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Item of the week: the polo shirt

By Rachel Douglass

Jun 1, 2022

Fashion

(From left) Image: Levi's, Colours & Sons, Jack & Jones

What it is:

The polo shirt is typically a short sleeve top consisting of a collar and neckline with two or three buttons. The style that is widely known today was initially designed in the early 1900s by French tennis player Jean René Lacoste, nicknamed ‘le Crocodile’. It was Lacoste who introduced the three button, short sleeve shirt style to the sport, which garnered further popularity after he launched the ‘Lacoste’ brand during 1933. Ralph Lauren also played a part in the silhouette’s rise to fashion fame launching his own iteration of the design in 1972, with it eventually fanning out into other areas of fashion and subcultures in later years. Now, the style is has cemented itself as a timeless, classic piece, that is simple to wear, seasonless and genderless.

Image: Perry Ellis

Why you’ll want it:

Despite its simplicity, the polo shirt has remained in the forefront of fashion for decades, holding a place as a staple wardrobe addition that has a year-round appeal. Its seasonless quality drives the style’s long-lived popularity among both commercial and designer brands that regularly adopt it for their collections, keeping it at the forefront of staple fashion trends. Its place in the industry has only been enhanced in recent months through prominent runway appearances and dedicated books that have emphasised the style’s place in fashion and its ability to prevail season after season.

Image: Ted Baker

Where we’ve seen it:

Polo shirts provided an additional layer for Prada’s AW22 menswear line, tucked under oversized, wide shouldered coats and sitting over the top of contrasting turtlenecks. A similar effect was adopted for Dior’s menswear show, with polos, many of which were knitted, layered over crisp button up shirts, ultimately encapsulating the epitome of smart-casual attire. Alternatively, JW Anderson’s iterations of the polo utilised pink sequins and metallic material, which stood next to other more classic styles consisting of a knitted fabric. Alongside its appearances on the runway, the polo shirt is also getting a celebration of its own this year in the form of a book published by Ralph Lauren. Contents dive into the style’s history and cultural impact, from celebrity appearances to its preppy origins.

Image: J.Lindeberg

How to style it:

A simple polo shirt can work well as a standalone item as it is easy to match with jeans or trousers and sneakers for a casual, daily look. To dress the polo shirt up, pair it with tailored trousers, smart shoes and a long-line coat for a neat, smart-casual outfit. To mix the top up a bit, take cues from its appearance on recent runway shows by layering it with other tops, like a turtleneck, which can go under it, or v-neck sweatshirt that its collar can sit over. For colder days, the polo shirt can work well with an array of coat silhouettes like the bomber, trench or leather jacket, each of which can transition it from the summer season to autumn and winter.

Image: Daniel Hechter

Alongside its long legacy and cultural influence, the polo shirt has continued to hold a firm stance within fashion as a staple top for both men and women. Next to its genderless appeal, it also provides a seasonless wardrobe option for buyers looking for a versatile, year-round investment piece.

Image: Original Penguin

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