Home Rugby Rugby Shirt vs Polo Shirt: What’s the Difference?

Rugby Shirt vs Polo Shirt: What’s the Difference?

Rugby shirts and polo shirts, while both originating in the realm of sportswear, have evolved to become staples in casual and semi-casual fashion. Despite their shared ancestry and some overlapping characteristics, these two types of shirts possess distinct features that set them apart. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone interested in fashion, sportswear, or both.


Historical Background

Rugby Shirts

Rugby shirts trace their roots back to the mid-19th century, when the sport of rugby was gaining popularity in British schools. Initially designed for the rigorous demands of rugby football, these shirts were crafted to withstand physical contact and rough play. Traditionally, rugby shirts were made from heavy cotton to endure the sport’s physicality and frequent scrums. Their design featured a sturdy construction with reinforced stitching, and the collars were made to be durable, often crafted from twill fabric, to resist being stretched or torn during a game.


Polo Shirts

Polo shirts, on the other hand, have their origins in the sport of polo, a game that has been played for centuries but was formalized in the 19th century in India by British soldiers. The modern polo shirt as we know it was popularized by René Lacoste, a French tennis player, in the 1920s. Lacoste sought to create a more practical and comfortable shirt for tennis, which led to the development of the polo shirt. Made from a lightweight, breathable pique cotton fabric, the polo shirt was designed for ease of movement and comfort on the tennis court. The shirt’s collar was also soft and could be turned up to protect the neck from the sun, a feature that quickly became popular in other sports and leisure activities.


Design and Fabric


Rugby shirts are typically made from heavyweight cotton or a cotton blend, designed to be robust and durable. This fabric choice makes them suitable for the physical demands of rugby, where the shirt must endure frequent pulling and contact. The heavier material also provides warmth, making rugby shirts a popular choice in cooler weather.


Polo shirts are generally made from lighter, breathable fabrics such as cotton pique or jersey. The pique fabric, with its unique texture, allows for better air circulation, making polo shirts ideal for warmer climates and active wear. The lighter fabric contributes to the polo shirt’s comfort and ease of wear, both on and off the sports field.


The collar is one of the most noticeable differences between rugby and polo shirts. Rugby shirts feature a stiff, buttoned-down collar made from durable twill fabric. This design prevents the collar from being easily pulled or stretched during a game, maintaining its shape and structure.

In contrast, polo shirts have a softer, often ribbed collar that is more flexible. This design is intended for comfort and ease of movement, allowing the wearer to easily adjust the collar for sun protection or style. The collar typically features two or three buttons at the neck, enabling the wearer to adjust the shirt’s fit and ventilation.

Sleeves and Cuffs

Rugby shirts usually come with long sleeves, complete with ribbed cuffs that can be pushed up if needed. This design not only offers additional warmth but also protects the arms during rough play. Some modern versions of rugby shirts may come with short sleeves, but the traditional long-sleeve design remains the most common.

Polo shirts predominantly feature short sleeves with a ribbed cuff, designed for a snug fit around the bicep. This short-sleeve design aligns with the shirt’s origin as a tennis shirt, providing comfort and freedom of movement for the arms. Long-sleeve polo shirts are available but are less common than their short-sleeve counterparts.

Stripes and Colors

Rugby shirts are often characterized by bold, horizontal stripes in contrasting colors, a design that originated from team uniforms. These stripes are not only aesthetic but also functional, helping to distinguish team members during a game. The colors are usually vibrant and eye-catching, reflecting the team’s identity and spirit.

Polo shirts, while available in a wide range of colors and patterns, typically feature solid colors or simple designs. The classic look of a polo shirt often includes a single, solid color with minimalistic detailing, making it versatile for various occasions, from sports to casual outings to business-casual settings.

Functional and Style Differences

Durability and Use

Rugby shirts are built for durability and functionality on the field. The heavy-duty fabric and reinforced stitching make them suitable for the physical demands of rugby. Off the field, their robust construction and casual style make them a popular choice for casual wear, especially in cooler weather.

Polo shirts, designed for comfort and flexibility, are ideal for both athletic and casual wear. The lightweight, breathable fabric makes them perfect for sports like tennis, golf, and casual outdoor activities. Their versatile design also makes them suitable for semi-casual and business-casual environments, where they can be paired with slacks or khakis for a polished look.

Fashion and Versatility

In terms of fashion, rugby shirts exude a rugged, sporty vibe. They are often associated with a preppy style, especially when paired with jeans or chinos. The bold stripes and vibrant colors make rugby shirts a statement piece in casual wardrobes.

Polo shirts offer a more refined, versatile look. Their simplicity and elegance make them suitable for a wide range of occasions, from a day on the golf course to a casual day at the office. Polo shirts can be dressed up or down, making them a staple in both casual and smart-casual wardrobes.

Cultural Significance

Rugby shirts carry a strong cultural association with the sport of rugby and the schools and universities where the sport is popular. They often symbolize team spirit, camaraderie, and a sense of tradition. Wearing a rugby shirt can evoke a connection to these values and the history of the sport.

Polo shirts, while also rooted in sports, have transcended their athletic origins to become a symbol of casual elegance. Popularized by brands like Lacoste and Ralph Lauren, polo shirts have become synonymous with preppy, upscale casual wear. They evoke a sense of timeless style and sophistication, often associated with leisure activities such as golf, sailing, and tennis.

See Also   Which Way Can You Pass The Rugby Ball?


While rugby shirts and polo shirts share a common ancestry in sportswear, their evolution has led to distinct differences in design, fabric, and cultural significance. Rugby shirts, with their heavy-duty construction and bold stripes, offer durability and a sporty, rugged aesthetic. Polo shirts, with their lightweight fabric and versatile design, provide comfort and elegance suitable for a wide range of activities and occasions.

Understanding these differences can help individuals make informed choices about which shirt best suits their needs and style preferences. Whether for athletic purposes, casual wear, or a touch of preppy sophistication, both rugby shirts and polo shirts hold a unique place in the world of fashion.


Ourballsports is a sports portal. The main columns include football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, rugby, knowledge, news, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

[email protected]

Call: 18066312111

Copyright © 2023 [ [email protected] ]