CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Polo shirt" has become a standard name -- like "T-shirt" or "khakis" -- to describe a knit shirt.
Sunday Gazette-Mail fashion columnist Tommie Roberts described the silhouette: "usually a longer-bodied, side-vented shirt, with short sleeves with ribbed cuffs and ribbed collar, with a three-button placket."
Yes, they are all the same shape. But after recent visits to my college-age children in Alabama and Virginia, I've learned there's a zoo full of animals adorning the chests of students on campuses throughout the South.
I'm no fashion historian, but I did wear alligator shirts when I was in college in North Carolina back in the late '70s. (And, for the record, they are crocodiles, not alligators.) We didn't call them polo shirts -- we called them Izods. The manufacturer was Lacoste.
Tennis star Rene Lacoste practically invented preppy sportswear when he marketed the first polo shirt 70 years ago. Dubbed the "alligator shirt" in the United States, the crocodile polo had its U.S. heyday in the late '70s and early '80s, according to CNN Money.
My dad, far from preppy and not a golfer or a tennis player, wore the little penguin shirts (by Munsingwear) around the house on Saturdays. Now Brad Pitt wears them. Dad was cool. Go figure.
In 1972, according to Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, Ralph Lauren debuted what would become his signature piece: the mesh sport shirt, available in a variety of colors and featuring his trademark emblem, the polo player.
Fast-forward to many college campuses today. The Lauren shirt is still popular, worn for casual days and available at outlet malls across the country where they are typically priced at around $40. (Full-priced Polo-brand shirts are more expensive, but they can be found at discounts in most stores and online.) For "dress up," there are myriad other options that come with much higher price tags.