The polo shirt has been a fashion staple for many years. Traditionally made of knitted cotton, the pull-over shirt has short sleeves, a collar, and typically two to three buttons. It has also been called a tennis shirt and a golf shirt, and it has a long history in sports and in fashion.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, tennis players wore white long-sleeved, button-up shirts. Men also wore flannel trousers and a tie, while women wore long skirts. The attire was known as “tennis whites.” However, the clothing wasn’t necessarily conducive to freedom of movement and, in the mid-1920s, tennis champion Rene Lacoste designed and wore the first short-sleeved tennis shirt, which resembled the polo shirt of today. Some of its features included a collar that could be turned up to protect the wearer’s neck from the sun and a long tail that would prevent the shirt from becoming untucked during play.
When the tennis shirt was first designed, polo players also wore cumbersome long-sleeved uniforms and were ready for a change. At the time, polo players had been wearing long-sleeved shirts with button-down collars, which kept the collars from flapping in the wind. In the 1930s, the sport adopted what was then known as the “tennis shirt,” but by the 1950s, “polo shirt” had become the most common name for the garment. Some polo shirts are still made with a button-down collar.
The sport of golf experienced a similar shift from formal to more casual attire, especially during the second half of the 20th century, and polo shirts became the standard uniform for golfers. Due to a few differences in design, the term “golf shirt” is often used to describe the golfer’s version, which usually has more buttons for a lower neckline, a reinforced collar, and a pocket for holding a score card.
Nowadays, polo shirts are available in a variety of fabrics including traditional cotton, polyester blends, and performance fibers that wick away moisture, offer UV protection, and resist snags. For a selection of the latest designs in polo and other athletic shirts, check out port authority sport shirts.