In order to survive through the ages, all species must adapt to their surroundings: change or die. The simple polo shirt is a species of clothing that takes this seriously! In the century or so since the dedicated 'polo shirt' was invented, it has evolved from a stiff, cotton garment, to a high-performance, utilitarian piece of kit.
Jean Luc Picard's stretchy captain's jumpsuit was very fetching, but if you track to trajectory of the polo shirt, he clearly should have been wearing one of those instead.
Starting off life as part of a polo team kit, the embroidered polo shirt has become the go-to for workwear and school uniforms, the staple of the smart casual wardrobe, and the athletes first choice across a range of sports.
Here's how the embroidered polo shirt has evolved from simple beginnings to take over the world.
Button Down Collars - The First Adaptation Of The Embroidered Polo Shirt
As the name suggests, the polo shirt began life as the uniform for the game of horseback polo. Polo, and polo shirts, originated in India where the British first encountered the sport and fell in love, setting up the first polo club and creating the first polo club kit.
Cotton shirts with long sleeves and stiff collars were worn by polo teams players. Like most sports kits of the day, the polo playing kit didn't look much different from everyday wear, and as a result, wasn't hugely practical or comfortable. The only alteration early polo players made to the standard issue cotton shirt was to add buttons to the polo shirt collars, so that they wouldn't irritate polo players by flapping about in the wind.
Embroidered Logos Add A Stylish Touch To Early Polo Shirts
When you think of a polo shirt, you instantly conjure up an image of an embroidered logo on the chest. The first embroidered polo shirt was created in Argentina by the Hurlingham Polo Club. A local haberdasher (not Ralph Lauren) and early trend-setter caught on to the style and started selling cotton polo shirts with an embroidered logo of a polo player on the chest. Little did he know that he would start one of the most enduring fashion statements in history!
Tennis Takes Over The Polo Shirt Trend
It wasn't actually polo that forced the biggest changes in the embroidered polo shirt, but tennis.
Inspired by the changes to the polo playing kit, and the relaxing attitudes to fashion, tennis champion Rene Lacoste sought to update the tennis shirt, making tennis players more comfortable and able to move freely.
He did away with the stiff collars, and starched cotton, opting for a cotton pique fabric and a soft collar, which could be 'popped' upright to protect against the sun. But he didn't stop there. Noticing that tennis players rolled up the long sleeves to the elbow, Lacoste hacked off the sleeves to make a short sleeved polo shirt (or tennis shirt), and added a 'tennis tail'. The tennis tail was simply a longer hem at back of the garment, allowing the shirt to be tucked into a player's trousers.
This new tennis shirt, with its soft fabric, unstarched collar, and short sleeves, is what we now recognise as the modern day polo shirt.
With one finely designed garment, Lacoste had changed the look and feel of sports clothing forever.
It was down to a second tennis player, Fred Perry, to add the finishing touch - the embroidered logo.
Ralph Lauren Takes The Embroidered Polo Shirt Off The Playing Field
Although he didn't invent the embroidered polo shirt like many think he did, standing on the shoulders of the design giants before him, Ralph Lauren created his now iconic embroidered polo shirt as the centre of his smart casual line. The infamous embroidered polo shirt is a combination of Lacoste's soft collared, short sleeved polo shirt, and the embroidered logo of a horseback polo player, inspired by the Hurlingham Polo Club.
Polo Shirts For The People!
The journey to worldwide domination continued with the polo shirt branching out into different uses. Ralph Lauren had taken it away from its sporty beginnings to high-end smart casual, relaxed wear, giving those who didn't play sports the chance to experience the all round usefulness.
Looking smarter than a t-shirt, but being more relaxed, comfortable and easier to care for than a formal dress shirt, the embroidered polo shirt began to be picked up as the perfect item of clothing for work uniforms and school uniforms.
The Next Generation Dri-Fit Embroidered Polo Shirts
In danger of becoming a victim of its own success, the embroidered polo shirt needed to change to survive again.
And again, it was the comfort of athletes that has been the driving force behind the most recent evolution of the embroidered polo shirt.
Advances in fabric technology have given rise to new performance fabrics, such as DryFit / dri-fit. Coupled with the classic polo shirt design, the new breed of embroidered polo shirts are again giving sports players a winning edge. The technical fabric keeps athletes cool and comfortable by wicking away sweat from the skin. The durable new fabrics also withstand wear and washing, again and again.
Take Your Design To The Edge And Back To Front With Seam to Seam Printing And Reversible Designs
Dri-fit offers the best of both design wise. A technical fabric that offers seam-to-seam printing, meaning unlimited design options. More importantly, with made-to-order dry-fit polo shirts, we can Pantone print, meaning we can exactly match your design colours and logo.
You can also double up your kit with reversible designs. Either have the same design printed on both sides so you can turn your reversible polo shirt inside out when it gets dirty during a game, or have alternative team design printed on the reverse. This is the perfect option if team colours are important on the playing field, as you might come across a team with colours too similar to yours. Problem solved!
Although dry-fit polo shirts are popular for 'printing' designs onto, dry-fit also a fantastic fabric for classic polo shirt embroidery. Our customisation specialists have years of experience at using decorative stitching processes on different types of fabric, to leave you with an embroidered polo shirt that is functional and eye-catching, with the highest quality finish in the design details.
Dri-Fit Polo Shirts Help Athletes Conquer The Elements
Fittingly, the printed polo shirts have found a their home as a horseback polo kit again, with dry-fit embroidered polo shirts now being the go-to for professional polo players, and polo club players.
Polo is still an elite sport in countries with a hot climate; India, South America and the UAE and Middle Eastern countries are hugely in love with polo still. And in every country in which it's played, it has royal connections; it's still a favourite of Prince Charles and Prince William in Great Britain.
Embroidered polo shirts mean that players or competitors in ANY sport in hot countries stay cooler for longer, helping them to perform better, or aim better - check out the rifle club dri-fit polos below!
We've added silver-ion treatment to our customised dry-fit polo shirts too, so as well as keeping you cool and dry, our made to order polo shirts are also anti-bacterial. This is perfect for a sport with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and harsh sunshine.
Our sublimated dry-fit polo shirts have also left land altogether, becoming a huge success in watersports. Sailing dry-fit polo shirts are now the go-to for serious sailors, and other on-water competitive sports. As well as keeping sailors dry, the hi-tech fabric dries quickly remains lighter and less clingy than cotton when it is wet.
What's Next For The Embroidered Dry-Fit Polo Shirt?
There's just no stopping the embroidered polo shirt. From it's long-sleeved cotton polo shirt origins, to high performance dry fit embroidered shirt, but what's next?
If the technical fabric polo shirt is following the same path as the classic embroidered polo shirt, then we should see it cross over into streetwear. Although the dry-fit fabric doesn't have much in the way of style credentials currently, newer 'smart' fabrics are on the way which will be perfect for a polo shirt collaboration. Maybe solar or kinetic charging threads, fashioned into a short sleeved polo shirt will be the norm? Or maybe a fabric with wi-fi boosting capabilities that activate once you pop the collar on your smart polo shirt. We really should stop sharing these ideas with the internet…
Whatever path they take in the next few hundred years, we'd put money on the real life Jean Luc Picard going to work everyday in an a smart embroidered polo shirt!