How to Wear a Polo Shirt With Style

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Vintage arnold palmer smoking cigarette wearing polo on golf course with a glove on left hand.

With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve determined to republish a traditional piece every Sunday to assist our newer readers uncover a few of the finest, evergreen gems from the previous. This article was initially revealed in June 2017.

The polo shirt is a real males’s type staple.

Yet regardless of its ubiquity within the male wardrobe, it’s not a garment that usually is available in for a lot affection or enthusiasm.

Perhaps that is due to the unfavourable associations with which the polo shirt is laden. It is usually considered when it comes to a uniform — both actually, as within the required get-up of a pizza supply man or elementary faculty pupil, or metaphorically, because the go-to garb for company drones and preppy fraternity brothers. The polo is additional seen because the default of the sartorially lazy — one thing a man dons when an occasion requires a shirt with a collar, and he can’t be bothered to even button up an Oxford.

Yet the polo deserves just a little extra love than it usually will get. Falling between a t-shirt and a costume shirt, it’s the proper garment for the numerous occasions in life that aren’t in any respect formal, however aren’t outright informal both. It’s an awesome shirt for summertime first dates, yard BBQs, and whenever you’re undecided precisely the place the plans to your day or night will take you.

Even when it comes to informal on a regular basis put on, the cool, breathable polo shirt is simply as simple and cozy as a tee, however appears a notch extra put collectively, in order that swapping the previous for the latter is a zero-effort option to upgrade your summer time type.

And removed from being blandly uniform, or solely worn by one sort of man, polos have been standard with extensively diverse teams, from Nantucket yachtsmen to West Coast skaters; there are several types of polos for various events, and they are often worn and styled in many alternative methods.

In different phrases, opposite to standard opinion, the polo shirt is sort of versatile and can be sartorially fascinating. Truly, the polo shirt is clutch.

Today we’ll check out tips on how to elevate it past the realm of informal Fridays and suburban dad-dom — tips on how to put on a polo with type.

A Brief History of the Polo Shirt

Vintage rene lacoste playing tennis in front of crowd.

Despite the title by which it’s now identified, the polo shirt didn’t emerge from the “sport of kings” however from the sport of tennis.

In its early days, tennis had a contact of aristocratic flare and was performed in a get-up referred to as “tennis whites” — flannel trousers, a costume shirt (with sleeves rolled up), and even a tie. Thick, heavy, scorching, and cumbersome, these clothes clearly didn’t lend themselves properly to taking part in an lively, outside sport.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner René Lacoste determined to do one thing about this situation, creating his personal very best tennis shirt. Made of a cushty, breathable “jersey petit piqué” cotton, the white short-sleeved shirt eschewed buttons all the best way down for a placket of three up high, and included a delicate, unstarched collar that was nonetheless stiff sufficient to flip as much as defend his neck from the solar. The versatile, light-weight shirt additionally had an extended tail within the again to maintain it tucked into René’s trousers.

Lacoste debuted the shirt on the 1926 U.S. Open — which he received in each consolation and magnificence. The following yr, Lacoste, who was nicknamed “the Crocodile,” adhered the now well-known reptilian emblem to the breast of the shirt. And in 1933, the retired participant started to fabricate his garment for the lots.

The “tennis shirt” caught on with different kinds of sportsmen, significantly polo gamers. These athletes had developed their very own “polo shirt” — the Oxford button-down (the buttons on the collar have been designed to maintain it from flapping in your face as you galloped concerning the discipline) — many years prior. But Lacoste’s short-sleeve garment proved much more appropriate to the sport, and was so extensively adopted that even tennis gamers started to seek advice from it as a “polo shirt.”

Dwight eisenhower playing golf wearing polo and baseball cap while smiling.

The reputation of the polo was given an enormous increase when President Eisenhower was seeing sporting one. Golf programs started altering their costume codes to permit for polos on the course.

In the Fifties, Lacoste started to supply the shirt, previously solely out there in white, in a wider vary of colours and introduced the polo to America. It quickly received widespread adoption by discerning sportsmen, significantly golfers, after which moved into the realm of on a regular basis informal put on. The 50s additionally noticed the rise of a competitor to Lacoste; fellow tennis champion Fred Perry launched polos that had his soon-to-be iconic laurel wreath emblem stitched as a substitute of ironed on, and have been adopted by English scooter-riding mods.

An even fiercer competitor to Lacoste’s polo dominance emerged within the Seventies. Designer Ralph Lauren named his line of WASP-y informal put on “Polo,” and a central piece of this assortment consisted of, appropriately sufficient, polo shirts. As Lacoste and Lauren battled it out for dominance, the polo gained much more reputation, and have become related to the “preppy” look of the Nineteen Eighties.

The polo shirt started to lose a few of its cache within the Nineteen Nineties, because it grew to become the go-to get-up for informal Fridays, and companies made it the precise uniform for staff starting from customer support reps to waiters.

