Some fashion trends are revivals of older styles. This season, polo shirts are back with a bang if runway trends are anything to go by. Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Come for Breakfast and MSGM showcased their take on the polo for the modern fashion-forward crowd. The talented designers prove that polo shirts aren’t just the go-to choice for formal events or golf outings, but eye-popping inclusions in creating a stylish outfit and look.
Back in time with polo shirts
Though the origins of the polo shirt are hotly contested, its evolution and watershed moments are clearly apparent to fashion industry observers. The polo shirt was first designed in the 1920s with the intention to address some of the restrictive sportswear rules for tennis players. Lacoste incorporated cotton pique and short sleeves – a style that endures till today – and the first polo shirt made its debut at the US Open. A subsequent collaboration between Lacoste and American manufacturer Andre Gillier resulted in the modern tennis shirt and became the official uniform for all players competing in the tournament.
In the 50s, the polo shirt arrived on British shores and underwent fabric changes to create a more open, breathable, cooler and comfortable experience. The 60s saw the polo morph into a style statement for fashion-conscious youth, and became a popular choice of casual wear for heads of states, including John F Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the 70s, Ralph Lauren established his casual wear company ‘Polo’ with the trademark logo of a polo player in action. It gave the shirt an upscale image and an association with the rich and famous.
Fast forward to 2006, the costume designer of the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale approached British heritage clothing brand Sunspel to create a new outfit for a muscular, athletic and active Bond. The flattering tailored fit of Daniel Craig’s polo shirts was an elegant, practical take on the classic style.
New age polo shirt designs from Lacoste and Ralph Lauren
Recently, Lacoste launched its tennis-themed collection inspired by the French Open. The women’s line of the Lacoste Roland Garros Collection consists of polo shirts with mesh sleeves. The men’s collection includes the classic cotton pique polo shirt with an oversized alligator logo.
Ralph Lauren’s Spring 2015 collection featured women’s polo shirts with pony logos incorporated over the right chest, and paired with ball skirts. Bright accents and contrasting plackets were the defining features of polo shirts from For Come for Breakfast and MSGM collections.
How to wear polo shirts with style
Thanks to new takes on the classic polo, it has become a truly unique addition to any wardrobe. As there is a variety of styles to choose from, finding your comfort zone around one or more becomes quite easy.
- Retro styles
- Fitted styles
- Innovative prints
- Unconventional fabrics (the traditional ones include jersey knit, blended, pure cotton, silk, polyester and performance polo shirts)
- Boxy silhouette
- Relaxed, drop-shoulder style
- Colour blocking
- Striking embellishments
- An evolving range of styles in sleeves and collars
Relaxed vs formal
A completely buttoned-up polo shirt offers a polished, neat and formal look. With a few buttons undone, and paired with a floral skirt or scalloped shorts, you can create a fun and flirty effect. For a hip, contemporary look, tuck your polo shirt into your skirt or shorts.
A polo shirt can make a good layering piece. Wear it with a corduroy or denim jacket for a casual look. A formal look can be achieved by pairing the shirt with a blazer. Another option is to wear a polo under a crew neck sweater with the collar peeking over the neckline. Conversely, you can wear the shirt over a waffle knit long sleeve tee for a casual, trendy look.
A more feminine appeal
If all the polo shirts in your closet have a boxy silhouette, pair them with feminine pieces such as a fitted pencil skirt or skinny jeans. Accessorize with heels or wedges, and long/chunky earrings.
Polo shirts lend themselves to a lot of experimentation. First, explore the different styles in polo shirts, and then try out looks that flatter your personality and suit the occasion.