An indispensable warm weather go-to, the polo shirt has a long, illustrious history that spans over 150 years. From the time the iconic shirt migrated with its namesake sport from England to India, the polo has evolved from a sports uniform staple to a timeless and classic style piece. Whether adorned with iconic logos like an alligator or a polo player or simply nothing at all, like any key wardrobe staple there are right ways and wrong ways to wear the polo. In this guide, we want to explore the different styles and approaches to wearing polo shirts, as well as impart a few ways to wear 'em while remaining effortlessly cool.
Go Tuck Yourself (Or Don't)
Obviously we’re already assuming you’ve got a keen eye trained to the overall fit (like everything, trim but not tight) and determining whether or not to tuck in your polo simply boils down to its overall length. Essentially, if your shirt looks like it has a ducktail in the back that extends well past your waistline, it was meant to be tucked into your pants, especially in more dressy situations like with chinos. Anything shorter than that is more than likely meant to be left untucked. If you're going untucked in a casual situation with shorts or chinos, make sure the hem hits just below your beltline, any longer and you risk looking like a sloppy, unkempt style rookie from middle management.
Mind The Materials
Polo shirts are still the athlete’s choice for pro sports like golf, tennis, and other activities found at your local country club, so it helps to be mindful of which fabrics you gravitate towards during your next purchase. Polyester and performance fabrics should be left to the professionals, or, where you’re actually out on the course or on the court. It’s best to keep it to cotton in any non-sporting situation, those performance polos shouldn’t be worn on casual Friday and definitely not in any nighttime scenario. During the warmest days, you can play around with blended fabrics, silk, linen and lightweight cotton to help keep you cool, but just make sure they’ve got a style-forward look, not an athletic one.
Know Your Knits...Pique vs Jersey
Without getting too bogged down with the details, it’s good to at least know the benefits of two of the most popular knit types commonly used for polos. A pique knit is that textured, waffle-type knit that was originally made popular when Lacoste polos moved off the tennis courts and into the mainstream. With pique knits, you get a natural stretch and light, breathable fabric that moves well and stays cool.
If you remember how jersey sheets felt during your college dorm days, you’ll recognize the feel of a jersey knit polo. This knit gives polos a look similar to that of a worn-in t-shirt or fine-gauge sweater. It’s a tighter weave but still light and comfortable. Typically the smoother, finer knit of a jersey polo can look a bit more dressy if you’re looking for something that’s blazer or chino appropriate.
Just Stop, Don't Pop That
French Montana references aside, since you’re reading this we’re going to go ahead and assume that you’re a stylish gent with a good head on his shoulders, so it probably goes without saying that the simple answer is NO. NOT. EVER. NEVER EVER. A weird fad from the ’80s that reared its ugly head in the early 2000s (thanks Nick Lachey), popped polo collars were all the rage with club rats and Nantucket yuppies for years. Although you (thankfully) don’t see it much anymore, it’s still worth mentioned that popping your polo collar is highly discouraged. Even if you’re doing as part of a highly specific costume scenario (80’s prep douchebag party anyone?) we still recommend caution.
Ditch The Undershirt
Modern polo shirts are designed with your body in mind, meaning a more snug fit around the biceps and hem are encouraged. That being the case, we’re generally recommending ditching the undershirt to avoid unwanted bulk and generally keep your look sharp and simple. If you’re prone to sweating, we recommended that you throw some extra antiperspirant into the rotation, especially during the late spring and summer months. Body powders can also help with cutting down on unwanted moisture, keeping your pits clean and polo fresh. For more, check out a few tips here.
The polo has long since solidified its title as one of the most ubiquitous and fashionable garments in menswear. Everyone from goofy dads to the fashion elite has rocked a polo at one time or another, and with a few of our hard-and-fast rules in place, you can wear your polo shirts with an elevated sense of style.