Spotlight on: Piqué

Words by Ben Perdue

Smart, functional and synonymous with the Fred Perry polo shirt, we trace the legacy of cotton piqué.

The relationship between sportswear and subcultures started long before the first wave of streetwear and can be traced back to an overlapping love of smart, yet functional fabrics.

Everything the early tennis pros appreciated about piqué as a shirting material was held in equal regard by the mods just a few decades later, for example. The original technical textile, still revered as much for its sharpness as its practicality today. 

Created using a double-knit weave, piqué’s textured, open structure sees it uniquely suited to sports and other high-impact activities, like dancing. The raised waffle pattern making it both breathable and durable, perfect for tennis clubs and nightclubs alike. As comfortable as cotton jersey, but smarter in terms of usefulness and looks.

Fred Perry was not the first brand to take piqué from the world of menswear to sportswear, or even use it on the court, but it pioneered its popularity with UK youth movements. The sartorial qualities that suited sport in the 50s - refined finishes, weighty feel, expensive looks - later met the fashion needs of a new generation of young men and women expressing themselves in a different way.

Piqué’s appeal is embodied by the iconic polo shirt, a piece adopted by mod culture because it combined comfort with sharpness. Breathable for dancing in but built to stay neat - details, like a crisp collar, keeping their definition even on the back of an all-nighter. In good shape for the first bus to work, even if your head isn’t.