The Polo Shirt in Tennis and Golf

A polo shirt is basically a t shirt with a placket which has two or three buttons, is mainly short sleeved and may have a pocket. Golf and Tennis are two completely separate sports yet they enjoy sharing the polo shirt.

Tennis

Renee Lacoste. The crocodile soon moved from his blazer to his polo shirt

Prior to 1926 tennis players wore whites similar to cricketers, white flannels paired with long sleeved cotton shirts. Renee LaCoste though this was too cumbersome and designed a light weight white pique cotton shirt with the back longer than the front, and he wore it at the US open championship. The followed year he had an embroidered crocodile attached to the left breast as the American press had given him the nickname of the crocodile. Following his retirement in 1933 he teamed up with clothing merchandiser Andre Gillier to market the shirt in Europe and North America.

The polo shirt has become part of the uniform on the tennis circuit. Wimbledon has strict guidelines on what the players can and cannot wear during the championship in June. It insists that players must wear whit but it has never had a problem with the players who followed Lacoste’s lead from 1926 in wearing the polo shirt. Fred Perry in 1952 confirmed the shirt as part of the tennis uniform when he wore it at Wimbledon with the only difference being that the insignia on his shirt was now changed to the Wimbledon insignia the laurel wreath. When it was first produced it was only done so in white but over time its increasing popularity led to more colors being used. Still going strong in the current era their most famous player is Britain’s Andy Murray.

Golf

Arnold Palmer wearing his polo shirt

Prior to the 1940’s golfers wore dress shirts, ties and tailored jackets. The 1940s saw golfers start to dress in a more relaxed style and Harry Pickard was seen wearing a short sleeved polo at the 1948 Masters. In 1952 President Dwight Eisenhower was pictured wearing a Lacoste polo on the golf course and from this point on the polo became accepted as being a part of the golfer’s uniform. A new generation of golfers entered the sport in the 1950’s and 1960’s such as Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan, matching golfing excellence with smart stylish wardrobes with the polo shirt being a major component.

As the 70’s arrived players such as Jack Nicklaus and Jonny Miller popularized the “fan collars” and “printed polyester” polo shirts.  Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros wore the “extended-placket button” polo throughout his whole career. Nowadays a leading world golfer is famous for the brand of clothing he wears. Tiger Woods always wore a red Nike polo shirt on his final round in golf tournaments. Ricky Fowler has followed suit and will wear his orange Puma outfits if he is still in contention on the final Sunday of tournaments. The polo shirts themselves have also gone through technological changes, so that they are more breathable in order to save the players an odd shot by virtue of them maybe smelling sweeter.

The polo shirt today is a massive business. Rory McIlroy in April 2017 signed a contract with Nike to wear their clothing for the next 10 years, worth 100 million US dollars. Nike has given up making golf equipment, but the sale of golf clothing such as the polo, is so lucrative that they are willing to invest millions of dollars in the leading players of today. No shirt bridges the gap between sporting wear and fashion wear like the polo shirt does. It is as likely to be found on a June evening on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, as it is to be seen simply walking down London’s Kings Road trailing outside a pair of designer Jeans.