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What is a polo shirt? How to wear, polo dresses, history, and everything you need to know

Polo shirts have been around since 1859 - but just how much have they changed?

Polo shirts have been around since before the end of the 19th century, but what are they?

Originally, polo shirts were worn by Polo players in India in 1859 before becoming attire associated with horse-riding by the British upper classes.

Here’s everything you need to know about polo shirts.

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What is a polo shirt

Boasting a collar, three or so buttons and a placket neckline, polo shirts are popular during hotter months due to their short sleeves.

The best polo shirts are made from knitted cotton, which makes the shirt breathable – however, cheaper polyester versions are now more common. These are best avoided as they’ll trap heat, which can lead to you feeling ‘stuffy’.

Perhaps the best known example of a polo shirt is Ralph Lauren – who built on its increasing popularity in 1972 when he included it as part of his original line ‘Polo’.

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Though not designed for sport, they nodded to the original attire worn by polo players. Other popular polos include the French brand Lacoste, which sits at the more expensive end of High Street fashion and British brand Fred Perry.

The former, named after the French tennis star Jean René Lacoste, sports the now infamous crocodile logo – a nod to Lacoste’s on-court nickname ‘le Crocodile’, rumoured to be handed to him for his tenacious attitude.

What is a polo dress?

A polo dress is a dress-length version of the classic shirt.

Best worn with trainers, the polo dress also boasts short sleeves and is best suited for summery months.

In the UK, given the climate, polo dresses are seldom seen.

How to wear a polo shirt

There are plenty of different ways to wear a polo shirt.

If you’re looking to avoid the preppy or equestrian looks, take style inspiration from fashion brand Fred Perry.

Tuck a polo shirt into jeans and add chunky black boots for a look with a bit of edge, or wear with a skirt or under a dress for an unexpected but stylish look.

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Outfit inspo

There’s nothing like a little bit outfit inspiration to get you excited about an item.

We’ve found some stylish polo shirt looks from these influencers to inspire you.

Buy now

Fred Perry Shirt

Polo shirt, £70, Fred Perry – buy now

Erin Polo Long Sleeve

Long sleeve polo shirt, £20, Weekday – buy now


Polo shirt, £92.50, Maje – buy now

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