How to wear a polo shirt

polo shirts from Samuel Windsor

Polo shirts are a versatile option that can be dressed up or down
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Invented by Jean René Lacoste in the 1920s, the polo shirt was designed as a practical alternative to the starched long sleeved shirts tennis players traditionally wore on court. Fast forward a century, and polo shirts are now a wardrobe staple that perfectly bridges the gap between smart and casual. Here’s how to ace the fit, colour and fabric of your polo shirt – game, set and match. 

How should a polo shirt fit?

Light grey Polo shirt in 100% pique cotton from Samuel Windsor

Sleeves should not be too short or too tight
Image source: Short sleeve pique polo shirt in light grey from Samuel Windsor

Polo shirts should not be so tight that they cling to your torso, nor so loose that there are acres of spare fabric flapping in the wind. Check that the sleeves start at the tip of your shoulder, where it meets your arm, and that they finish around mid-bicep.

Length-wise, your polo shirt should finish halfway down your fly, allowing you to raise your arms without exposing any skin. And when it comes to the neck – just leave the top button undone so that the collar frames your face.

What fabrics are polo shirts made from?

Silk-cotton mix knitted polo shirt in airforce blue from Samuel Windsor

A little added silk gives the polo an effortless elegance
Image source: Silk-cotton mix knitted polo shirt in airforce blue from Samuel Windsor

Polo shirts come in all sorts of fabrics, from silk to polyester, but one of the most common is cotton pique. Pique refers to a style of weaving, characterised by a raised ribbed pattern. A medium weight fabric – cotton pique drapes nicely from the shoulders without clinging, allowing air to circulate. More importantly, it has plenty of stretch, making cotton pique a popular choice for a round of golf, an afternoon in the garden or travel.

Soft jersey is another popular fabric for polo shirts. Smooth and flat, jersey is lighter than cotton pique and ideal for active men who want to look smart without creasing or chafing.

Aiming for a little Italian flair? Polo shirts imbued with silk or cashmere take this sporty essential into ‘sprezzatura’ territory – especially when paired with smart chinos, leather loafers and a tailored blazer.

Long or short sleeves?

Long-sleeved polo shirt in grey from Samuel Windsor

A thin wool-mix polo with long sleeves is a great option for summer evenings
Image: Long-sleeved wool-mix polo jumper in grey from Samuel Windsor

Whether you wear long or short sleeved polo shirts is partly down to personal preference and partly down to the weather.

Short sleeved polo shirts are your go-to option for the warmest summer days and look great with tailored shorts. Although slightly thicker than regular t-shirt fabric, cotton pique and cotton jersey don’t cling to the skin, making them an airy choice that won’t show sweat marks as quickly as other fabrics.

A long-sleeved polo shirt is perfect for spring and autumn when it’s not quite cool enough to don a jumper, but there’s a definite nip in the air. Equally, a summer barbecue or garden party can quickly turn cool when the sun sets. Go for a long-sleeved wool-mix polo shirt if you’re wearing chinos or jeans and want to smarten things up a notch.

What colour polo shirt is best?

Classic polo shirts are incredibly versatile provided you steer clear of large logos and busy patterns. Simple block colours are a failsafe option, and summer is a great opportunity to try out lighter or brighter hues that celebrate the season.

Short sleeved polo shirts also lend themselves well to simple stripes. Try a striped polo shirt over denim jeans for a casual ensemble that doesn’t let the side down.

Should you tuck in your polo shirt?

Grey-navy striped polo shirt from Samuel Windsor

This striped jersey polo shirt looks good tucked or untucked
Image source: Grey-navy striped polo shirt from Samuel Windsor

If you’ve got the right fit, fabric and colour, the final decision is whether or not to tuck in your polo. Traditionalists might disagree, but it’s perfectly acceptable to wear your polo shirt untucked. In fact, the polo is designed with a casual, square hem so that it can be left hanging out.

Are you a man who prefers his shirts firmly tucked? Go ahead – choose some tailored chinos, a pair of deck shoes and a tucked-in polo shirt for a stylish shot of preppy charm.

What trousers to wear with a polo shirt

Short sleeve lilac polo shirt in 100% cotton pique from Samuel Windsor

This polo shirt looks just as good with linen-mix shorts or jeans
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Polo shirts are a versatile addition to any man’s wardrobe – ideal for relaxing at home, working in the garden, playing golf and even smart casual events. Choose cotton pique and jersey when you want to stay at the more casual end of the spectrum, and introduce silk, cashmere or linen mixes when you need a slightly smarter feel.

The reason that polo shirts are so easy to wear is that they look just as good with shorts as they do with jeans, moleskins or chinos. For casual days out pair your polo with lightweight cotton shorts or khakis. Try linen trousers or tailored chinos for a smarter vibe and wear with jeans for running errands or popping out for brunch at the weekend.

We hope this has given you all the information you need to wear your polo shirt with confidence. Want to know how the polo shirt got its name? Read our article: Polo shirts have nothing to do with polo and other interesting facts to find out more. 

Posted in How To - Style, Men's shirts.