When I was a kid, I didn’t have a polo shirt. In fact, I didn’t even know what polo shirts were. I wore T-shirts, dress shirts, regular shirts, and didn’t concern myself with the eternally shifting fashion standards. But, as I grew older, I found out a whole dimension of clothing I needed to tap into – to be liked and fancied by a considerable proportion of the female population, if for no better reason. And what can be a better reason for a man? A real man anyway?
The Rise of the Polo Shirt
Lacoste claims that the genuis idea of creating the polo shirt belongs to (unsurprisingly) René Lacoste, a famous French tennis player who got so fed up with uncomfortable clothing that he actually decided to do something about it and came up with the polo shirt in 1933. If you ever watched Wimbledon you may have noticed that all the players are dressed in white: yet this is only one of the remnants of the past. Overall, the tennis dress-code in the beginning of the XX century can best be described as clumsy and cumbersome as you can see from the picture of Bill Tilden, an American tennis champion who dominated the game in 1920s.
Beneficial as this story is to Lacoste’s sales, it appears only a marketing trick pulled on the gullible audience. While it is possible that René Lacoste did have a hand in improving the atrocious clothing standards of tennis in his day, there is no explanation as to why the item in question is much better known as the “polo shirt” as opposed to the “tennis shirt“. It is true that the two terms are used interchangeably, yet the polo shirt variant clearly has the upper hand in branding, much like the “tennis shoes” compared to “gold shoes”.
Polo Shirt’s Success Unbuttoned
What really distinguishes polo shirts from their T-shirts counterparts is the buttoning principle which does not go beyond the collar. This is how good old Wikipedia puts it:
The “late 19th century” portion is a clear winner compared to 1933 timewise, and it also makes sense conceptually as having the buttoned-down collar is the defining feature of the polo shirt separating it from the rest of the pack.
Polo Shirts vs. Dress Shirts & T-shirts
Think about it: a shirt that’s buttoned-down all the way is a dress shirt, something a gentleman would wear, taking meticulous care of his appearance. A T-shirt without buttons (and especially without sleeves), an item resembling a sack with holes for the arms and the neck, is for the peasantry and lower classes of populace primarily concerning themselves with functionality. But playing such a noble sport as polo, while being a gentlemen’s pastime, still requires a great deal of utility. Hence, the brillint combination: no need to run the buttons down to the bottom, but you still need a few to get in and out of the polo shirt quickly, as well as let the wind in when you get too hot: what good athlete doesn’t?
Modern Polo Shirts
Nowadays polo shirts have gone beyond the sports realm, becoming one of the golden standards of the casual dress style; so many men and women wear them not only to an occasional tennis match with a friend, but to many unofficial summertime gatherings and even to work as many offices allow and welcome polo shirts as tokens of “buttoned-down” culture. To meet the demand, most of the modern clothing brands develop designer polo shirts, offering newer and improved version of what would seem a fairly straightforward item. And the glut of supply catering to any possible need and purpose would have been marvellous, had it not come along with a considerable monetary premium.
Polo Shirts Pricing
One thing that always confused me about polo shirts was how much they cost. In my mind a polo shirt is what it is: a few pieces of fabric sown together in an unfancy way. The design of a polo shirt could be a revolutionary breakthrough back in 1933, but now that people are doing their Christmas and New Year shopping for the upcoming 2018 the technology and the sartorial experience of the last 85 years allow to produce polo shirts at scale and for cheap. But this is not what we see as we check the current prices from the top polo shirts companies.
Take a look at this Hugo Boss slim-fit merino wool long-sleeve polo shirt currently selling at Macy’s for $195 (the prices are subject to change).
Do I think this is a nice polo shirt? I do. Do I think merino wool adds to the cost of it? Absolutely. But $195 still seems too much, even for Boss.
Here is another example. How do you like this white cotton classic fit polo shirt by Ralph Lauren?
Frankly, I like it myself. But I can’t help seeing no design other than the gold inside the collar, and this polo shirt is made of cotton. Does this really add up to $125 for which it is currently offered at Macy’s? Especially given that you can buy Ralph Lauren polo shirts for men on ebay.com much cheaper?
Polo Shirts for Men – Real Men!
Here we finally come to the crux of the polo shirt dilemma I was trying to tackle.
You can but a polo shirt for as little as $10 even in the United States. If you pay $20, that shirt may also be of decent quality. And if you are lucky you can snatch a great designer polo shirt on sale at your local Macy’s for $25, and for whatever reason: unpopular color, one size left, store liquidation, etc. But this isn’t quite in line with the modern fashion standards because society expects you to pay $125 for a $25 polo shirt: otherwise there’d be no such MSRPs which are eventually discounted. So, why the humongous premium?
See, it’s not about what that shirt’s value really is: it’s all about who you are. A cheap guy can go to Walmart and buy a polo shirt for $10; but would a real man do? I am not talking about James Bond (his clothes are paid for by the UK government anyway): I mean real men among folks around us, those who make about us much as we do. Would a real man step outside his house wearing a $10 polo shirt knowing that he may stumble upon the woman of his dreams who’ll know immediately that the shirt he’s wearing is a cheap one? I don’t know how women know it, but they always do. And oftentimes when they catch you wearing a $10 polo shirt that’s the last they’ll think of you.
And why the polo shirt, you may ask? If this is a spenders’ game, why not demonstrate you supposed manliness by buying crocodile shoes for $1,000? The answer is, again, in the mass demand. Do you know a man who owns a pair of crocodile shoes? Now, do you know a man who doesn’t own a polo shirt?
You get it, right? Let me know if you have more questions: I am thinking of writing another article on this subject anyway. And good luck finding your favorite polo shirt, no matter how much you are ready to pay for it!