Ahh, the Polo Shirt!
A learned friend remarked the other day, that the history of the polo shirt is linked to tennis. After taking in the irony of that statement, I felt moved to write a few words, from my own viewpoint, on this misunderstood item of the modern mans wardrobe.
The ‘polo’ shirt is an interesting term in its own right. In the wealthy classes in the UK and also in the USA, the game of polo was played – and participants typically wore woven shirts with collars. After nipping up and down the polo field on a speedy steed, often taking dramatic turns back and fore, the collars of these shirts would fly up and obscure the players view. This issue was dealt with by fixing a button or stud to the collar points – giving rise to what is known as the ‘button down collar’. However, dear reader I digress – but only slightly.
In the UK, the other leisure occupation played was tennis. In the early stages of the previous century, men as well as ladies played in lightweight summer clothing, full shirts and blazers – with long pants (or shirts for the girls). Similar problems arose with collars coming undone and putting players off their game. By this stage in the garment manufacturing industry, finer jersey was being used for certain types of clothing.
At this point two iconic gentlemen crossed paths, and their names leant themselves to two very different, yet similar clothing icons.
Rene Lacoste, a superb French tennis player, whose nickname was “the Crocodile”, partly for his smile but also his tenacious ability to tough out games; had a garment produced for him. Modelled on the short sleeved ‘polo’ shirts being worn, Rene made his from a special jersey knitted in France. This jersey with it’s particular stitch, was called a ‘pique’ knit. With a shorter, ribbed collar, rather than a woven one – he soon cut more than a dash.
Before too long, he had his ‘nickname’ moniker, The Crocodile, embroidered on the chest of his shirts and even blazers, in the form of a green smiling crocodile and ‘LaCoste’ was born.
Meanwhile UK tennis hopes were pinned on the late great, Fred Perry. He too adopted the jersey knit style of shirt, being more athletic and easier to move in. Being a true British Champion, Fred would embroider the wreath on his chest, denoting the winners reward. However, Mr Perry would add a different touch of flair to his collars, by adding a ‘tipping’, or contrast colour stripes to his collars.
Later still, these colours would be adopted by various football teams to show allegiance to not only their teams, but to opposing fans who might be interested in a not-so-friendly scuffle – but more of that later.
And so, the ‘polo’ shirt as it is now known came into existence. Probably should have been called the ‘polo collar’ or ‘tennis shirt’ but at least it made for interesting reading.
Polo shirts are great for golf as well, as many other leisure pursuits. Easy to wear and to care for, flattering on a fitter physique as well as forgiving on a fuller figure, the polo shirts are now a permanent fixture for every modern man.
Treat yourself this ‘polo’ or ‘tennis’ season?
Is dad style here to stick around or just another fad?
@justknasel via Instagram
A direct question with, I’m afraid, a somewhat indirect answer: yes and no. Like all the greats, our paterfamilias, in his squeaky-clean trainers, knows how to create the rules and then break them. An Olive Garden Mr Muhammad Ali, if you will. The concept of “dad style” evolved around the time of “normcore”, and the two share similarities: the reliance upon hitherto unremarkable wardrobe staples, the adherence to an “anti-fashion” approach to dressing that, through catwalk osmosis, suddenly becomes cool. Perhaps, in trying to define what dad style is, it’s easiest to look at the men that best exemplify it.
There’s Mr Barack Obama (pictured above) in a functional jacket and his best chinos.Then there’s Mr Jerry Seinfeld in his 1990s heyday, wearing a sensible button-down shirt, cowboy belt and Nike sneakers. There’s the late Mr Steve Jobs in stonewashed denim jeans, ubiquitous black rollneck and scuffed Nike sneakers (we’re spotting a theme here), or even Mr George Clooney in straight-but-somehow-baggy jeans and hotel merchandise polo shirt.
It’s unassuming and everyday; the tropes are defined by a kind of shapelessness and neat conformity that’s as seamless at the hardware store as it is manning a BBQ. The jeans, an item associated with youthful rebellion, are anything but – think light washes and loose (but not baggy) cuts. The shirts are button down and neither oversized nor fitting. The T-shirt is tucked in (he’s not a sloppy joe, this guy) and the sneakers are the kind you’d usually use solely for pounding the asphalt, except they’re worn in everyday circumstances.
So, is it sticking around? It is, but in new iterations. Dad style has evolved. Take those trainers for example; the fervour for the ultimate fashion dad kicks, the Balenciaga Triple S, shows no sign of abating, but different interpretations are a little less obvious – Prada has created some sporty numbers with retro touches that are sleek yet subtly suburban.
Then there’s his prized possession: jeans. Yes, stonewashed, pale and distressed styles are in abundance at SAINT LAURENT and Acne Studios, but other variations take the neatness and form of dad jeans – the in-between shape that’s neither slim-leg nor wide – and apply it to darker washes, such as those from Brunello Cucinelli.
The tech-fabric sports jacket is a dad-style staple, but as we steer into autumn, it’s worth adopting one in a more luxuriant fabric – keep the shape but look for options in wool or with plush padding. Also – and I’m about to sound like my father here – they are unerringly practical for transient autumn weather (I’ll start the Volvo).
Finally, the dress-up dad shirt (patterned, garish, often tucked into his waistband) has evolved into something glorious – see ultimate cool dad Mr Jeff Goldblum in high-octane, wildly printed Prada. Novelty and wacky, yes, but this is dad woke, not dad joke.