Think back to that first job you had. Not the one where you’re mowing lawns or babysitting, but that first high school, punch-the-clock, minimum-wage, “I'm only doing this for gas money” job. What did you wear? For many people, it was a pique cotton, short sleeve polo shirt.
For that you can thank a French tennis player looking for a competitive edge named Jean Rene Lacoste. But we’ll get to that…
Jean Rene Lacoste and the "Performance-Enhancing Shirt"
It all started in India in the 1800s when British soldiers saw a polo match. They quickly put together their own league along with some British tea farmers who were looking for a change of scenery from literally watching tea leaves grow.
They were quickly annoyed with the flopping collars due to the galloping of the horse. (BTW, Good name for a psychedelic-rock jam band “The Flopping Collars”).
They added buttons to the shirt to immobilize the lapels, thus making it functional and fashionable.
Fast forward to 1926
Jean Rene Lacoste showed up at the 1926 US Open Championship wearing the biggest breakthrough in tennis fashion outside of the headband. The standard tennis shirt at the time was a heavy cotton, button up shirt with long sleeves. Lacoste went with a lighter material, a soft collar, and short sleeves. Unsurprisingly, he won the US Open that year. (Who would’ve thought?)
25-ish Years Later
Lacoste forms a company making the shirts that bear his name and adds a little alligator logo. (Sidenote: the little alligator logo was a reference to his knickname, as crowds would make fun of his nose resembling an alligator.) They quickly become the industry standard for both tennis and golf. Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower was known to wear one on the links.
I Like Ike. Ike Likes Polos. I Like Polos.
So Why Did I Wear One To Work?
In America, the polo shirt went 2 directions: 1. High end fashion, popularized by Ralph Lauren and his brand “Polo” and 2. The ubiquitous Lacoste polo, as seen in every 80s teen movie. This led to Lacoste over-producing and cutting costs. They transitioned to pique cotton, which is far more durable and thus makes for the perfect, professional-looking and most importantly - durable - shirt for a company to outfit it’s employees.
But It Doesn’t End There
Today, the most popular shirt on the golf course remains the short sleeve polo; however, the itchy, coarse cotton polo has been abandoned. Instead it has been replaced by far superior products like the new Under Armour Polo shirt collection, conveniently located via this link: BLOG35 (When you check out, use the code BLOG35 and you'll get 35% off this collection because you actually read this and you are AWESOME.)