sleeve shirt also offered better range of movement compared to the heavier and restrictive ‘tennis whites’ which consisted of long trousers, button-down shirt and tie. Lacoste’s design featured a softened, ribbed collar – still elegant, but more relaxed and practical than the traditional starched collars – which could easily be turned up to protect the neck from the sun. A slightly longer back hem prevented the shirt from pulling out of the trousers.

Lacoste first wore his new creation at the 1926 U.S. Open in New York City and the style quickly became popular with other players. From 1933, the piqué shirts were being produced for the public under his own name.