The Right to Bare Arms

If there's anything that will make you feel like the summer is just around the corner, it's slipping on a short-sleeved shirt or polo, donning a pair of cotton shorts, sliding your shades onto your face, and stepping outside to feel the glow of the spring sun. There's something about ditching long sleeves and bearing your arms that seems to usher the season along just that little bit faster, preempting those gloriously hot days at the beach or in the park. Losing the formality of long sleeves in favour of the cut-off variety is just infinitely more breezy. Yes, a rolled-up long sleeve can look perfectly louche and insouciant on holiday, but in the polo and short-sleeved shirt there's something that speaks to our boyish sides. They're just more fun, more free, more... summer.

The polo shirt, as the name might suggest, derives from the game of polo. As with many items of modern menswear, it has a military background via British armed forces personnel stationed out in Manipur, India in the 1800s. Wearing heavy cotton drill, the officers added button-down collars to stop them flapping about in their faces while on polo horseback. Sartorial standards and a stiff upper lip were presumably two reasons why they didn't just lop the sleeves off there and then. They left that job to a French man by the name of Jean Rene Lacoste.

Oliver Spencer short sleeved shirts.

He was rather handy with a tennis racquet, but couldn't stand the rolled-up sleeves and stiff cotton of traditional tennis whites so ditched the sleeves up to the elbow and had his shirt made in pique cotton, which has a much more open and breathable weave. Another tennis player by the name of Fred Perry joined the game in the 50s and they battled it out on polo shirt centre court until the 70s when one Ralph Lauren launched his Polo collection, and that was game, set and match.

While the polo has been a runaway success ever since Lacoste commercialised it, the same can't be said of shirts. Boxy styles with wind-sock sleeves became the preserve of nerds in the 80s, but thankfully we've left that stage behind us. A nicely tailored short-sleeve shirt with just the right sleeve dimensions is a joy to behold and an even better one to wear. Yes, you can wear some styles under a suit (our seersucker versions are perfect for wearing beneath our linen jackets), but we love to add a little half-tuck with a pair of cotton shorts or fishtail trousers and ride off into the sunset.

Oliver Spencer short-sleeved shirts.

To make it more casual, you can add a couple of rolls to each sleeve (possessors of noodles for arms might want to rethink that advice), alternatively, you can use the short-sleeve shirt like an overshirt and layer it with a crisp white t-shirt (hat-tip to Christian Slater's Hawaiian get-up in True Romance).

Whether you opt for the sportier polo or the more versatile shirt, both most definitely deserve pride of place in your spring/summer wardrobe. Click here to shop all of our current polo and t-shirt styles, or here to discover our range of summer-ready shirts.

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