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Horses, moose, seagulls and — no judgement — Target’s lions: Polo shirts are veritable wildlife sanctuaries. Their history, however, is rooted in sportswear, and one animal in particular: the crocodile.
As tennis greats battle it out at the U.S Open in New York this week, it’s as good a time as any to remember that the tennis court was really one of the first expressions of athleisure, except with less unpleasant buzzwords.
The standard uniform for 19th century tennis players was an unwieldy white button-up shirt fancier than something your average office worker would wear today. René Lacoste, winner of seven major titles during his tennis career in the 1920s and a name that should hopefully set off a few alarms, felt justifiably irked that he had to compete in such starch, unforgiving clothing. Lacoste identified the problem and found a solution: a short-sleeve polo shirt made out of a breathable fabric.
Lacoste was nicknamed “Le Crocodile” so, naturally, he slapped a crocodile insignia on his signature polos and — voilà! — we have the Lacoste we know and love today. See? Stan Smith isn’t the only tennis player whose legacy has been completely forgotten in the name of #fashion.
Now, the polo has fully morphed into a shirt that’s at least formal enough for a middle school dance. Polos — and preppy style in general — technically haven’t been cool for a while, but they’re having a moment this season thanks to brands as disparate as Gucci and Supreme.
Gucci has two heavy-hitting polos available this season. Think of these as the two different sides of Gucci fanboy Jared Leto’s personality: one is perfect for everyday Leto, and the other might be a favorite of Leto’s version of the Joker in Suicide Squad. We’re talking about the traditional navy polo with a color-blocked collar, and the polo with snake embroidery, respectively.
A zip-up polo, but a polo nonetheless, because this is my list and I make the rules. There’s something about a cult streetwear brand making an item that wouldn’t be out of place on the most Connecticut of sailboats that is truly irresistible.
Our Legacy’s version has many secrets in store. For starters, it’s technically a “popover,” which is good enough, and second, look at how much you need these side vent pockets.
Oversized and colorful and so obnoxious. Bring your favorite rugby polo colorway back in a street-smart way.
This is just a good, simple white polo.
It’s vacation all the time in this Orlebar Brown polo, made out of a super-comfy terry fabric. Not only will the terry absorb moisture, but it also creates a seriously beautiful effect on the navy.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Theory collab with Uniqlo, the sponsor of tennis stars Novak Djokovic Kei Nishikori.