Still, the polo has maintained its endurance, and continues to be worn by everybody from U.S. presidents on the golf course to rap moguls on stage.

It ought to proceed to be a mainstay in your on a regular basis wardrobe too, so long as you put on it with type.

How to Wear a Polo Shirt With Style

Vintage clint eastwood wearing polo far off look in his face with a coat on his shoulder.


There aren’t too many technical particulars to know concerning the polo shirt, nevertheless it’s useful to have an understanding of the sorts of materials it is available in, significantly its two principal sorts.

Polos can be found in quite a lot of supplies from pure to artificial. The latter typically make up the efficiency blends utilized in polos particularly designed for athletic put on. Silk and silk blends are an choice, however should not beneficial, as they present your sweat simply, lose their coloration as they change into moist, and simply look moderately tacky. Polyester, or cotton/poly blends prolong the lifetime of the shirt, however are much less breathable, extra smelly, and cheaper trying.

Vintage young man wearing wool polo shirt lying against tree looking to the left.

Wool and wool blends are sometimes utilized in “retro” type polos, and make for shirts that look just a little extra formal and will be worn into chillier months.

Given that polos are mostly a heat climate staple, 100% cotton — with its cool, comfy, breathable properties — is the most common and most beneficial cloth for these shirts. Cotton polos are available two principal sorts:

Pique. The unique polo cloth, pique is knitted in a woven sample that lends the fabric a textured floor. The cloth has some heft and heaviness, however the holes within the weave preserve it breathable, and it resists displaying your sweat. The sleeves usually terminate in a ribbed band/cuff. With just a little extra substance and construction, the pique polo is a little more formal {and professional}.

Jersey. A jersey polo is comprised of the identical form of cloth utilized in t-shirts, and has the identical flat, easy, delicate, stretchy really feel. The sleeves of a jersey polo have a tendency to finish in a easy hem, moderately than a definite band. Lighter in weight, the jersey polo is cool however will present your sweat extra, and is much less sturdy. Its lightness and relaxed drape additionally give it a extra informal vibe.

Pique and jersey polos every have their very own appear and feel; general, I attain for the jersey type for consolation, and pique after I’m doing one thing a notch up in formality.


When it involves sporting a polo shirt with type, an important factor, as it’s with all clothes, is to actually nail the match. Here are two standards to examine:

  • Length: The backside hem shouldn’t hit farther than midway down your pants fly/again pockets — no greater than the hip and no decrease than just a few inches under your waistband/belt; the shirt needs to be lengthy sufficient that you may tuck it in and brief sufficient you’ll be able to put on it untucked with out it trying like a nightgown.
  • Sleeves: Should hit about halfway down your bicep, and run now not than 2/3 down your higher arm.

Overall the shirt ought to sit near your physique — fitted however not too tight. It is usually a little tighter in your chest and arms, after which taper all the way down to your waist.

The higher form you’re in, the closer-fitting the polo will be, however you don’t need it pores and skin tight. You ought to nonetheless have the ability to stick a pair fingers underneath the sleeves.

Polo Shirt Dos and Don’ts


Wear an undershirt. A polo is supposed to be worn as a base or single layer near the physique, and an undershirt provides extra bulkiness beneath it, and might peep out of the neckline/collar. If you do put on an undershirt, select one with a neckline that received’t be seen.

Layer polos upon polos. One polo at a time, please.

Pop the collar. This pattern has luckily receded, however in case you have been tempted, don’t. It nonetheless reads as douchey. If you should pop the collar in a short-term circumstance to guard your neck from the solar, be at liberty.

Choose a shirt with a pocket, until secured. A pocket on the breast of a polo can add a little bit of visible curiosity, nevertheless it hardly ever if ever will get used, and tends to easily sag and change into misshapen, detracting from the shirt’s sharpness. So eschew pockets usually, the exception being ones which have flaps and are secured with a button to remain closed.

Wear a shirt with a massive emblem. While we usually advise staying away from company logos on clothes altogether, a emblem on the breast of polos has been one in all its signature marks from the very starting, making them fairly typical and extra tolerable. If yow will discover one and not using a emblem, nice; in any other case goal for these with logos which are tasteful and minimal in measurement, moderately than massive and garish.

Wear a long-sleeved polo. There are things like long-sleeved polos, and whereas it might be attainable for them to look actually good, I’ve by no means seen ones that do. The polo’s heritage is that of a short-sleeved garment for heat climate and lively pursuits; to then prolong the sleeves runs opposite to its type DNA and appears humorous, very like the ill-advised short-sleeve costume shirt.

Wear an athletic polo for casualwear. Polos designed for sports activities like golf or tennis are comprised of artificial efficiency supplies and minimize for ease of motion. They’re nice for the course or the courts, however shouldn’t be worn exterior of them.


