The Sport of Kings and an Enduring Friendship
History of the relationship between Argentine and British Polo
In a couple of days, Prince Harry of Wales and the actress Meghan Markle will marry in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. This event evokes the many fairytale weddings of the most famous royal families across the world, which continue to enchant millions of people. La Martina also wants to pay homage and celebrate these nuptials by remembering an equally strong and passionate union. We are referring to the union between English and Argentine polo - an everlasting connection, a timeless fairytale characterised by elegance, passion, competition and complicity
Once upon a time
As in all fairytales, there was once upon a time. Once upon a time, back in 1879, there was a man called Tom Preston. An athlete and skilful horseman, Tom was an enterprising and accomplished polo player. Stationed in India for several years, the young English colonial subject learnt all the secrets of this noble and elegant sport. He was called, however, to serve the Crown in Buenos Aires, where he moved to. This was the beginning of the great polo adventure in Argentina. Preston immediately sensed that in a country so energetic and dynamic, where the close relationship with the pampas horses was both natural and symbiotic, polo was destined to be a success. And so, in 1882, the first Argentine club polo was established. The game soon became the national sport, rapidly spreading among the Argentine estancia, and a breed of foals, the criollos, agile and easy to control on the polo field, were bred. The sporting techniques were modified, improved and exported to Europe and the rest of the world. Argentina went on to win five world cups (out of the 11 contested) and would earn Olympic titles in 1924 and 1936. The seed sown by the Englishman Preston had born fruit.
The polo fairytale continues in England, too. In the 1950s the Prince Consort, Philip of Edinburgh, made the decisive gesture: he founded the Windsor Guards Polo Club in London, still the most prestigious polo club in the world. The husband of Queen Elisabeth loves horse riding and competition and, as it is well-known, polo requires speed, competitiveness, strength and courage. But it is also true that the game cannot be won without loyalty, respect and team play. In war as in love: it is no different in sport. All these elements must be present and passed on to future generations, not only with new techniques and rules, but also through the choice of equipment and players’ outfits.
In England polo originated from the missions in India and Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, so the players’ outfits faithfully reproduce the dress worn by British Regiments. In Argentina things developed differently. In 1982 a young polo player, Lando Simonetti, began to create the first items of clothing for the competitive sport, designed with the safety of the player in mind. From the first artisan productions of boots and saddles, the production gradually expanded and in 1985 the brand La Martina was established. Over the years, La Martina has introduced a lifestyle collection, alongside the technical equipment, which is now iconic.
Today “the sport of kings” is played by dozens of nations, but there is still a special connection between Argentina and the United Kingdom - a relationship that has overcome conflicts and tensions because it is based on hard but loyal competition. Prince Harry and Prince William play polo with the same passion and the same enthusiasm shown by the Duke of Edinburgh. And what can be said about the tournaments, which remain outstanding special occasions? During intervals, between one chukker and another, spectators stroll on the field to put plots of turf upturned by the horses back in place. This is a practice that encourages business interactions, socialising and the creation of new relationships. The same has been achieved by fashion. Today polo shirts are one of the most versatile items of clothing in the world, able to combine elegance and sport, bringing together two worlds that are often seen as separate. At La Martina we work every day to achieve this. This is done by paying attention to details and the constant research into innovative styles without losing sight of La Martina’s origins. The polo tradition is huge: it is huge in England, it is huge in Argentina. For this reason, the collection “England” was created - La Martina wants to pay homage today to Prince Harry and his future wife. We hope that their marriage is filled with the same spirit of freedom, courage and loyalty which animates polo.