Why 2020 is the year of polo


There was a moment of about three months after the lockdown when I took the un-ironed polo shirt from my drawer and realized that I hadn’t worn a business suit or shirt in weeks. And also that I had too many polo shirts.

It won’t be one of those articles about working from home during the lockdown and finding out that not commuting is actually a lot nicer than commuting. I also didn’t have a good idea that working from home is better than working in an office because you can save a lot of money if you don’t buy silly train tickets or too much coffee or lunches. dear at Pret.

I continued to come to the office throughout the lockdown, not because I enjoyed commuting, but because I thought it was important to be in the newsroom when the world was falling apart. That’s what I told people, anyway: the real reason was that there wasn’t a single quiet room or work surface to stick a laptop on in my house, with three noisy kids. and my wife grabbing everyone else.

Giorgio Armani cotton, silk and cashmere polo shirt, £ 810, and cashmere jacket, £ 2,350. Luca Nichetto for De La Espada Harold office, £ 4,034, conranshop.com © Lara Angelil

So I went to work. And continued to go. Since spring, we’ve rarely been more than a handful in the whole building. You can walk through empty floors and never see a soul, as in The brilliant without a murderous Jack Nicholson. And because no one else has been there, I thought: what’s the point of wearing business attire? Which is only countered by the thought that if someone important comes along, then I can’t seem to get out of bed or dress for work.

Hence the polo shirts, which I started to wear at work because a polo shirt is more comfortable than a suit and tie. It’s not a T-shirt either. And I actually like them, which I don’t readily admit because, depending on your age or where you are in the world, a polo shirt can be kind of an anti-fashion statement, like wearing shorts. cargo ship or the non-ironic – or even ironic – pair of brown socks with sandals.

Sunspel merino wool polo shirt, £ 170.  Berluti wool jacket, POA.  Cherner Classic armchair in walnut, € 1,489, conranshop.com
Sunspel merino wool polo shirt, £ 170. Jacket and trousers in Berluti wool, both POA. Cherner Classic armchair in walnut, £ 1,489, conranshop.com © Lara Angelil

The original polo shirt – so called because it was worn on polo grounds in India – had long sleeves and buttoned collars to keep them from flapping in the wind. John E Brooks, the grandson of Brooks Brothers founder Henry Brooks, was so struck by them watching an English polo match that he put button collars on Brooks Brothers shirts – some of the first sold in America who had collars attached. More than a century later, the company still calls its long-sleeved button-down shirts the “original polo shirt”.

In America, polo shirts have a preppy association, which Ralph Lauren can be blamed for as he essentially invented preppiness in the late 60s with a line that became the default wardrobe for people named Tad who use ” summer “as a verb (as in:” Where do you spend the summer? “) and wear chinos and sweaters tied around the shoulders. Lauren even called his line Polo and designed a logo of a polo player on a horse, wielding a mallet above his head.

Lauren was inspired by polo players and a vision of American Waspish life that in his youth would have been elusive for a Bronx Jewish boy born Ralph Lifshitz. But he may also have been inspired by René Lacoste’s classic polo shirt, which wasn’t even a polo shirt at all because Lacoste was a tennis champion. Lacoste wanted a shirt that could be worn in the field, so he shortened the polo’s sleeves and reduced the number of buttons. The Frenchman’s nickname was “the Crocodile”, which is why every Lacoste shirt has the small crocodile badge on the heart and would be the first item of clothing to have a logo on it.

Tod's wool blend polo shirt, £ 420, cashmere turtleneck, £ 720 and wool blend jacket, £ 1,420.  Office, as before
Tod’s wool blend polo shirt, £ 420, cashmere turtleneck, £ 720 and wool blend jacket, £ 1,420. Office, as before © Lara Angelil

“He created this shirt, which was then copied by Fred Perry who added the Wimbledon crown to his logo,” says Peter Howarth, fashion consultant and former Squire editor who worked with Armani and Versace. After Lacoste, polo shirts will be adopted by the suave Italian men who roam Rome on Lambrettas; The English mods of the 1960s, which carried Fred Perry; and then the skinheads, who loved their polo shirts almost as much as Dr Martens boots. Such associations don’t always help: Fred Perry recently stopped selling a black version of his shirt after it became the de facto uniform of the Proud Boys, a crazy American far-right group.

Howarth says shirts have evolved over time: Once only available in cotton pique, designers now make them in a range of fabrics, from silk blend to cashmere. And every designer has one in their range of menswear, from Tom Ford and Burberry to Kiton, which sells one for just £ 900. Haute couture or low fashion, Howarth says the polo “is really something you have to play with because it’s something any man can wear.”

If that means not having to wear a suit and tie, who wouldn’t want to wear one? I can’t imagine the handful of style icons in the void FT newsroom wearing a £ 900 one anytime soon. But you get my point.

Casting Director, Shawn Dezan at Home Agency. Model agency, Premier Management. Grooming, Keiichiro Hirano from The London Style Agency, using Unite Haircare. Photographer’s assistant, Callum Inskipp. Digital operator, Cameron Williamson. Assistant stylist, Bryony Hatrick

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