Polo shirts are a staple of men’s summer fashion. Traditionally worn by tennis players, this classic top is now one of the most iconic pieces of clothing a man can wear. Here’s how to wear one.
Read more Men’s Style Guide features.
The choice of the polo shirt that will suit you best is not something that is easy to achieve with a range of different types of collars, fittings, buttons and material. You should be careful of specific details and match it with the right trousers or shorts. Nevertheless, once your polo shirt is matched correct, then your outfit will be stylish and is an easy way to achieve a smart yet laid-back finish.
- 1 Types of Men’s Polo Shirts
- 2 Polo Shirt for Sports
- 3 How to Wear It
- 3.1 Wear It with Chinos, Loafers, and Trainers
- 3.2 Wear It with Shorts, Espadrilles and Boat shoes
- 3.3 Polo Shirt with a Blazer
- 3.4 Guidelines
- 3.5 Don’t Wear it Too Long
- 3.6 Make Sure the Sleeves Are Fitted
- 3.7 Don’t Wear Them With an Undershirt
- 3.8 Don’t Unbutton All the Buttons
- 3.9 Don’t Wear Flashy Logos
- 4 A Brief History
- 5 How to Wear a Polo Shirt
- 6 On that Note
Types of Men’s Polo Shirts
Long Sleeve Polo Shirts
The lesser known of the polo shirt is the long sleeve polo shirt. Always good when you are experiencing British weather and aren’t too sure if it’ll be sunny one minute, or a hail storm the next. A great piece to have in the wardrobe as you can dress it up for more smart-casual occasions.
Short Sleeve Polo Shirts
The short-sleeved polo shirt is a more traditional style for men who need a sense of comfort. The fit is looser so that you can easily move, the collar is wider and the sleeves give you better movement. This style is a good choice whether you’re an athlete, casual golfer or a guy who just wants to look good this summer.
The regular fit polos are the most common fit. They sit a little looser around the torso but the sleeves should still be a snug fit. If you have a slimmer build than the next fitting is for you…
Slim Fit Polo Shirt
If you have a slim body you could opt for a slim fit polo shirt. The abs, chest, biceps and triceps are more emphasised and this kind of polo offers a more tailored appearance. Perfect for a night out, or if you’re heading on a date.
Polo Shirt for Sports
Professional tennis and golf players usually choose professional polo shirts that are made with sports in mind. On the other hand, amateur athletes choose polo shirts from other brands to wear. One big difference between the standard polo shirt and a golf or tennis polo is the technology behind the materials. The professional ones are designed to provide men with free movement. Also, they offer breathability for when they get hot under the collar. In most cases, these shirts are made using a synthetic blend of materials designed for active living.
How to Wear It
Wear It with Chinos, Loafers, and Trainers
One of the ideal ways to wear your polo is with a pair of chinos. It is one the safer options since you can have the balance between smart and casual. You can add colour to your polo and wear plain chinos or vice versa. Usually, a polo shirt with a light colour would be perfectly matched with a chino in blue or burgundy colour.
This is the style that can make you look clean, neat and well-dressed for all occasions. Chinos come in various shapes and styles so you will definitely find the one that is suitable for you. As we’ve already covered, make sure your polo shirt fits neatly around your arm. If you want a more formal style, you can match this outfit with a pair of loafers. For a more casual style, you can try it with white sneakers.
Wear It with Shorts, Espadrilles and Boat shoes
Summer is around the corner and the ideal and most stylish outfit for your summer holiday is to match a polo shirt with shorts. This is a combination that makes every man seem well-dressed. Choose the right fabric polo shirt and you will feel comfortable in the heat. London Collections: Men SS16 shows emphasised on the patterned polo shirts combined with a neutral pair of shorts. Otherwise, you can choose a simple polo shirt matched with a brown or blue pair of shorts. This outfit can be smartly combined with a nice leather belt and espadrilles, sandals or boat shoes, depending on the occasion.
Polo Shirt with a Blazer
This is a difficult match. However, you can do it right if you are really careful. First of all, be picky on the blazer you choose to wear on top of your polo. You need a more relaxed blazer. Since the polo is designed for summer, the blazer should be light, the colours on both the inside and out.
Slim Fit Trousers, Oxford Shoes and Monk Shoes
If you’re toned then this combination will emphasise that. You can wear your polo shirt with a slim fit and straight leg trousers, for a smart style. But try keeping the trousers in a grey or a black tone. This smart outfit can be perfectly matched with a leather pair of loafers, sleek oxford shoes, monk shoes, or some trusty brogues.
For a casual style, you should match your polo shirt either long or short sleeved with a pair of joggers. This kind of style suits having your shirt untucked. Following the rules above, you should be very careful of the length of the polo, making sure it is almost in the middle of your back pockets. During winter, you can pick darker colours like blue or black while during the summer you can choose light colours as grey or white. You can add colour to your shoes but do not over do it with accessories.
Slim but Not Tight
Ideally, a polo shirt should be slim fitting with fitted sleeves that reach about halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. Avoid polo shirts that are too tight, no one wants to look like they’re wearing a children’s size. The neckline, while unbuttoned should reach just down to the chest area.
The cheapest material you can find on the market is the blended fabrics polo shirts. This kind of synthetics increase the durability and resistance and you can find them at a low price. However, blended fabrics can make you easily sweat and they are less comfortable than cotton materials.
If you are an athlete, you will probably go for a performance material. They are usually made from light synthetics or blends and will offer odour reduction and UV protection. Their prices vary depending on the brand. Opt for this type of polo shirts if you are golfing, playing tennis or when exercising.
The worst kind of material that someone can choose for a polo shirt is polyester. Even if your budget is low, try buying another kind of material or none at all. Polyester shirts may not wrinkle or shrink and are resistant to staining, however, it offers very limited breathability. Meaning you will sweat a lot. Definitely not recommended.
