The history of the polo shirt - FROM THE COURT TO THE CLUB

  • 2 min read

When you think about polo shirts, maybe you picture a sportsman in mid-swing, or a hip Brit-pop mod, or a business-casual executive. All these images are correct, and they show how versatile and adaptable these shirts are. Polo shirts are a reliable staple for large men, but let's take a quick look at where these fashion favourites came from.

Sporting origins

While its exact origins are a little unclear, the polo shirt started as what it sounds like - a shirt for polo players. However, the garment took its steps into the mainstream thanks to a tennis player whose name you might recognise: Jean Rene Lacoste.

The crocodile, the legend

In the early 1920s, tennis wear was bulky and restrictive; long flannel trousers and full-sleeved shirts were the norm, making the game a hot and sweaty ordeal. French star player Lacoste was unhappy with the options and so, inspired by British polo players, he adopted the lighter, short-sleeved shirt for the 1926 US Open.

Lacoste went on to start a company with Andre Gillier, and together they produced the shirt that would become the standard for tennis players and casual fashion alike.

A photo posted by Lacoste (@lacoste) on

1960s modernism

In the '60s the polo shirt had another surge in popularity thanks to the mods. Those swinging hipsters wore polos fully buttoned over stovepipe trousers for a clean, sophisticated edge. On the other end of the spectrum, American icons like President Kennedy wore polos as part of their relaxed wardrobe.

The enduring style

The polo shirt continues to be a popular staple today, thanks in part to its versatility. More fun than a dress shirt, but more stylish than a tee, the polo can find a home in most outfits and occasions. The Idle Man recommends combining a polo with chinos and loafers for neat, well-dressed look, or dressed up with a blazer. If you're going casual then throw it on untucked over jeans or shorts.

For big men, polo shirts offer a stylish option that avoids the constriction of dress shirts. Like Lacoste, you might find a fitted button-down restrictive and sweaty. Polo shirts are the ideal compromise that gives you comfort and freedom without sacrificing the class of a collared shirt.

Here at Big Mens clothing we're big fans of the polo shirt. We offer a range of short and long-sleeved polo shirts in both plain and patterned designs. Whether you need to dress up for the office or keep it casual over the weekend, we've got you covered.