The humble polo shirt

The JP002 is an example of a modern fitted polo shirt

It is thought that the polo shirt first made its appearance in Britain towards the end of the 19th century when outdoor activities became more prevalent. Here P&P takes a look at the origin of the polo shirt and what styles are currently popular in the printwear market.

Who would have thought that the polo shirt first landed on British soil along with jodhpur pants and the game of polo in the 1800s? The two garments were brought back from India by the British as the attire of choice for horse-related sports.

A style similar to the shirt worn by polo players was first worn on the tennis court by René Lacoste at the 1926 US Open Tennis Championship. He designed a white, short-sleeved, loosely-knit piqué cotton shirt with an unstarched, flat, protruding collar, a buttoned placket and a shirt-tail longer in the back than in front. So, it’s Lacoste we have to thank for the polo shirt that is known and loved today.

Kustom Kit’s product manager Clare Dwyer says that the first major innovation since its inception was the introduction of a pique knit, which in comparison to the starch cotton that was previously used, provided increased movement, breathability and durability.

She adds: “Fabric innovation and retail-inspired fits continue to keep this classic style relevant for today’s consumer.”

A shift in use

A further shift was seen in the 1990s that made the polo shirt a firm favourite for informal business wear. Sharon Bell, brand manager for Just Polos by AWDis, says: “In this environment, the polo shift was often part of a uniform as companies began to recognise the benefits of branding a classic polo shirt with their own name and logo.”

Moving forward to 2019 what styles are currently popular and why?

Laura Vesalainen, international project marketing manager at SOL’S, says: “In terms of trends at the moment smaller collars and fitted polo shirts are in fashion. Also polo shirts with specific details such as stripes are on-trend because they bring more style to the polo shirt.”

Sharon agrees, which is why Just Polos has added the JP002 Stretch Piqué Polo Shirt to its collection. The men’s version offers a modern stylish fit, while the ladies version offers a flattering feminine fit. This stretch polo is an ideal blank canvas for print or embroidery.

As with every type of garment, changes and evolution are always something to look forward to, but what do the industry experts think the next five years have in store for the polo shirt?

Tracy Richards of Neutral, says rather concisely that she believes the fabrics used to manufacture polo shirts will continue to evolve and that the amount of organic cotton used will increase further.

Laura agrees and expands upon this thought. “We observe that customers are now looking for high quality polo shirts with more comfort, so the cotton/ elastane polo shirts such as the  SOL’S Phoenix are expected to boom.”

SOL’S has added creamy blue and creamy pink to its collection in response to retail trends

Laura also suggests that in the future, trendy colours which are regularly seen on the retail market, such as heather colours or even pastel colours should be popular. “This is why for 2019 we developed two new colours for the SOL’S Perfect cotton polo shirt; a creamy blue and creamy pink.”

This is a sentiment that Sharon also agrees with. She predicts: “The polo will become even more daring in colours and details and will cross over into streetwear. This shift is already starting to happen with big retailers pushing the classic polo shirt into smart, casual fashion, fit for all seasons.”

To conclude Clare says: “Due to the multitude of uses, from workwear to high fashion, it’s safe to say the polo is going nowhere. We’re seeing an emerging trend for finer fabrics such as single jersey and interlock, especially in the fashion sector.”

So keep your eye on the ever-evolving polo shirt. It’s not as humble as you might think.

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