The Playbook For The Modern Man

Polo Shirts Are Not Just For Preppy Jerks; Here’s How Normal Folks Can Wear Them

It’s time to make casual preppy part of your style game.

The classic polo shirt is a timeless men’s top today. Ever since Rene Lacoste – the tennis pro and original polo engineer – decided the back-then 1920s tennis uniform wasn’t so trés bien after all, the player-turned-designer eschewed the frumpy uniform worn by contemporary athletes at the time, for something plus chic. Enter the polo shirt.

From a simple base layer to a dress shirt replacement, today we’re showcasing five distinct styling approaches, all of which exude a sense of timelessness for the polo. Then, once persuaded of the shirt’s importance in your summer wardrobe, click through the slideshow for the best polo brands for men and how to wear a polo shirt.

RELATED: The Origins Of The Polo Shirt

Know Your Polo Shirt Styles

The polo shirt is an icon of preppy style, but you’re missing out on a lot of sartorial opportunities if you think that’s all it is. The classic polo is actually incredibly versatile – it can be dressed up or dressed down to suit the occasion, as long as you steer clear of anything with a massive, garish logo or giant numbers on the back. Here are five ways on how to wear a polo shirt.

Classic Cotton Polo Shirts

If in doubt you stick with natural fibres of cotton. Perfect for summer days or night our with your lady friend. The light breathable polo shirt will stay crease free and can be found in almost every colour under the sun. Sunspel, Orlebar Brown and even Bonds polo shirt are your go to brands.

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Knitted Polo Shirts

Channelling the greats – Steve McQueen, James Dean et al. – the knitted polo feels that little bit more luxe nowadays, made with a jacquard weave to give the shirt extra depth. The retro type, with a smaller, revere style collar, is worn slightly roomier, but kept in shape with ribbed sleeves and hem, giving back a nice fit, where it counts – on the arms and waist.

All-over neutrals suit the knitted polo well, the texture acting as a contrast with tonal navy looks, for example. Elsewhere, a leather jacket kicks the vintage biker into gear, the shiny animal skin a nice contrast over the plush, soft knit. Plus, it’s a great winter option, especially in long sleeve.

Linen Polo Shirts

If cotton is not your thing and you prefer a more relaxed look then opt for linen. Many brands are now choosing to make polo shirts from linen. Pair your linen polo shirt with linen trousers or just wear them with white chinos.

Long Sleeve Polo Shirts

Just don’t… please.

Polo Shirt & White Trousers / Jeans

The classic polo hails from Rene Lacoste-days and his namesake crocodile logo-ed label. Made from cotton piqué, this polo combines comfort and elegance and is a chic, timeless essential. Start here if you’re new to the polo game, teaming it with slim fit white chinos, matching shoes and cool shades from look that says ‘prep’ but in a new way, more Scandinavian-cool. Leave the polo untucked and keep accessories minimal – no belt or socks required.

Polo Shirt & Sweats

Sports-luxe is everywhere in menswear. And, the tennis-derived polo plays the active code well. Especially, when paired with jogger pants (tracksuit bottoms). For summer, try lightweight silky, linen harem pants with an open neck polo (rocking the half-tuck) and leather sandals, opting for comfort and a sense of vacay charm, even if you haven’t left your neighbourhood.

Polo Shirt & Shorts

Headed seaside? Pack one or two polos. In pure cotton pique jersey – softer than classic pique, the beach is where your pattern polo game amps up. Structurally, revere collars match those fedora-feels, with a split hem and again, keep it untucked. Go for melange stripes and brighter colours with navy, beige or white as an anchor somewhere in your outfit. Tailored shorts or swim shorts are your bottoms of choice, switching in espadrilles, boat shoes and even sandals, do away with rubber thongs altogether.

Polo Shirt & A Blazer

Cut slim and in typically in a luxury merino wool-cashmere fabric, the long sleeve polo is your go-to choice when addressing the casual summer top in a smart casual and even winter environment Soft, warm and still breathable, the knitted polo spruces up day-off looks. Wear it layered under a blazer or suede bomber, teamed with wide-leg trousers and cropped, based out with leather Derby shoots for the weekend. Or, play down a formal look for nights, teaming the polo shirt with a two-piece cotton suit, mixing colours to make a statement.

Final Polo Shirt Tips & Tricks

  • Go for fitted, not tight. They should drape nicely over your body without showing off your arms like a poser.
  • Avoid tucking a polo shirt into shorts. It’s a little too preppy looking. Go the the half tuck if you insist on some level of tucking.
  • Avoid garish logos and designer name brands. It’s showy and tasteless.
  • Avoid baggy or relaxed fit jeans with the polo, it screams nineties boy band.
  • Inject a polo shirt into summer suiting. A night coloured single breasted linen suit is a great choice. As is a light neutral double breasted suit or blazer. Wear the polo open at the neck, with the collar flared for a retro look or standing crisp for a modern take.
  • Keep patterns and colour blocking for day time dressing, sticking to neutrals and knitted polos for night time.
  • White sneakers, loafers and sandals are the ultimate polo shirt shoe. Boots and leather dress shoes tend to kill the easy-summer vibe (unless you’re wearing a suit).
  • Finally, don’t pop your collar. It’s not hot, ever.

How to Style Polo Shirts FAQ

How do you know your polo shirt is the right size for you?

A properly fitted polo shirt should skim but not hug your frame. If you cannot stick a finger between you sleeve and bicep, it is too small. If there is a lot of slack, it is too big.

What is the proper length for polo shirts?

Traditional polo shirts are longer in the back than they are in the front. When untucked, it should sit below your waistband or belt line. If tucked in, it should not exceed halfway past your buttocks.

What is the difference between a classic fit, a slim fit and custom fit polo shirt?

Classic fit is the classical polo shirt, loose with wide chest and shoulders and lower arm holes. Custom fit is slimmer than the classic, with some tapers in the waist and shorter sleeves. Slim fit have the trimmest fit, with shortest back and front hem than can be worn untucked.

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