A tennis shirt or also commonly known as a polo shirt or a golf shirt, is a type of t-shirt with a collar, typically with some buttons down a slit below the collar, two small slits on the bottom of either side, and an optional pocket. These shirts are usually made of knitted cloth especially pique cotton or, less commonly, silk, merino wool, or synthetic fibers.
Between the nineteenth and early twentieth century, tennis players had a tough time playing their games as a result of poor design of their attire. In those days, they had to wear long-sleeved shirts, trousers and even ties to the tennis court. These formal cloths were akin to what the white collars of today wear to work and were simply too heavy and cumbersome for professional playing. Therefore, a French tennis player called Rene Lacoste decided to start his own line of tennis shirts named after himself, Lacoste. The 7-time Grand Slam tennis champion came up with a loosely-knitted un-starched pique cotton tennis shirt with a collar and longer shirt-tail at the back. The collar is thicker so that it could be upturned and provide the neck protection from the sun while playing. Actually, before Lacoste invented the revolutionary tennis shirt in 1929, polo shirts already had the button-down collar design since the late nineteenth century. While this design was able to prevent the wind from flapping the collars against the players’ neck, the long-sleeved polo shirts which were made of Oxford-cloth cotton were clumsy to wear on the field. As a result, Lacoste’s tennis shirts were promptly taken on by the polo players as their apparel in the 1930s.
The term polo shirt soon became identified with the tennis shirt design. By the 1950s, it was a common slang in America used to describe the shirt most commonly thought-of as part of formal tennis attire. Indeed, tennis players would more often refer to their shirt as a “polo shirt” regardless of the fact that its use in tennis was predated by its use in polo by a huge period of time.
Then Ralph Lauren started a new line of polo shirts and incorporated it into his existing collection called Polo, in 1967. As a result, polo shirts became even more popular. Lauren’s polo shirts were not really designed for the game, but its design was similar to what the polo players were wearing at that time.
Some time during the twentieth century, as standard clothing in golf became more laidback and less formal, the tennis shirt became adopted nearly universally as standard golf attire. Very few golfers today wear anything else. Lady golf apparel often include custom polo shirts in various shades of colors. Various golf cuts for the standard tennis shirt has resulted in specific designs of the tennis shirt for golf, resulting in the monicker “golf shirt”. In our modern times the tennis shirt has become so popular that it is considered it’s own category of clothing. Nearly all major clothing producers makes some version or variation of Lacoste’s tennis shirt. It is today worn by both men and women in numerous non-athletic contexts. Notably, tennis shirts are worn by many semi-professional and retail workers in conditions where round collar t-shirts are not acceptable, but formal business wear is not necessary. Nowadays tennis shirts are considered casual but smart wear.
Tennis shirt is suitable for outdoor activities too because its texture is tough and flexible. Those in the professions as field guides and laborers, for example, like to wear tennis shirt to work. Gradually, the high tech industry also made tennis shirt its standard work uniform during the 1990s. To make it more official looking, a company logo is usually stitched on the tennis shirt. In India, some government departments have adopted tennis shirts as uniforms for their officials.
In many schools with uniforms, especially junior schools, tennis shirts are part of a compulsory uniform for both boys and girls. The tennis shirt continues to be popular in sports, even used by officials such as caddies, some retired golf professionals, umpires and sports announcers. Thanks in part to the outdoor nature of the sports with which they are linked to, the shirts often come in light colors, for example in tennis the color white is most often used.
Like in the original Lacoste’s design, sometimes a tennis shirt is cut so that the back hangs a few centimeters lower than the front also known as a “tennis tail”. The longer tail is meant to keep the shirt tucked into the back of a man’s tennis shorts when he is bent over to survey the court. The easily-upturnable collar remains another athletic aid to protect against sun burns.
The tennis shirt or polo shirt will continue to occupy a niche in the fashion industry, regardless of the changing trends and times. It has become an essential wear in our daily lives.
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