The history of the polo shirt


The short-sleeved, casual top has become a staple uniform garment. It is a true fashion classic and one that is not going out of style any time soon. Where did the polo shirt come from? Here’s a little back story to one of the most iconic garments, now used regularly as promotional uniform.

Where it all began

The polo shirts debut was recorded in the late 19th century in Manipur, India. While British soldiers were stationed in Manipur, they witnessed a game of Polo being played and soon set up a team of their own.

The sport of polo became so popular that the British Army and British tea planters in India became regular players. Consideration of thekit they were wearingto play became an issue. The traditional clothing of the time consisted of long sleeved, thick shirts made of cotton. Displeased with these uncomfortable shirts, the playersbegan to alter them and attached their collars to their shirts with buttons to stop them flailing while galloping on the field.

Polo was introduced into England in 1862. Not long after, John E Brooks, the grandson of the founder of the Brooks Brothers firm in the United States of America, came to England on a European purchasing visit and went to watch a game of Polo. While watching the game he observed something strange about the players collars – they had been buttoned down so they wouldn’t flap about in the breeze.

John Brooks then took the notion back to Brooks Brothers and they started attaching button-down collars to smart dress shirts and presented them to the public in 1896. Their Button-down shirt is still one of fashions most iconic garments.

Jean Rene Lacoste

French tennis player Jean Rene Lacoste (1904-1996) had a huge impact on the changing of the design of the polo shirt. Tennis clothing during the early 1900’s wasn’t dissimilar to those of polo players – long sleeved thick shirts. Lacoste found these shirts impractical and instead of rolling the sleeves of the shirt up he decided to re-design a shirt so he could comfortably play the sport.

He chose to use a pique cotton, which was a more breathable material, include short sleeves and an unstarched collar. He also included an emblem, the famous Crocodile. Lacoste wore his shirt to play in the US Open Championships (which he won) and it generated a great buzz. Other tennis players started wearing the newly designed shirt and Lacoste, with a friend, created his own company and sold similar style shirts.

Since then the polo shirt has gone global. There are now so many varieties of colours of shirt and collar, different brands available including the infamous Fred Perry of the 1950’s and Ralph Lauren of the 1970’swho have created their own logos and have both had huge success with their iconic designs.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the polo shirt started to become part of the standard informal business uniform for high-tech businesses and then spread to other industries. Now as a standard part of a uniform, businesses are aware of the benefits of branding a plain polo-shirt with their own company name and logo.

At bmt Promotions we have a range of high-quality polo shirts, ready to be branded with your business logo by full-colour printing or embroidery.

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