The Icon Series | Le Polo Sweat
The Les Basics polo shirt for AW19 celebrates the iconic tennis shirts that emerged in the 1970s right through to the '90s. This was a period when we believe ‘polo shirts’ were at their best, helping shape the garment into a classic worn by everyone from Björn Borg and Arnold Palmer to Casuals and Perry Boys.
Tennis of the early days, however, was all about exclusivity. All white dressing became known as “tennis whites” and players donned flannel trousers, dress shirts and ties. Luckily there are the French, and René Lacoste eventually disregarded this uniform, creating his own shirt designed with the sport in mind.
A very considered garment, it was made from comfortable and breathable pique cotton with short sleeves, a minimal 3-button placket and an unstarched collar that could still be worn upright, providing just a bit of protection from hours spent in the sun. The shirt was even lengthened at the back to help it stay tucked in while ducking and diving around the court. Needs must.
This Lacoste tennis shirt was soon iterated in 1972 by Polo Ralph Lauren who excelled its movement off the court. Coining a household name of the ‘polo shirt’, Ralph Lauren sent it straight into the wardrobes of the masses and turned it into a timeless icon.
With it’s boom in the 1970’s, the world of tennis still played an integral part in this global reaction. Professional players could now partake in any of the four Grand Slam tournaments and actually make a living, sparking an increase of players and an increase in media attention. The distinctive and unique personalities of Borg, McEnroe, Ashe, Nastase, Evert, Billie Jean King and many others turned tennis into an exciting and culturally relevant sport. Professional players became ‘personalities’, introducing new playing styles, revolutionising the game and in attracting an audience, so to attracted the sponsorship of clothing brands worldwide.
Brands like Sergio Tacchini and Fila were pivotal vehicles of this new look. They turned the court into a platform for fashion as much as sporting talent, using this new found outlet to showcase their design and trends and to access a new market.
Colour was introduced to rebel against the “all whites” by way of stripes, originally kept to pastel hues of grey, yellow and sky, royal and navy blue. The cuts of the tops only became sharper. Björn Borg’s form fitting shirts and splayed collars were loud and proud, relating more and more to the world outside of tennis during this time. His dressing attracted attention off the court as much as on and speaking to a reporter in 1975, influences were clearly becoming cyclical; “The more I travel and the more people I meet, the greater is my need for the latest clothes—jeans, denim jackets, and matching shirts”.
It wasn’t until the 80’s and 90’s that dress became louder. Shirts transformed becoming looser, boxier and brighter mimicking the movements of western fashion. Placed in the confines of the court however, rebellion felt even stronger and as tensions and restrictions lifted, colour finally found confidence. Applied across whole shirts in bold patterns, panelling and fluorescence, the look was youthful, electrifying and defied history.
For AW19, we harnessed this wear-what-we-want attitude that loosens up the fit and explores the need for both bold and subtle colour. Le Polo Sweat adopts a loose fit and a homage 70’s collar emerging from a v-rib neck for even easier throw on wear. The fabric, a reverse side loopback fleece imitates the classic pique and terry cloth of the era, making a further nod to its heroes when polo shirts were at their best.
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