Anyone for polo?

By Randy O Williams from the United States

When it comes to golf, about the closest thing that comes to a universal uniform for the sport is a polo shirt.

Typically it is a form of shirt with a collar, a small opening at the neckline, a placket with two or three buttons, and an optional pocket.

Some historians actually trace its roots as far back as the beginning of the nineteenth century when they were part of the uniforms worn by polo players in England and the United States.

Its popularity really took off during ``The Roaring Twenties'' as French tennis star and fashion designer Rene Lacoste helped demonstrate how the style aided yachtsmen, golfers and tennis players worldwide to perform with comfort and ease of movement.

With its exceptional versatility, the iconic style has certainly endured. Clearly it has been particularly embraced by golfers on and off the golf course as a garment that effortlessly conveys classic style with immaculate performance.

Just like golf clubs, what has really been improved upon concerning the polo shirt is technical features. One of those key refinements revolves around fabric, says Rob Stein who is president and chief executive of Donald Ross Apparel.

“We use 100 percent polyester fiber,” Stein said.

“It is engineered and shaped for moisture management. Everyone is always looking for the next trend and some (manufacturers) are trying to break out of the mold of synthetic fabrics.

“But from a pure pragmatic standpoint, you play golf in warm weather so a shirt that wicks moisture and dries fast is simply a big advantage for the golfer.”

Fabrics also come into play in aiming to maximize the golfer’s range of motion throughout the swing. To that end, manufacturers are always looking for ways to use materials that stretch and while spandex is good for that, it also has its downside, especially in the heat.

“People enjoy all the stretch it (spandex) provides,’’ Stein added.

“But on the flip side, spandex is a little heavier and a lot warmer than the polyester yarn that we use.

“What our research has shown us is that, yes, polyspandex has more stretch, unfortunately it is warm and when it is against your skin, especially on a hot day, spandex can get sticky and clingy. Not one of my favorite feelings, especially out there on the golf course. (However), we do use it use it a lot on second layers. Garments you wear over shirts.”

Speaking of warm, another development in the polo shirt is offering advanced protection from the sun with quality garments featuring UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50 plus.

On and off the golf course, players are also concerned about fashion and what is popular in terms of designs, colors and patterns.

Renowned designer Bert LaMar, creator of the handcrafted Iliac line, worn by such PGA stars as Retief Goosen, Jimmie Walker and Zach Johnson, is seeing a return to something he helped create a few years back and that is “a lower profile button v-neck that plays with the height of the collar.”

While Iliac has done quite well with black and white, when it comes to colour, the polo shirt is offered in an almost infinite range of hues and tones as well as patterns.

Stein added: “There is a lot of movement in design in terms of patterns and printed fabric is huge right now. Instead of the stripe going from point to point, you have print designs of golf balls and tees and paisleys.”

LOFT Golf apparel owner John Halvorsen notes that “yellow, purple, and a distinctive black/pink combination are really hot sellers right now”.

There will always be the classic colours usually found in most golfers’ wardrobes including white and varying shades of blue, but the veteran clothing executives are constantly on the lookout for what is going to flourish next.

Stein: “What is making a splash is burnt orange and creams, but what’s really trending is light grey. Why? Because it goes with everything.”

That is not unlike the polo itself, as it is the type of shirt that not only flexes with changing market trends, you can find it being worn in just about an endless variety of social occasions.