A tennis shirt or also commonly known as a polo shirt or a golf shirt, is a type of t-shirt with a collar, typically with some buttons down a slit below the collar, two small slits on the bottom of either side, and an optional pocket. These shirts are usually made of knitted cloth especially pique cotton or, less commonly, silk, merino wool, or synthetic fibers.

Between the nineteenth and early twentieth century, tennis players had a tough time playing their games as a result of poor design of their attire. In those days, they had to wear long-sleeved shirts, trousers and even ties to the tennis court. These formal cloths were akin to what the white collars of today wear to work and were simply too heavy and cumbersome for professional playing. Therefore, a French tennis player called Rene Lacoste decided to start his own line of tennis shirts named after himself, Lacoste. The 7-time Grand Slam tennis champion came up with a loosely-knitted un-starched pique cotton tennis shirt with a collar and longer shirt-tail at the back.

The collar is thicker so that it could be upturned and provide the neck protection from the sun while playing. Actually, before Lacoste invented the revolutionary tennis shirt in 1929, polo shirts already had the button-down collar design since the late nineteenth century. While this design was able to prevent the wind from flapping the collars against the players' neck, the long-sleeved polo shirts which were made of Oxford-cloth cotton were clumsy to wear on the field. As a result, Lacoste's tennis shirts were promptly taken on by the polo players as their apparel in the 1930s.

The term polo shirt soon became identified with the tennis shirt design. By the 1950s, it was a common slang in America used to describe the shirt most commonly thought-of as part of formal tennis attire. Indeed, tennis players would more often refer to their shirt as a "polo shirt" regardless of the fact that its use in tennis was predated by its use in polo by a huge period of time.

Then Ralph Lauren started a new line of polo shirts and incorporated it into his existing collection called Polo, in 1967. As a result, polo shirts became even more popular. Lauren's polo shirts were not really designed for the game, but its design was similar to what the polo players were wearing at that time.

As golf attire become more easygoing and less formal in the twentieth century, golf also adopted tennis shirt as its standard attire. Most golfers today, male and female alike, are wearing tennis shirts. For the ladies, tennis shirts can be custom made in different kinds of colors. But because golf is an entirely different game from tennis, it requires different design of cuts on the tennis shirt, resulting in the monicker "golf shirt". Now that tennis shirt is so commonly worn in today's society, it has its own niche in the market. Since both men and women wear it in any and every occasion, almost every fashion producer started to invent at least a version or variation of Lacoste's tennis shirt for non-athletics purposes. At the same time, tennis shirts are just the perfect substitute attire for jobs where round collar-t-shirts are deemed unacceptable and yet formal business wear is deemed overdressed, such as for semi-professional and retail workers. Tennis shirts are widely accepted as smart and casual wear.

Tennis shirt is suitable for outdoor activities too because its texture is tough and flexible. Those in the professions as field guides and laborers, for example, like to wear tennis shirt to work. Gradually, the high tech industry also made tennis shirt its standard work uniform during the 1990s. To make it more official looking, a company logo is usually stitched on the tennis shirt. In India, some government departments have adopted tennis shirts as uniforms for their officials.

Tennis shirts are without doubt very fashionable in sports. Officials such as caddies, some retired golf professionals, umpires and sports announcers wear tennis shirts on a regular basis. Besides that, tennis shirts are also popular in many schools, especially junior schools. Both boys and girls wear tennis shirts as part of their compulsory uniform to schools. Because tennis shirts are closely associated with sports, they come in all sorts of light colors. The most typical color is white.

Like in the original Lacoste's design, sometimes a tennis shirt is cut so that the back hangs a few centimeters lower than the front also known as a "tennis tail". The longer tail is meant to keep the shirt tucked into the back of a man's tennis shorts when he is bent over to survey the court. The easily-upturnable collar remains another athletic aid to protect against sun burns.

Whatever it is with the changing trends and seasons the tennis shirt or polo shirt will continue to evolve and remain a part of our attire for many years to come.

About the Author:

Jay Pow has over 21 years of experience in the embroidery and imprinting industry covering a wide range of embroidering products from corporate apparel, school backpacks, computer backpacks, embroidered polo shirts, ladies apparel, tote bags and so on. He is a regular consultant for MyLogoImprinted.com

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