Polos have a strange history in the workplace. You might wonder how polo shirts revolutionized menswear, especially at work. While they were invented in the late 1800s, they didn’t rise in popularity until much later. Starting in the 1920s, tennis players adopted these shirts as a comfortable alternative to the long sleeves they had been wearing.
Then they became a symbol of rebellion when college students wore them to protest traditional dress codes in 1965. Polos later made a comeback in 1980s business culture as a symbol of casual professionalism and have remained in style for menswear ever since.
Workplaces that were once button-up shirts and ties only now offered polo shirts as a business casual option. Nowadays, polos are widely accepted as part of office attire—business casual wear that signals you’re part of a team but still professional enough for an office setting, the golf course, a business meeting, or another event. Here are some interesting reasons why polo shirts still remain.
They’re Business Casual
Polo shirts are a step up from your everyday T-shirt and jeans. They’re not too formal, but they’re definitely more polished than wearing just a plain tee. Instead of looking like you just threw on whatever was clean in your closet, polos give the impression that you put some thought into what you were going to wear that day. Paired with dress slacks or khaki pants, they are considered a staple for any man’s wardrobe.
They’re Easy To Clean
Polo shirts are an easy choice for the workplace. They can be machine or hand-washed, and they don’t need to be ironed. They dry quickly, so they’re ready to wear in a few hours. If you’re buying a polo shirt, look for one that is wrinkle-resistant and has some stretch to it—that way, your shirt will retain its shape even after multiple washes.
In the 1950s and 1960s when these shirts were more popular for sporting, it would be common to see politicians wearing them while boating or golfing. Even today, if you look closely, you can see many men choose these classic shirts for business casual settings.
They Can Have Company Logos
Aside from the polo’s role as a uniform, it can also be worn for leisure and business. Today, companies have begun to use polos with their logos as part of their corporate uniforms. These logo-clad polo shirts come in all shapes and sizes: embroidered or printed on the front, back or both; small or large; subtle or bold; left chest only, right chest only, or both. Company logos are a great way to identify who someone works for and are especially helpful when going to an event.
They Signal a Team Mentality
It’s important to note that the polo shirt itself is a symbol of team spirit. As we discussed earlier, this garment was originally worn by tennis players and other sports as part of their uniforms. But it has also been adopted by other sports teams and clubs as a way to identify group membership. This is especially true in professional settings where employees are often part of a larger organization or company—for example, employees who work for an accounting firm might wear the same style of polo shirt to indicate that they are part of the same team.
They Are Not Too Formal or Too Casual
While some offices traditionally required a shirt, tie, and jacket, dress codes have relaxed over the past 100 years. The polo shirt—a staple in many offices and businesses—has a strange history that’s not often talked about. It started being used in sports and eventually became adopted by business environments.
The polo shirt is ideal for any situation where you need to be professional but relaxed, like when you’re meeting with clients or colleagues at work or participating in a presentation with your boss. They are not too formal and they don’t look like they came straight out of someone’s closet; instead, they give off an air of informality and professionalism at the same time.
These shirts were designed for men and do not flatter women in the workplace as well, but even with that understanding, polos are still office-appropriate. In fact, many people wear them in their workplaces today. They’re versatile and can be worn in any environment, from the classroom to the boardroom.