Guest Post- History of the Polo shirt

Recently I have been taking a look at fashion trends born out of function. The other day I wrote about UGGs. Toady, since I’m guest blogging for the College Prepster, we thought it would be perfectly appropriate to do a post on the Polo Shirt- where did it come from and how did it become what it is today?
First, let me start off by admitting something seriously embarrassing. It took a LONG time, like, years before I had any idea that “polo” was a brand. Despite wearing “polo shirts” every day for 13 years in school it never really caught on. I think this was partially because we weren’t allowed to have labels on our shirts. No alligators, no equestrians, not even a creepy looking smiley face a-la the Walmart Roll Back guy. Any markings on our shirts would earn us a detention.
Looking back I think this was a really good idea even though it left me sounding like an idiot in front of the members of Pi Kappa Popyour Collar or something my freshman year of college.
FAIL. This is all wrong for so many reasons. If you don’t think so, keep reading.
Though I have never considered myself a prep, or really an “anything” for that matter, I feel as if everyone will at one point or another find themselves wearing a collared shirt.
Before you break our the starch my collar popping friends, let’s take a quick look at what function this funny fad originated from.
History of Trend Part II: The Polo Shirt

The polo shirt was first worn by (surprise, surprise) Polo Players in the late 1800s. It was a long sleeved, button down, cotton, collared and probably ugly piece of fabric. The design of the shirt included two functional aspects- buttons down the front of the shirt and a collar on the back of the neck. John Brooks (of Brooks Brothers) began manufacturing these shirts for athletes when he noticed that the sun protecting collar needed to be buttoned up to prevent it from flapping during the player’s rides.*

In the 1930’s Rene Lacoste (tennis) was the first designer to cut off the sleeves and limit the amount of buttons on his shirts for his fellow tennis players. Polo players also found this more comfortable.
So now we have about 90% of what today’s polo shirt is.

Lacoste put an alligator on it because his design had a longer tail in the back of the shirt and looked like an alligator (I don’t see it either). About ten years before this, Argentinian polo player Lewis Lacey slapped a polo player on his brand of the shirt, and thus the name “polo shirt” was born.*

(Lewis Lacey)
After decades of the Polo Shirt being around, Ralph Lauren capitalized the heck out of the it when he included the look in his 1972 fashion line “Polo”. I don’t know how he managed to keep the polo player on his shirt with out stirring up any legal trouble but I guess this was before we started suing people over everything. Good timing, Ralph.*
Hopefully now everyone understands why first picture in this post is absurd. I’m open to believing in global warming but don’t know in what part of the world the sun is strong enough to penetrate EIGHT COLLARED SHIRTS. Your neck will be burn free with just one shirt, promise.

I am not against popping the collar if the collar popper understands why he or she is engaging in this fad.

So, in conclusion, I say pop that collar all you want polo players and wearers. Once indoors, however, or on cloudy days, let’s limit the starch and try to keep things authentic.

[College Prepster Note: I loved this post!!! My high school crew coach would wear his collared polos “popped” to keep the sun of his neck during hot summer practices. He would always explain that that was the original purpose, not for fashion.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Just a friendly FYI-Lacoste has a crocodile not an alligator. Rene's nickname on the tennis court was "le crocodile"


Nice post- it is so annoying when people comment on my popped collar when I am riding. Hello- my hair is tucked underneath a helmet there needs to be something there to keep the hideous tan lines at bay (and SPF 50 doesn't cut it)


Interesting! I love reading about the history behind "preppy" clothing because most of it is so interesting! I love the history behind Lilly Pulitzer too, being from palm beach it has a significant tie to home for me. 🙂


You're dumb for at least two reasons.

1: The shirt looks nothing like an alligator.

2: It has the CROCODILE emblem because the American press gave Rene Lacoste (the guy who designed the first TENNIS, NOT POLO shirt) the nickname Le Crocodile.


This article is SO wrong. The polo shirt as we know it was invented by Mr René Lacoste, a French tennis player who was nicknamed "the crocodile". Hence the logo.
You might want to check the info next time.