Killer examples of the classic t-shirt style
Nowadays, the polo shirt feels ubiquitous, found on everyone from your local delivery man to city boys heading for a round of golf. Thanks to its functional design, which marries the smartness of a collared shirt with breathable, crease-free fabric, it has been adopted by all modes of dresser. The history of the polo shirt speaks to its hybridity, having first been conceived of in its current form by the tennis player Rene Lacoste.
Lacoste was looking for something he could play in that was less restrictive than the stiff cotton dress shirts of the day, while still adhering to uniform regulations. He ended up producing his own line of shirts, made using a loosely-knitted un-starched pique cotton.
He also lengthened the shirt tail at the back, and made the collar heavier so that it wouldn’t flap around, and could be turned up to protect the neck. The design was an instant success, adopted across other sports and then absorbed into mainstream fashion – with contemporary brands like Fred Perry or Ralph Lauren being known for their iconic embroidered designs. (Head here to learn more about the basics of embroidery and screen printing.)
It’s no surprise then that a number of brands and businesses have become well-known for their personalised polo shirts. Here are some examples, from fashion influencers to corporate leaders, of great custom polo shirts.
As high-fashion brands like Vetements have shone a spotlight on the durable, recognisable uniforms of companies like UPS and DHL, consumers have discovered an appreciation for their simple style. The UPS shield, embroidered in gold on their polos, is the cornerstone of their brand identity.
Lacoste is the gold standard when it comes to polo shirts, and their embroidered crocodile is the brand’s signature emblem. Founder Rene Lacoste was apparently nicknamed the crocodile by fans for his snappy playing style, and so the creature became his symbol.
For two weeks of year the world watches as Wimbledon’s ball boys and girls perform their duties with precision and focus, and always in impeccable style. Most recently the club partnered with polo shirt icons Ralph Lauren for their uniforms, creating a classic range that fans were desperate to get their hands on.
Sainsbury’s polo shirts are only subtly customised, with a double orange stripe that stands out against their maroon collar, in keeping with the store’s brand identity. This clean approach to staff style is so contemporary that fans were quick to point out its resemblance to Beyonce’s most recent collaboration with Adidas.
The Lego store uniform is a simple black polo with Lego’s vibrant red logo embroidered on the breast. The team’s uniform is so well-loved by their customers that a lego version of a store employee was created, of course featuring the embroidered polo shirt.
If Lacoste is synonymous with polo shirts and tennis, then Penguin are their golfing counterparts. One of the first brands to adopt Lacoste’s sport-friendly design, Penguin created the first golfing shirt in the same style, featuring their own distinctive animal mascot. Now, players, store staff and loyal customers alike enjoy the design.
The TFL uniform has a cult status amongst Londoners similar to that of UPS in America, and their most recent polo shirt designs (by agency Hemingway Design) can even be found on hip resale sites like Depop. Their personalised polo features the TFL ring logo anchoring a blue strap, complementing the embroidered logo elements on other pieces of uniform.
Founded by another world-class tennis player, Fred Perry is most beloved amongst his home crowd. The laurel wreath emblem is a nod to Wimbledon’s original logo, and the brand’s embroidered designs are one of British style’s most enduring symbols.
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