Tennis shirts, polo shirts or golf shirts. Whatever you choose to call them, I have more than enough of them to last me a near lifetime. As I see it, the tennis shirt is the proper name as the shirt originally was first popularized by Rene Lacoste. The main bulk of my tennis shirts are PRL and Lacoste. There are strengths to both of these brands, but this particular post is a bit more about PRL than Lacoste.
Aesthetically, I love both the Lacoste and PRL tennis shirt. There is something nice about the always-green crocodile of Lacoste. Yes, I am aware you can order a custom-made Lacoste tennis shirt with the crocodile being the color of your choice, this however isn't their classic offering. So for me, the classic green is what they have always been known for and what I associate with Lacoste. The same goes for PRL. You can order all sorts of different emblems on the left breast, however the classic is the polo player offered in a wide array of colors.
Something I have always liked more about PRL than Lacoste is the fact that the length of the PRL tennis shirt is on the longer side. This obviously helps the shirt stay tucked in reliably and consistently. The fabric has traditionally always been thicker on the PRL side. The fabric has become thinner over time, but even today in it's more thin state, it is still, on average, thicker than Lacoste fabric, or so it seems to me.
I own almost exclusively only pique cotton tennis shirts. The tennis shirt can be an unforgiving shirt for many body types, but the thick pique fabric is more forgiving than the strange thin hybrid "sport" fabric which is never good. Thick with nice pique texture and 100% cotton is the perfect fabric for the tennis shirt. Not only is it more forgiving for the body, it will age wonderfully. Like an OCBD, the older and more worn-in the fabric becomes, the better it looks.
Some would complain that they don't want a thick pique cotton because it doesn't help them stay as "cool" as a hybrid sport fabric does. To this I would respond that if staying "cool" is one's main concern then madras, linen or seersucker would be better choices. The tennis shirt is not a dress shirt, it should be the most casual shirt in one's closet. It is a shirt generally suited for sport and/or working on chores or laboring around the house.
I wear my tennis shirts in a few instances. I wear them when I am playing golf or tennis, both of which I am not a particularly good player, yet I love anyway. I wear them when I am working on some dirty job or chore around the house. I will sometimes wear them late at night after the day is done. Lastly, I will also sometimes wear a tennis shirt if the schedule for the day is a day full of packing up the car and driving for hours. I do not wear any tee shits outside of sleeping. The tennis shirt is my most informal shirt and outside of these few situations, I rarely wear a tennis shirt. Not never, just rarely.
I think that the tennis shirt can be worn very well in other scenarios outside of the few that I detailed above. I think it can work well if you are on a vacation in a more leisurely place than you normally finds yourself, or running errands on an off day or if you are doing some other sort of relaxing leisure activity. I think it can be appropriate in these situations. Generally though, because it is a more unforgiving shirt, the more fit one is, the better one will look in it and the less fit, the worse one will look in it, therefore generally most men would be better suited going with comfortably fitting seersucker, madras, linen.
It does seem that today, to some men, the tennis shirt is the most formal shirt they own. They will wear it to work or out to dinner, and will wear it in these occasions because it is their most formal shirt. I obviously do not think this is a good situation. The tennis shirt is not a formal shirt. It is the most informal shirt that one should wear in public. If it is the most formal shirt one wears, then something is off.
There is a time and place for the tennis shirt. A nice, old, worn-in thick PRL has a vibe to it and a whole aesthetic all it's own. Some of my favorite PRLs I bought on eBay or found thrifting. Thick, late 90s PRLs that are just starting to get worn-in. I would absolutely choose this over a brand new shirt any day. Will I ever buy another tennis shirt? I don't know, maybe? Do I really need another one? No, I don't think so. If, when thrifting, I found a particularly nice or unique color combination of emblem and shirt I would probably buy it. But outside of this scenario, I think I have more than enough to last me quite a while.