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An Ode to the Polo Shirt

The polo shirt: the unsung hero of your wardrobe. Often disregarded as the fail-safe piece reserved for dads gathered around a barbecue on sunny Sunday afternoons, beer in hand, no doubt discussing their impending annual golf day. It’s the top we all own, we all wear, but it fails to attract the same amount of excitement as, say, a vibrant logo sweatshirt, or boast the same level of vintage excellence as your printed box shirt, but with a new season comes a new take on the go-to style, with brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Maison Kitsune and PS by Paul Smith offering more detailed takes on the design classic.

‘Sexy’ and ‘exciting’ may not be the first words that come to mind when one thinks of the humble polo shirt but it’s high time that changes. Let us appreciate the polo shirt in all its glory; after all, it’s an item rich in history. When Frenchman René Lacoste eschewed the stiff tennis whites of his contemporaries for a short-sleeved, loosely-knit piqué cotton shirt in the 1920s, the innovator changed the face of tennis – and fashion – forever.

As with most elements of sportswear, it wasn’t long before the polo shirt was adopted as casualwear, with mid-century icons turning this courtside staple into a wardrobe must-have (see: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood) while it also became - neatly pressed and buttoned to the top – part of the uniform of the mods.


Then a certain Mr Ralph Lifshitz came on to the scene. Changing his name to Ralph Lauren, the designer took inspiration from the traditional aesthetic of the Ivy League to create his own line of clothing that would become one of America’s greatest success stories. The polo shirt was (and still is) a huge part of the Polo Ralph Lauren line, cementing that clean-cut all-American look, while also being adopted by streetwear and hip hop fans in the late ‘90s, early ‘00s – such is the versatility of the piqué cotton shirt.

But what about the present day, the brands that are doing the polo shirt justice in the 21st century? Well, it goes without saying that Polo Ralph Lauren is up there. But look to PS by Paul Smith, too, for shirts adorned with a small zebra motif in that iconic Paul Smith stripe, Kenzofor a contemporary logo piece, or Lacoste – for the original. However, we also welcome more daring designs from the likes of Missoni, who having once produced kit for the Italian Olympic team, adds their iconic loud patterns to sportswear inspired pieces, and Neil Barrett, who creates minimal military inspired garments for the modern man.

Shop men’s polo shirts on Coggles >>

Sarah Atkinson
Sarah Atkinson Writer and expert

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