The polo shirt has a fascinating history; it was invented by René Lacoste, a professional tennis player, out of the sheer necessity of wanting to wear something comfortable while playing the sport. Back then, white button-down shirts with long sleeves were the uniform. René, a rule-breaker, designed his own outfit – the infamous polo t-shirt. He slapped on an alligator logo on the left breast after a journalist bequeathed him the title of “The Alligator” and went on to win several grand slam competitions. American designer Ralph Lauren became so obsessed with making the knitted pique cotton shirts that when he designed its iteration under his label, Polo Ralph Lauren, and released it in 24 colours, it became so big that it is still one of his label’s highest-selling products, even after fifty years.
But none of them compare or come close to how famous dads have made the polo t-shirt.
Even before I turned to fashion and said, “this is how I will make a living,” I knew what the polo shirt looked like. My knowledge came from watching my dad wear it. A burnt orange classic fitted Lacoste L.12.12 polo was his favourite among a bevy that he owned, and all in colours that did the opposite of incite confidence in his fashion choices. He wore it with everything. When he wanted to look hip, he would turn toward denim pants, or shorts, when the urge was to push the sartorial envelope further. Because wearing sweatpants on a whim to work was frowned upon in the entirety of his career, he flexed his cool on Casual Fridays when he swapped his shirt with the polo in question. Upon taking a closer look at the dad society at large, I realised that flexing of polo style wasn’t exclusive to my dad. It was something that participants across the community enjoyed . Even my brothers, who I thought were otherwise rock stars jamming to Def Leppard and Nirvana, who walked around in t-shirts carrying Curt Cobain’s disgruntled face, switched to polo shirts after the birth of their children, as though it was their rite of passage. Makes me wonder if there’s a secret society handing out ‘dad’ starter kits with polo shirts as its most important component.
This makes me wonder, what makes the polo shirt so quintessential to dad style? Is it that a polo shirt doesn’t differentiate between dad bods and manages to look flattering on all? Or the fact that very little effort goes into putting together the look, and given how time is something dads spend on things that make other happy rather than themselves, this is the perfect match?
Ralph Lauren once said that polo shirts look better with age. Each time I revisit old family albums, I believe, so does my dad. I guess dads and polo shirts are a match made in heaven after all.
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