Polo Shirt

Apolo shirt is a knitted, short-sleeved pullover shirt with a buttoned placket, a small opening at the neckline, and attached collar. Polo shirts were first knit from wool jersey but soon were knit with cotton and other soft materials. The first polo shirts were part of the uniforms worn by polo players on teams in England and the United States starting at the beginning of the nineteenth century. (Polo is a game in which two teams on horseback use long-handled mallets to drive a ball into the opposing team's goal.) By the late 1920s polo shirts became the preferred shirts of golfers, tennis players, and men sailing yachts who discovered their comfort and the ease of movement they allowed. Tennis player Jean René Lacoste (1904–1996) even started selling his own brand of polo shirt with a crocodile logo embroidered on the chest in honor of his nickname, "Crocodile." As sports increased in popularity into the 1930s, polo shirts became fashionable shirts for men watching sports or just lounging around. No matter the sport or casual affair to which men chose to wear these sporty shirts, the shirts have always been called polo shirts.

Very rich men made the polo shirt fashionable. At the depths of the economical turmoil of the Great Depression (1929–41) new, fashionable clothes were only available to the wealthy. Fashion magazines filled their pages with descriptions and pictures of the outfits worn at fancy vacation spots such as the French Riviera or Palm Beach, Florida. By the mid-1930s the polo shirt was among the most popular leisure shirts for men. Esquire magazine reported that navy blue polo shirts had reached the "status of a uniform" on golf courses in 1934, according to O.E. Schoeffler and William Gale in their book Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. Commonly made of a plain knit material, polo shirts with a herringbone pattern were also favored. The style developed to include versions with buttons down the entire front and some with no buttons, only a V-neck opening at the collar.

When World War II began in 1939 knitted shirts temporarily dropped out of favor and they were hardly seen until the end of the war in 1945. After the war, polo shirts returned to fashion. The most enduring fashion trend polo shirts ushered in was an acceptance of shirts worn without neckwear, which has lasted to the present day.


Dorner, Jane. Fashion in the Forties and Fifties. London, England: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973.

Dorner, Jane. Fashion in the Twenties and Thirties. London, England: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973.

Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

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