The History of the Polo Shirt

The Polo Shirt

For the more than two thousand years that the genteel team-sport of polo appears in the historical record, various garments have been worn by its players. In the late 19th century, for example, some British players would wear long-sleeved, turn-down-collar, oxford cloth shirts. But apparently the collars of those shirts would flap up into the faces of the athletes during the fast-paced game; so, eventually, the players started securing their collar-ears to their shirts by way of buttons.

Then in 1896 American John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers, took the idea of the button-down collar back across “the pond” to America and started selling them at the store as “polo shirts.” The shirts quickly became, and remain to this day, one of the cornerstones of the establishment. Today, button-down-collar oxford cloth shirts are still called “polo shirts,” even though they have long been retired from the polo fields and are instead being worn primarily by businessmen and academics.

But for the most part, when a modern gentleman refers to a “polo shirt,” he is referring to the equally ubiquitous short-sleeved, cotton-knit (traditionally a piqué knit) shirt with a two- or three-button placket, a ribbed collar and sleeve band, and an extended tail (to keep the shirt tucked in while engaged in active sport). This modern polo shirt was introduced to the tennis—not polo—world at the 1926 US Open tennis tournament by Jean René Lacoste (1904-1996). Lacoste walked onto the court at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York in his new, short-sleeved shirt; shocked both the sports and fashion worlds; then five days later walked off the court with the championship trophy in his hands and what would become a fashion icon on his back. In an era where fashion ruled over function, Lacoste’s insistence upon comfort and practicality over form and tradition resonated with athletes in other sports—especially the sport of polo—which quickly abandoned its long-sleeved shirts with stiff, starched collars for the short-sleeved “tennis shirt,” so much so that the shirt would come to be called the “polo shirt” instead of the “tennis shirt.”

In 1933 Lacoste collaborated with his friend André Gillier, owner of a large French knitwear company of the day, to establish La Societe Chemise Lacoste (The Lacoste Shirt Company). Evidenced in its first catalog (1933), the firm produced the shirt design that Lacoste had first sported on the tennis court in 1926, as well as other shirts for sports such as sailing and golf, embroidering the company’s logo, a crocodile, onto each garment—thereby becoming the first company in recorded history to affix its logo on the outside of its garments. Then in 1951, the company decided to broaden its palette beyond classic tennis whites, adding a variety of colors. In 1967, American fashion designer Ralph Lauren established his fashion empire, “Polo Ralph Lauren”; and at its cornerstone were classic polo shirts—both the Brooks Brothers button-down-collar and the Lacoste knitwear varieties.

The Leather Scarf by Wayne James: Fashion’s Newest Invention

A Leather Scarf by Designer Wayne James:  Fashion’s Newest Invention

In the uber-creative world of fashion, where artsy types with their quirky ideas abound, St. Croix-born fashion designer Wayne James has done the next-to-impossible:  invent something truly new. And James’ invention is…: The leather scarf.

The “buttery-soft” accessory drapes and folds like silk. It measures 18” wide and 72” long and is made from one, continuous, seamless cut of super-thin top-grain cowhide. Unveiled in June of 2021, James’ leather scarf has already begun turning heads—and necks—in the world of fashion. It is available exclusively at the designer’s recently launched online Concepts Store,  and comes in two earthy color options, a rich “cognac” and subtle “natural.” The heirloom-quality scarf, which is guaranteed to last a lifetime—and then some—is priced at $860.  A 20% discount is offered to qualified shoppers.

Leather has been used, from time immemorial, to clad the human body from head to toe: hats, jackets, belts, trousers, footwear.  But for some reason, designers have never thought of or figured out a way to create the leather scarf—despite its obvious capacity for providing warmth and protection from the wintery element.  In 2021, however, when James sourced an exquisite imported leather that flows like fabric, he jumped at the opportunity to execute an idea that had been on his drawing board for over 20 years, patiently awaiting the right leather.

“Anyone could have thought of a leather scarf.  But no one else did.  And that’s what makes this all so exciting and all so special. It is nice to be distinguished for creating something unique in an industry filled with creative geniuses,” James said.

