The polo shirt – although a classic and somewhat ubiquitous piece of men’s clothing – are often overlooked. They are typically not considered to be ultra stylish, perhaps because they are so strongly associated with different types of uniform (e.g. school uniform and delivery person uniform), sports (e.g. golf, tennis and rugby) and preppy varsity types from decades gone by.
However, dismantling these deeply ingrained connotations will afford great sartorial benefits; the polo shirt is, after all, stylish, cool and convenient for everyday wear – the ideal “basic”. It is a hybrid between a t-shirt and a dress shirt, perfect for dressing up or down in both relaxed occasions and more formal ones. Not to mention, styling a polo requires next to no effort, thanks to their versatility.
In an ode to the polo shirt – and in an attempt to bring the wholly under-appreciated piece back into the sartorial consciousness of modern men everywhere – we have put together a guide on how to style polo shirts to maximum effect.
Keep reading to find out how to wear polo shirts for different occasions, what fabrics polo shirts are best in, and top tips for getting the most from your polo shirt.
How to wear a polo shirt: casual
Men’s polo shirts are an upgrade from the plain t-shirt, and they can be paired with almost any trousers. For a casual and relaxed vibe on a warm day, team your untucked polo shirt with a flat-front shorts, casual trainers and sunglasses.
Or, for a slightly sharper look, wear your untucked polo with dark denim jeans or dark-coloured chinos (belted) with a pair of either brown/black desert boots or leather boots.
How to wear a polo shirt: smart casual
Polo shirts can also be the perfect feature of a smart-casual ensemble if worn correctly. To achieve more formality, opt for a polo shirt that is wool knit or a quality cashmere blend, and wear it as a standalone piece with a pair of well-tailored trousers.
Polo shirts can also look very formal when paired with a blazer or suit jacket. The trick here is to wear a subtle polo shirt, tone down any embellishments and accessories and let the jacket do the talking – the result is sophisticated and sharp.
Another way to nail a smart-casual dress code with a polo shirt is to opt for a retro-styled wool knit polo shirt that features bold contrasting colours and stripes. Pair with chinos, a skinny belt and either white trainers for a more casual effect or Oxfords for more formality. This isn’t a look for everyone, but for those who get it right, the result is impressive.
Polo shirts: how to choose the right fabric
Polo shirts come in a variety of materials, from more breathable everyday fabrics to synthetic fabrics best-suited to activewear.
Pique is the traditional polo shirt fabric. It is a knitted in a woven pattern which gives the shirt its signature textured and heavy feel and also keeps it breathable.
Jersey is another common fabric for polo shirts, but jersey polos are a little more casual than classic pique polo shirts. Jersey is lightweight, stretchy, smooth and soft, and while this can make the jersey polo more comfortable for every day it also means it is less durable and also shows sweat more.
Tips for wearing polo shirts
- Keep at least one button done up
The general rule for polo shirts is to keep one button done up. This completes the look of the shirt and makes it look more flattering. All buttons undone can look sloppy, and all buttons done-up can look too rigid.
- Have a selection of different colours
Polo shirts are versatile because of their ability to be paired with multiple outfits, whatever the colour. At the very least, all men should own a black or navy polo shirt, but polo shirts in neutral shades like beige can look very modern and stylish, and polo shirts in bolder shades like reds and purples can also elevate an ensemble.
The humble polo shirt has been around for decades, and for good reason. It is a perfect “basic” staple in any man’s wardrobe because of its convenience, versatility and “coolness”, and when worn correctly it can even achieve high fashion status.
Dig out your old polo shirts or buy some new ones today and discover the world of polo shirting.