The alligator, the crocodile, the tiger, the swan, and the fox… All these mascots were proud to guard the ultimate in preppy style, the ubiquitous polo shirt. Val dudes couldn’t have existed without their flipped up collars of pastel perfection, and preppies would have been just plain ordinary without their collection of polos.
The polo shirt was originally worn by and received its name from polo players during the heyday of leisure life, the 1920’s. The original sport shirt, the polo shirt was popularized by French tennis star René Lacoste, who embroidered a crocodile on his polo shirt to create the most highly sought after designer label, the Izod.
The polo shirt differed from other shirts in its special design made specifically for the elite sport. The polo shirt was woven in a special cross weave pattern called pique knit, which allowed for a more comfortable and breathable fabric by drawing the water (okay, it’s sweat) from the body and bringing it to the surface. The new fabric was indeed breathable, but the technology didn’t stop there.
Polo is an active sport, requiring fierce and lunging movements. Regular shirts would quickly untuck themselves from the wearer’s pants, which was entirely unprofessional and unsightly. To maintain one’s dignity, the polo shirt was made longer in the back than in the front for the best in comfort and security.
The collar of thin cotton shirts would also flap up during the fast paced ride and obscure the wearer’s view—but not with the special roll collar that could maintain its downward shape even in a wind tunnel. This same stiffness of the collar contributed to the gravity-defying upturn of the 80’s preppies, when standing the collar up was the ultimate in cool.
The polo shirt has maintained its premiere position throughout history as the one and only shirt to wear for classic sporty style. Modern designer Ralph Lauren still uses the polo shirt (and a polo player logo) as the foundation for his traditional conservative line, Polo.
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