Throughout fashion history, there have been only a few such “firsts” that could be definitively attributed to a particular designer.  The today-ubiquitous zipper was invented by Elias Howe in 1851; improved by Whitcomb L. Judson 40 years later in 1893; and transformed by Gideon Sundback in 1913 into the Y-shaped implement that characterizes zippers today.  But it was not until 1923 that American industrialist B. F. Goodrich coined the onomatopoeic word, “zipper,” to describe the invention. The 1920s’ concept of the bias-cut garment belongs to Madelaine Vionnet (1857-1956), and  Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) is credited with the concept of “the little black dress.” In 1896, American John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers (1818), noticed that British polo players would use buttons to hold in place the collars of the long-sleeve Oxford cloth shirts in which the fast-paced sport was played. And returning “across pond” to America, he began producing Oxford cloth shirts with buttoned-down collars and called them “polo shirts.” Jean René Lacoste (1904-1996) debuted the other type of polo shirt—the short-sleeve, cotton piqué, knit ones—at the 1926 U.S. Open tennis tournament, causing a stir and establishing himself as a fashion icon. The miniskirt is generally regarded as the invention of British designer Mary Quant (1930-present), the animal skins worn by mankind’s cave-dwelling ancestors notwithstanding.

“The common thread of fashion’s greatest inventions is that they all should have been obvious to one’s designer-peers but for some strange reason were not. Call it luck, serendipity, genius, who knows,” James said.  “This leather scarf is one such creation.  Scarves of all types and fabrics have been around forever—from Hermés’ iconic silk ones, to J.Crew’s 2020 cashmere ones, to grandma’s handknit Christmas gift ones.  Now, there is the Wayne James leather scarf.  And I think it is going to eventually take its place amongst the great inventions of fashion,” James concluded.  

A Leather Scarf: Fashion Designer Wayne James’ Newest Invention!

A Leather Scarf:  Fashion Designer Wayne James’ Newest Invention

Model Cameron Alexander in Wayne James’ Leather Scarf. Photo by Mark Jackson. Fall/Winter 2022 Collection.

Fashion designer Wayne James has launched his much-anticipated online Concepts Store, And the inaugural Concept is an extraordinary, exquisite, leather scarf made of an ultra-thin, über-supple, top-grain cowhide. Available in two earthy colors, cognac and natural, the “buttery-soft” scarf measures 18” wide and 72” long and is handmade in the USA of one, continuous, seamless cut of luxurious imported leather.  The Wayne James insignia—an interlocking WJ established in 1986—is discreetly debossed into one corner of the scarf, imparting the designer’s stamp of approval and mark of authenticity.

“A leather scarf is unique, even in the creative world of fashion,” James said. “There is nothing like it out there. And there has never been anything like it. It is truly a new concept, and I am happy to introduce it to the world. 

“The purpose of the Concepts Store is to debut cutting-edge products—things that even “fashionistas” and “style-influencers” have never heard of, seen, or dreamt of before,” James said.

The idea of a leather scarf was literally and figuratively on the company’s drawing board for 20 years—waiting patiently until James could source a super-soft cowhide that was wide enough and long enough to craft the scarf from a single cut of leather. Then, in 2021—just in the nick of time for the Fall/Winter 2022 Collection—James identified such a leather, a sanded, lightly buffed, top-grain hide cut to .78mm to 1.19mm (1/32” to 3/64”) thin. One of the cornerstones of the collection, the leather scarf is being unveiled as the online Concepts Store’s inaugural Concept.

“This leather scarf is the type of accessory that punctuates a wardrobe,” James said. “It is to a wardrobe what an exclamation mark is to a sentence, period. Whether paired with a wool crewneck sweater or Scottish tweed sport coat in the fall, or a suede or cashmere coat in the winter, the scarf makes a fashion statement:  that the wearer has a lot of confidence and personal style.