With moisture wicking abilities, breathability, and decent durability, cotton shirts are the most common polo shirts found. A longer staple cotton will last longer and likely feel better on your skin, however, it will also fade in colour eventually especially with darker shades.
Linen is a fabric that people do not think it is common for polo shirts, however, it has become more and more popular. Linen is much rougher than cotton but it adds another dimension to the polo shirts. In addition, Linen is light and breathable so it’s ideal for hotter climates.
Also, know as piqué knit, this is not to be confused with Marcella piqué fabric which is woven. The reason it is called this is because of the characteristic, three-dimensional waffle looks, also found in the Marcella piqué weave. Piqué fabric is the most popular fabric for polo shirts because it is flexible and breathable. For more breathability, you want bigger holes, and for less weight, you want a smaller knit.
Jersey Knit Polo is a material that can be used either for expensive or cheaper polo shirts. It has a smooth surface that is similar to a t-shirt or fine sweater. Piqué knit is superior to any jersey knit and it has much better breathability.
Some polos have a longer insert which often prevents you from wearing the buttons undone. Always try on the polo shirt unbuttoned and avoid designs with a long inset. When the inset reaches your mid-chest avoid unbuttoning all the buttons.
Most polo shirts come with soft, ribbed collars. The problem is that the collar curls in the edge. Therefore, it is advisable to opt for Shirt-Style collars with and interlining because these will stay in shape. Some companies produce polo collars that are glued onto the fabric but they usually fall off.
The tailored collar is made using the same fabric as the rest of the shirt. You can find them with a classic collar, cutaway collar, and button-down collar. These shirts are not meant to be worn with neckwear so you should choose a collar shape that appeals to you when you wear the collar unbuttoned.
First of all, let’s look at some of the ways you shouldn’t be wearing your polo shirt.
Don’t Wear it Too Long
A traditional polo shirt is longer in the back and shorter in the front. You have to make sure when buying a new polo that the tail does not go longer than over half of your back pockets. If it’s longer than that it will end up looking more like a dress from the back.
Make Sure the Sleeves Are Fitted
The sleeves of a polo shirt should not be too tight or too loose. They should come down to the mid-bicep mark and should be hugging the arm.
Don’t Wear Them With an Undershirt
One of the biggest mistakes a man can make is wearing a polo shirt with an undershirt. The polo is a casual piece of clothing, so an undershirt doesn’t work – especially when you can see it peeking through the sleeves. Also, an undershirt with a polo will make you bulk, and not in a good way.
One of the important things you should be aware of once you have found a polo you like is the buttons. The buttons on the placket differ from brand to brand, some might have to where others go for three or four. Depending on the buttons the shirt might open down to the chest or higher. If the buttons reach the chest, you should never unbutton all of your buttons, but you can get away with the top one for extra comfort and a more relaxed finish.
Don’t Wear Flashy Logos
A polo with a huge logo that is visible from far away just doesn’t work, in most cases. It detracts from the smart appearance, it is just a statement for a brand. That’s why you should avoid flashy logos. Even if they’re in a contrasting colour to the shirt, small logos are far more discreet.
A Brief History
The exact origin of the polo shirt is unknown, however, it is said that the style made its first appearance in the late 19th century in Manipur, India.
In the 1920s the polo shirt was reinvented by Jean Rene Lacoste, the famous French tennis player who was dissatisfied with the polo shirts worn at that time which were uncomfortable. For that reason, Lacoste decided to design an alternative style that would suit him more and would satisfy his needs. He took advantage of his worldwide status and created his own range of polo shirts. He made these new shirts short-sleeved, using pique cotton to allow breathability. This characteristic of the pique material is something that still exists today.
In the 1950’s the polo shirt became famous in America and was preferred by the guys when they were having their dinner and milkshake. They would match them with a sports jacket. At that time it became a famous garment to wear and it would usually be seen on golf players, too. This continued in the 1960s when men adopted a more sophisticated style and polo shirts were a part of that look. Lacoste and Fred Perry became a must for all fashion icons.
In the 1970s there was the revolution of polos when Ralph Lauren set up a new company of both fashionable and casual clothes all with a stylish aesthetic. It was a key leader of his collections, obviously, the polo shirt was an identifiable piece because of the wide range of the colour palettes available.
The 80s were the golden era of this garment, characterised by a constant challenge between the brands, partly won by Polo Ralph Lauren, because of its higher quality of material. The Ralph Lauren polo shirts were the emblem of America’s rich and famous.
From the 1990s until now the polo shirt has become part of standard informal business attire and it’s regularly used as part of a uniform. Due to this, businesses recognised the benefits of branding a polo shirt with their name and logo.
Daniel Graig as James Bond in Spectre re-introduced the polo shirt and established it as a sign of elegance. Today, the polo remains one of the most popular pieces in menswear and deserves a prime place in every guy’s closet.
How to Wear a Polo Shirt
- Fit: Know your body shape and choose accordingly. The sleeves should sit halfway down your bicep.
- Style: Polo shirts can be long or short sleeved. Depending on the situation choose your look.
- Wear it smart: Try wearing a polo shirt with a blazer for a great smart casual look.
- Sports: Polo shirts were originally designed for tennis and golf. Their breathability makes them great for this.
On that Note
Polo shirts are a classic item in a man’s closet. They are smart and elegant and they are suitable for many occasions. You can wear them in a number of ways from casual to smart-casual and smart. Whether you’re going out with friends or for a game of tennis or golf you can always dress accordingly. You can experiment with colours and styles and create different looks for every occasion. As you get more confident wearing polo shirts you will find many interesting ways to combine them and create your own unique style.