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The History of the Polo Shirt

by Brandon Davenport

Have you ever wondered why the polo shirt has enjoyed widespread acclaim among people from different walks of life? Why is it one of the few shirts with a well-known name that stands out? Over the years, the polo shirt has managed to continuously strike the perfect middle-ground between elegance and comfort.

This means that some people will view it as a more casual deviation from their usually formal suit-and-tie look while others will look at it as a slightly more formal step up from their casual wear.

Many of the successful Polo makers also put quality at the forefront and are influenced by the stories from earlier eras of its development, meaning that a quality polo shirt remains a bit of a status symbol to this day.These are some of the reasons why the polo shirt has maintained a strong presence amongst people of different ages, occupations, geographic locations, and income brackets. 

Polo Shirt Origins
The story of the polo shirt spans over several decades and different social classes with its success being furthered by multiple factors. Let’s take a look at this journey all the way from the first polo shirts to today’s successful designs.
In 1896, Brooks Brothers released their first button-down formal shirt, mimicking a design that the founder’s grandson, John E. Brooks saw on the shirts being worn by players in a polo match during his visit to England while on a European buying trip.

Polo Orgins

This design known as the Oxford Cotton Button-Down is known as “The Original Polo Shirt” even though it is not the most common picture that comes to mind when polo shirts are mentioned. The 1920s spawned the designs that came to be more synonymous with the name.
They started with an Argentine-Irish haberdasher and polo player setting up a men’s shop in Buenos Aires that sold polo shirts with embroidery of a polo player. In 1926, a French tennis player, Jean Rene Lacoste came up with a new and more modern design.

Origins of the Polo Shirt Rene Lacoste

In pursuit of more comfort and convenience, he went for short sleeves, an unstarched collar,  and a longer back (tennis tail) that could be tucked in. He also used pique cotton technology for more durability and breathability.
He summed it up with a crocodile logo derived from his own nickname, which cemented this brand in the men’s wear market. This version enjoyed extra popularity due to the fact that the fabric allowed players to pop the collar of the shirt and avoid getting sunburnt.
In 1933, Lacoste partnered up with a friend and knitwear manufacturer to co-found The Lacoste Shirt Company, making shirts similar to the one he wore in 1926.

By 1940, the term polo shirt was being used to refer to those soft-collared shirts worn by anyone and not just the polo players.
In 1951, the shirts were offered in different colors and marketed as the status symbol of the competent sportsman. The shirts gained even more fame when President Dwight Eisenhower wore one while playing golf.
Shortly after this, another tennis legend called Fred Perry created his own design in 1954, with a logo that was stitched onto the shirt instead of being ironed on to it. His popularity made the design gain traction among teenagers and it started making its way into fashion.

In 1972, Ralph Lauren added to this momentum by naming his casual wear company “Polo” and significantly competing with Lacoste in the 1980s. The 90s saw the polo shirt become part of conventional informal business attire, spreading from high-tech to other industries.Corporations started branding their polo shirts with their own logos and using them as part of employees’ uniforms.In the late 90s and early 2000s polo style shirts had become a fashion statement  become a bit of a statement for many Hip-Hop fans since it was seen as a way for them to transcend classism.

Polo Shirt Game-Changers
Polo manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make their shirts dominant in the market, with some using design, fabrics choices, or technology.  As more and more brands enter this market, the question of who has the best polo shirt becomes harder to answer.
There are a number of qualities that have come to be associated with polo shirts over the years. For starters, durability is a must. A great polo is one that is made to last. It should also be soft and comfortable. 
Companies like BAOBAB have gone as far as creating a polo shirt with the claim of it being both stylish, comfortable and long lasting. Making shirts that are intended to last means their eco-conscious philosophy aids in the reduction of fashion waste.They not only sourced the highest quality of Peruvian Pima cotton available but also made sure that it is crafted in a manner that is responsible, and sustainable. From the short sleeve to the long sleeve polo and the no-curl collar, this men’s wear shop provides different options for customers even when it comes to color.

Their “stay flat” design solves the problem of “bacon collar” (the shriveled look that some polo shirt collars get after being used for a while).
The desire to create the perfect polo led BAOBAB to create a shirt that has numerous valuable attributes such as the hydrophobic nanotechnology that helps protect the shirt against liquid and makes the shirt antimicrobial.
The shirt also has microfiber cloth on the inside that you can use to clean your glasses and phone or watch screen if you’re ever in such a situation.
The shirt is antimicrobial, therefore it helps to prevent the growth of bacteria which in turn neutralizes odors, meaning that the shirt can be worn 10-12 times before it needs a washing, which makes for easy care.
Additionally, BAOBAB polo shirts are way less susceptible to fading when washed multiple times, enabling the owner to hold on to it for much longer than the average polo.

With the BAOBAB polo shirt being 98% Peruvian Pima cotton and 2% Lycra, customers are more likely to find a better fit (which is crucial when choosing a Polo) that won’t look like stretched out tights or come off as baggy.
The shirt is also made to withstand major shrinking due to washing and drying.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the BAOBAB polo sets itself apart from the rest with a unique and adequately-sized logo that is noticeable but not too in-your-face. Their logo is a Baobab tree, also known as “the tree of life”, which symbolizes the product’s longevity.

 

The Popularity of the Polo Shirt is still strong
Not only are people willing to part with about 100 dollars for a polo shirt and more, many are willing to fund companies trying to make one. With at least 24 brands battling it out for the top spot in providing athletes with polo style shirt gear, and  even more companies are set to compete outside the athlete category.
Companies like BAOBAB are looking beyond the sale, with additional objectives like promoting practices that reduce fashion waste, productivity, environmental education and community development
They also want to help entrepreneurs of color to access the resources required to create prosperous environment-friendly businesses that impact positively on their communities.  When it comes to design, there are plenty of brands that do a good job at making a polo shirt that looks good.
But if we are to consider the practical side of these clothes, there aren’t many companies doing it like BAOBAB.  BAOBAB has surpassed making something that looks and feels good; they’ve factored in hygiene, durability, convenience and a corporate social responsibility mission that is aimed at purpose rather than profit.

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