Button at the very least one of many buttons. Having all of the buttons undone appears floppy and sloppy. One is often good. Having all of them buttoned-up adjustments the look of the shirt significantly, and is mockingly just a little extra of an “anti-establishment” look, if that’s what you’re going for.

Feel free to tuck or untuck, relying on the event. A polo shirt can go both approach. Tucking, in fact, offers you a extra formal look, whereas untucking is extra informal. If your shirt’s longer within the again than the entrance, then it was positively designed to be tucked.

Have a core assortment of strong, primary colours like blue, black, and white. You can’t go mistaken with having just a few polos in these traditional shades. Polos with stripes or contrasting colours on the sleeve bands/collar aren’t at all times a nasty alternative however do learn as extra informal, fashionable, and younger.

Expand into brighter and extra fascinating colours. You must have one thing just a little totally different too, like pinks, purples, reds, and greens.

Two different styles of polo shirts.

My two favourite polo manufacturers: Flint and Tinder (left) and Criquet (proper). Both have an awesome, good-looking match and are made with high quality cloth. 

Expect to pay $50+ for polo. Polos can so simply look schlumpy and dumpy that it’s value paying further — usually upwards of $50 — for those who match properly and evince high quality. Of course, generally an enormous price ticket is just the results of advertising, moderately than high quality, so be sure you’re paying for a sturdy, top-notch garment, moderately than a model title.

Dressing Up the Polo By Degrees

The polo shirt is sort of versatile and might simply be worn from the seashore to a cultured day on the races. It’s all in the way you costume it up or down. Let’s begin on the most informal stage, and work our approach as much as higher formality by levels.

Collection of polo shirts.

The polo is just a little classier than a t-shirt, and will be worn in just about any state of affairs you’d put on a tee for a extra put-together look. For probably the most informal get-up, pair your untucked polo with khaki flat entrance shorts, canvas sneakers, a discipline watch, and a pair of flier shades.

To up the sharpness a bit, swap the shorts for darkish denim or chinos (it’s finest to decide on one other coloration beside khaki to get away from the company/faculty uniform look). Wearing chukkas, boat sneakers, or Chelsea boots moderately than sneakers will up this look one other notch.

Four different style of polo shirts.

To go up one other stage of ritual, swap a cotton polo for a retro-styled wool knit one. These sweater shirts typically include contrasting colours on the collar/arm bands, in addition to a banded backside (don’t put on them with low-rise pants, lest your high flip right into a midriff). It’s not a search for each man, however will be good-looking on some.

Collection of different polo wear.

To transfer up the formality ladder one other rung, preserve the polo however swap the chinos/denims for precise trousers. Tuck your shirt in for higher professionalism, and pair with a pleasant belt and leather-based loafers. You usually wish to stick to a strong coloured shirt moderately than one which’s patterned or striped. I confess I’m not loopy about this look; the casualness of the polo on high conflicts with the formality of the trousers on the underside. But it actually appears to be the go-to informal Friday get-up for legal professionals and different professionals round right here.

Polo with coat different styles.

To costume the polo up additional, it may be paired with a sports activities jacket and both good denims, chinos, or trousers. Sartorial purists poo-poo this look, asserting that the polo is just too informal to be worn with a jacket, and {that a} sports activities coat will at all times look higher with a costume shirt beneath. But I truly discover the polo+jacket mixture much less jarring than polo+trousers, maybe as a result of the sports activities jacket, identical to the polo, was initially designed for sporting pursuits. And whereas it’s true {that a} costume shirt will nearly invariably look higher, on a extremely popular day, the brief sleeve polo will really feel cooler and extra comfy than a long-sleeve button-down.

If you’re going to go for this look, preserve the following pointers in thoughts:

  • The delicate collar of a polo can rumple and collapse behind the collar of your jacket, so be sure you preserve it upright and straight with its factors contained in the jacket’s lapels; collar stays might help with this (Criquet’s shirts include them).
  • Only pair a polo with a delicate, relaxed, unstructured jacket, ideally in a pure cloth like cotton or linen. Structured wool jackets will jar an excessive amount of with the polo’s casualness.
  • Wear a polo with a strong coloration or refined sample; stripes or loud patterns are too informal and busy to be paired with a jacket.
  • A polo with an extended placket/extra buttons (as much as 4) appears particularly good underneath a jacket, because it harkens extra to the costume shirt.

Even should you observe the following pointers, the sports activities coat+polo look is tough to do properly, so should you’re not sartorially assured, simply keep clear and stick to costume shirts underneath your jackets.

To formalize the polo to a higher diploma would imply sporting it with a full-on swimsuit, which is much more troublesome to tug off than pairing with a sport coat, and may solely be tried, if in any respect, by probably the most sartorially daring and assured (moderately than the lazy and confused).

Dressed up or dressed down, the polo is a males’s wardrobe staple. But as you’ve hopefully seen, primary doesn’t should imply bland.

The publish How to Wear a Polo Shirt With Style appeared first on The Art of Manliness.
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