History of short sleeved polo shirt

The short sleeved polo shirt is a popular choice for those aiming for the smart-casual look, but despite its fashionable status it's far from a recent invention. Its creation transformed several of Europe's most popular sports, and its creator went on to establish one of the world most famous clothing brands.
 Rene Lacoste developed the short sleeved polo shirt in 1926 as an alternative to the traditional tennis uniform of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally, tennis players wore 'whites' consisting of long-sleeved button up shirts, flannel trousers and ties. Although they could roll their sleeves up, this was still uncomfortable attire for the court.
 Lacoste, a French national and a 7-time Grand Slam tennis champion, designed his own alternative. His design was a white, short-sleeved t-shirt with an unstarched flat collar made from loosely knit pique cotton. It also featured a longer shirt tail in the back than the front - today's "tennis tail" - and he first wore the shirt in the 1926 US open championship.
The new design had several benefits over traditional attire for the players. The short, cuffed sleeves removed the tendency of the old uniform's sleeves to roll down, and the soft collar could easily be loosened by un-buttoning. The collar could also be upturned to protect the neck from the sun, and the jersey knit pique cotton breathed far better than the old button-up shirts. Even the 'tennis tail' served a purpose - it prevented the shirt from pulling out of the wearer's trousers during play.
When Lacoste retired in 1933 and established the famous Chemise Lacoste company, mass marketing his shirts across Europe and North America, his design became popular across the world - particularly among other sportsmen. In the 1930's polo players embraced it as a replacement for their thick long-sleeve shirts, and thus rose the popularity of Lacoste's invention. By the 1950's, the common usage of 'polo shirt' didn't refer to the traditional garb of polo players but instead the shirt that had been designed specifically for tennis players.
Golf was the next sport to adopt the shirt as an comfortable alternative to archaic formal wear. As standards became more casual in the latter half of the 20th century, the tennis/polo shirt became nearly universal across the world's golf clubs. It is a testament to its popularity that many clubs and courses with a dress code specifically require players to wear the shirt, once seen as a casual alternative to a shirt and tie. It has proven so popular among the golfing industry that the 'golf shirt' has become a specific alternative design, being more commonly made out of polyester, cotton/polyester blends or mercerised cotton. It also usually has an extended placket with four buttons rather than Lacoste's two, and typically has a thicker, stiffer collar.
Since its early days, the short sleeved polo shirt has become popular for both personal fashion and even workplace environments. Many retail outlets use it for semi-formal uniforms, as do many schools. With its firm hold on western fashion, it seems certain that people will be wearing Monsieur Lacoste's short-sleeved design for many years to come.


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