THE POLO SHIRT
The polo shirt has made this year’s most impressive comeback. This is how to wear it for an updated, modern look.
THE STORY BEHIND IT
“It’s more than just a brand… It’s the way you carry yourself. The way you walk, the way you talk, the kind of places you frequent”.
Legendary hip hop producer Just Blaze once explained the attraction of the brand Polo Ralph Lauren, and in that same XXL interview he put the finger on why the polo shirt is so stylish. It represents a certain lifestyle, a sense of flair, a dream of something better.
The polo shirt was introduced on the sports fashion scene in the 1930s, and it all started with a crocodile.
In 1927, the impossibly stylish French tennis player René Lacoste and his fellow team-mates “The Musketeers” (these guys were obviously the cool gang on the tour) beat, for the first time, the Americans in the Davis Cup Finals. When he won a bet concerning a suitcase made from alligator skin, the American press nicknamed Lacoste “The Alligator”. Lacoste then had a crocodile, drawn by a good friend, embroidered on his tennis blazers – and that’s how one of fashion’s most iconic logos was born. In 1933, Lacoste started manufacturing logo-embroidered short-sleeved shirts, made from a jersey fabric called “petit piqué.”(This is why the polo shirt sometimes is called ‘piqué polo’, or simply ‘tennis shirt’. Confusing, yes, but please stay with us.)
In 1972, Ralph Lauren and his company Polo Ralph Lauren, introduced his signature polo shirt. It came in one single fit and 24 colours, and became a staple in the American wardrobe.
Several years later, it also became a staple in the American hip hop wardrobe. Around 1985-87, Brooklyn’s hippest kids dubbed Polo Ralph Lauren their new favourite brand, and the polo shirt has been a rapper’s delight ever since. Hip hop’s love for sportswear, combined with a desire for a luxe lifestyle, made polo shirts from Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Kani essential for any hip hopper with self respect in the 1990s.
Kanye West carried the torch in to the 2000s, when he made ‘polo shirt and backpack’ his signature look.
And yes, this was back in the days when Kanye still smiled in pictures.
HOW TO STYLE IT
This season, we prefer a fitted polo shirt rather than oversized. For this shoot, stylist Columbine Smille paired it with tapered suit trousers and a braided leather belt.
“The polo shirt is sophisticated casual, dressed up and sporty at the same time”, says Columbine Smille.
For an updated, modern look, make sure to add the right accessories. “Skip classic men’s shoes like brogues and go for minimalist leather sneakers instead”.