When Lacoste (pictured top right) first wore a polo shirt in 1926, at the age of 21, he cropped the sleeves off the shirts originally worn by Indian polo players, and used a lightweight cotton pique fabric to beat the summer heat. He shocked the tennis world with his audacity to flaunt Wimbledon convention.
Seventy years on, Rene "Le Crocodile" Lacoste is still alive to see his brand name become as fully fledged as the super brands like Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, and Christian Dior. What started with the reworking of an Indian polo player's shirt in 1927 ended up netting the Lacoste family billions of francs. But the croc logo happened by accident. During the Davies Cup Tournament in 1927, Lacoste made a bet with his team captain: if he won an important match his captain promised to buy him a crocodile suitcase. He lost the match, but the name stuck and he was soon appearing on court with a crocodile stitched onto his blazer (a friend designed the logo.)
The polo shirt has since been chopped and cropped into tiny Ts to reveal the midriff and upper arms, and made into dresses for women, but more importantly it has been embraced by every menswear designer under the sun. Helmut Lang made his in a nude coloured lace this summer; Ralph Lauren has dedicated a whole clothing line to the polo theme, with the horse- backed polo player motif stitched onto every garment; Yves Saint Laurent's range YSL Homme undercuts the prices of Ralph Lauren, with garments of the same quality sporting the YSL logo.
Logos, however, are not the all-important factors for the polo shirt, although they are essential to some consumers. The polo shirts featured here are conspicuously without a logo; they may have the neat collar, the slim fit, the short sleeves, and the V-shaped neck with buttons (mostly), but it is colour and design that make these shirts worth a second look.
At men's fashion mecca, Duffer of St George, the polo shirt has become a staple; there is currently a range of five different shirts. And Burro in London's Covent Garden is stocking a new colourful knitwear label, Klurk, made by the New York-based designer, Brian Chik. These shirts could not be further removed from the tennis court.
Of course, if you prefer classic simplicity, a plain white, black, spruce green, red, aurora yellow, bluebell, or navy polo shirt from Racing Green will only set you back pounds 19, and if you call 0345 331 177 you can buy it through mail order.Reuse content