The Origin Of Tennis And Polo Shirts

The Origin Of Tennis And Polo Shirts

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Source: Flickr

A tennis shirt or also commonly known as a polo shirt or a golf shirt, is a type of t-shirt with a collar, typically with some buttons down a slit below the collar, two small slits on the bottom of either side, and an optional pocket. These shirts are usually made of knitted cloth especially pique cotton or, less commonly, silk, merino wool, or synthetic fibers.

During the nineteenth to early twentieth century, tennis players usually wore long-sleeved shirts, trousers, and ties Attire suitable for office work in our modern society. These formal clothes presented several problems for ease of play and comfort on the court. The French 7-time Grand Slam tennis champion René Lacoste felt that the stiff dress shirts and ties of the day were simply too heavy and uncomfortable for the tennis court. He began his own line of apparel, named Lacoste after his namesake and designed a loosely-knit pique cotton shirt with an un-starched, flat protruding collar and a longer shirt-tail in back than in front. The function of the thick pique collar was to protect the neck from being sunburned by the sun. Preceeding Lacoste’s 1929 invention of the tennis shirt, polo players normally wore thick long-sleeve shirts made of Oxford-cloth cotton. It is interesting to note that this shirt was the first to have a button-down collar, which polo players invented in the late nineteenth century to keep their collars from flapping in the wind. Still, those clothes presented a discomfort on the field, and when polo players became aware of Lacoste’s invention in the 1930s they readily adopted it for use in polo.

Before long, the design of polo shirt and tennis shirt became the same. By the 1950s, polo shirts were deemed as part of the standard tennis attire in America. It was highly sought after. In fact, the tennis players also cite their court uniform as a “polo shirt”, although in reality, the t-shirt was initially designed for tennis and was only taken on by polo players a good many years later.

Then Ralph Lauren started a new line of polo shirts and incorporated it into his existing collection called Polo, in 1967. As a result, polo shirts became even more popular. Lauren’s polo shirts were not really designed for the game, but its design was similar to what the polo players were wearing at that time.

Before long, golfers became aware of the advantages of Lacoste’s tennis shirt. As a result, when golf’s customary wear grew more relaxed and informal some time in the twentieth century, golfers did not think twice about adopting the tennis shirt. Until today, most golfers wear nothing else. For the ladies, they can have their tennis shirt custom made in colors that they like. The only difference is that the monicker “golf shirts” have various golf cuts necessary to incorporate into the standard tennis shirts. Today, the tennis shirt’s popularity is so widespread that it has a line of fashion of its own. Most of the main clothing producers have a version or variation of Lacoste’s tennis shirt since it is worn extensively by both men and women today and not necessarily for athletic purposes. Tennis shirts are regarded as smart casual wear. Many semi-professional and retail workers wear tennis shirts to work because round collar t-shirts are considered too informal and yet business suits are too formal.

Its rough and ready style also makes it a favored shirt for those working outdoors, such as field guides and labourers. During the 1990s, the tennis shirt became the standard business informal/casual attire for the high tech industry and then spread to other industries. Company logos are often printed on these tennis shirts to be used as custom corporate apparel. Some government officials in India wear tennis shirts as standard work attire.

Tennis shirts are without doubt very fashionable in sports. Officials such as caddies, some retired golf professionals, umpires and sports announcers wear tennis shirts on a regular basis. Besides that, tennis shirts are also popular in many schools, especially junior schools. Both boys and girls wear tennis shirts as part of their compulsory uniform to schools. Because tennis shirts are closely associated with sports, they come in all sorts of light colors. The most typical color is white.

The modern tennis shirt has a special feature called a “tennis tail”. This design is taken from the original Lacoste, whereby the back is cut a few centimeters longer than the front so that when the tennis player leans forward, the shirt will still stay tucked properly in his shorts. In addition, a tennis shirt’s collar can be easily upturned to protect the player’s neck from the sun.

The tennis shirt or polo shirt will continue to occupy a niche in the fashion industry, regardless of the changing trends and times. It has become an essential wear in our daily lives.