“And what’s great, too, is that the scarf mellows as it is worn and ages, draping around the neck like a second skin,” James said.  “This is an investment piece: It is classic and is therefore timeless. It’s the type of fashion accessory that becomes storied, that is passed from one generation to the next,” James concluded.

The leather scarf is available exclusively at and is priced at $860 (less any applicable discounts).

Fashion Designer Wayne James Launches Online Concepts Store

Fashion Designer Wayne James Launches Online Luxury Concepts Store

Fashion designer Wayne James has launched his online Concepts Store,, in celebration of the company’s 35th anniversary.  The online store will present James’ most cutting-edge design concepts, one concept at a time—from a silk-soft leather scarf, to a five-blend line of dry-rub seasonings formulated for male cooks, to a collection of belts with 18K gold buckles—each concept featured for three consecutive months before moving to the “Reserve Collection,” thereby making room for a new concept to be featured.  Only four concepts will be featured per year. And most of the products in the collection are made in the United States whenever possible:  an exquisite men’s robe made of imported Irish linen is made in New York City; a timeless white linen shirt made of the same Belgian linen used to make papal vestments is manufactured in Boston; and luxurious seven-fold ties made of Italian and English silks are hand-sewn in North Carolina.

“The aim of my Concepts Store is to simplify the online shopping experience,” James said.  “The internet is great; but it can also inundate.” The unique format of the store—believed to be the only of its kind—allows consumers to focus on the one item that is being featured.

“Shopping at is easy and elegant,” James said. “And unlike other online vendors who simply pack their customers’ purchases into mailing-boxes and ship them off, no frills added, my online store keeps the experience upscale from start to finish.  Purchases are packaged in company gift boxes with company-colors tissue paper—just like the great department stores of yesteryear—before being placed into mailing-boxes for shipment. That way, each purchase arrives at your door as a ready-to-be-presented gift,” James added.   

St. Croix-born James established his fashion company in 1986 at the age of 24 and presented his first collection in New York’s artsy SoHo district two months before graduating from prestigious Georgetown Law in 1987. And within a mere two years, in 1989, James was being touted as one of the rising stars amongst young New York designers by the Washington Post and United Press International (UPI).

“I showed my very first collection at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery on Spring Street in SoHo in March of 1987, sold the collection to Bergdorf Goodman in April, and my garments were being worn on New York’s famed 5th Avenue by July of that year,” James recalls. “I was busy shipping my first collection of Ecuadorian hand-knitted sweater-dresses while my law school classmates were studying for the bar exam.”

Within the first decade, James’ collections had been lauded by fashion’s most venerated arbiters:  Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), New York Times, Washington Post, Elle, GQ, Ebony, Essence, USA Today, UPI, Daily News Record (DNR), etc. And his garments were being sold by fashion’s best—from Nordstrom’s to Bergdorf’s to Saks Jandel to Victoire’s in Paris, France.

Haute Couture model, Janice Joyce, in a 1989 Wayne James “Little Black Dress.” Photo: Amr Mounib.

“But fashion has evolved since the 1980s,” James said. “E-commerce has not only made brick-and-mortar merchandising almost irrelevant, it has also made the entire world your marketplace:  With a quick Google, Bing, or Yahoo search, a customer in Otavalo or Montescudaio can purchase one of my luxury products and have it delivered by courier across the globe. I saw it coming—from way back in the late 1990s.  And that’s when I started designing this online collection—way back then—patiently waiting until now that the average person is comfortable with online shopping. The designs in this online collection have been tested and re-tested to perfection.  I’ve been working on this for 20 years, and it’s now time for the roll-out of all these great products. It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating. I have decades’ worth of luxury products in the roll-out queue, all ready to be featured in the Concepts Store at the appointed time. 

Upcoming “Celebration,” Wayne James’ Men’s Fragrance

And James, who will turn 60 later this year, is once again looking to the future. “I have recently begun laying the foundations for bringing new, fresh talent into the fold of the company—design graduates from schools such as New York’s FIT, RISD in Rhode Island, and the Savannah School of Design. The objective is to have the Wayne James label endure long into the future—as a label that is synonymous with timeless innovation,” James concluded.