Polo shirt – Men’s summer style essentials

Posted by Atte Rytkönen on 2.7.2015 in General

Polo shirt is one the most classic pieces in men’s summer wardrobe. Today taking a look why. There might have been times that it has not received the attention it merits but based on the collections and street style shots seen in the recent seasons it seems that polo shirts (in various forms) are back again. One of the reasons for the popularity is probably the simplicity and versatility of the shirt.

As the summer keeps coming it’s a good time for a few words about polo shirts. Check the post in Finnish @tyylit.fi or read more below.

Polo shirt - Arnold Palmer

Short history of polo shirt

Polo shirt (or pique shirt) is also known as tennis shirt. Even though the history of polo shirt is partly unclear, most of people give the credit of inventing polo shirt for the French tennis player René Lacoste.

Lacosté wore the shirt to the 1926 US open championship – which he in fact won – to replace the old “match costume” which at that time used to be a white long sleeve button-up shirt, usually worn with sleeves rolled up.

By going from the unpractical button-up shirt to more comfortable short-sleeved polo shirt Lacosté created a new trend which became a sensation.
After his tennis career in 1933 Lacoste founded a company named La Société Chemise Lacoste (known as Lacoste Shirt Company), together with his friend Andre Gillier. The company started to produce similar soft shirts than the one Lacoste worn in 1926. The shirts they produced were recognizable for the little crocodile on the chest of the shirt – a logo that was inspired by Lacoste’s nickname “Le Crocodile”.

Soon after these new shirts had developed as a trend among tennis players other sportsmen followed and began to replace their traditional outfits with the Lacoste tennis shirt. The most notable of these athletes who took the new trend as their own happened to be polo players who before that had favored heavy cotton button-down shirts. Polo players widely adopted the pique woven cotton shirts and as they kept wearing the shirts after games as well – the trend started to spread outside sport circles and polo shirt came appropriate for casual wear in general. By the late 1940’s, the term “polo shirt” became a standard to describe these soft pique-cotton collared shirts worn not only by polo players but by anyone fond of this soft collared shirt.

Although today there are multiple different kind of polo shirts on the market – ranging from long-sleeved pieces made of fine merino wool to really casual options made of terrycloth, the polo shirts made according the “original” model are usually made of pique fabric with short sleeves, soft collar and two or three buttons on the front of the shirt. The pique fabric itself refers to the weaving style of the cotton cloth. The fabric made this way is characterized by fine ribbing or raised parallel cords that in the cloth result as a finely textured surface.

Polo shirt - Sidney Portier
Polo shirt - Don Draper

How to use a polo-shirt

Polo shirt is an ideal choice for those warm and pretty summer days. And it is versatile. It can worn casually with jeans as a replacement for a t-shirt or you can wear it instead of a dress shirt when leaving from office for after work. Nowadays many brands and manufacturers also have long-sleeved versions on their selection that are perfectly appropriate to be with a sport coat or even with casual and more relaxed suits.

As with most of garments there are in menswear, the key to pulling off a polo shirt is on the right fit. The most optimal choice is to go for pieces that are slightly trimmer in the body and feature sleeves that hit and slightly squeeze around the middle of your biceps.

In terms of length the right answer depends whether you want to tuck in your shirt or wear it untucked. For more casual wear and combinations I suggest to wear the shirt untucked. In this case just be sure that you choose a shirt wear the hemline is even and where the hemline ends around on the level of your hips. Also make sure that the hem does not lop or float around but fits and settles nicely. If you are going to wear the shirt under a blazer or a sport coat, make sure it is tucked in to your trousers.

And even though the Lacoste polo shirt was one of the first pieces of clothing where the logo of manufacturer was clearly presented I dare to claim that simplicity is a virtue in terms of choosing a right piece of polo shirt as well. Nowadays there are multiple choices with big logos and striking stripes or patterns on the market but choosing a plain one-colored shirt in a restrained tones is still the right way to do this.

So as a conclusion:

  • Pay attention to the fit
  • Choose a plain – one colored shirt
  • No fakes or big logos

And finally a few pics to be inspired by. From the post at tyylit (link above) you will also find five options in case you are looking a new polo shirt for this summer.

Pikeepaita - streetstyle 3

Pikeepaita - streetstyle 2

pikeepaita - streetstyle 5

Pikeepaita - streetstyle 4

Photo credit: GQ.com / The Sartorialist / Pinterest