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Definitive : Polo Shirts Boast Classic Versatility

August 28, 1992|JOHN MORELL

Chances are you've never played polo. Or even watched someone on horseback bear down on a ball with a mallet or shoot it through the goal posts. Chukkers, strings and ride offs are probably as foreign to you as an Aston Martin DB5.

But it's a good bet you are either wearing a piece of polo attire or have at least some hanging in the closet or folded in among the T-shirts.

Whether it sports the green-alligator applique of the Izod Lacoste or the horse, rider and mallet of the Polo Ralph Lauren or has no logo at all, it's hard to live without a polo shirt.

The style originated in mid-19th-Century England as something comfortable for sportsmen to wear. Clothiers there made a knitted worsted wool shirt from fabrics made on the Isle of Jersey, thus the name jersey .

In the 1920s, French tennis champion Rene Lacoste asked a clothing manufacturer to design a short-sleeved cotton knit shirt with a long tail that wouldn't pull out of the waistband during an arduous match. Its success lobbed over to polo.

In 70 years, the polo shirt hasn't changed its chic and simple style. The fabric is still a smooth or textured cotton knit; it still has a placket opening above the knitted collar, and, of course, it still has the long back shirttail.

Colors run the full spectrum, as solids or in horizontal stripes, in keeping with the shirt's conservative heritage.

Versatile? As much as a piece of clothing can be. The polo shirt looks great with old shorts on the beach, with chinos or jeans out to dinner, or under a sweater on chilly nights.

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