I think it’s safe to say that for generations now, polo shirts have been the cornerstone of a classic warm weather wardrobe. Though when they hear polo shirt most people think “Polo ™” shirt, the first truly branded version was developed in 1929 for tennis legend Rene’ “The Alligator” Lacoste.
Lacoste wanted a comfortable shirt to replace the traditional, but totally impractical dress shirt and tie worn by tennis players at the time. In doing so, he unwittingly produced one of the most versatile garments ever conceived.
With its unique ability to straddle the elusive line between casual and formal, the classic polo can carry you from the office to the country club with little difficulty. While I do not suggest that a knit polo shirt is right for every occasion, when paired with a sharp outfit you should be covered for pretty much anything short of a State Dinner.
The corporate casual look
Pairing a polo shirt with khakis is the traditional choice and usually works just fine for most situations. This looks works equally well with either a worn-in, laid back outfit or your pressed and crisp, off-to-cocktails-on-the-lawn togs.
And unless you are a 15 year-old prep school miscreant, take pass on the overly stylized graphic, patched and logoed polos – they are just not meant for grown-ups. Same goes for the excessively “vintage aged” khakis. When going “nice” casual, keep the overall feel less stuffy with clean boat shoes or penny loafers and a woven leather or ribbon belt.
Classic white polo
A little logo overkill
For a more business look, try a dressy belt with a silver monogrammed buckle, blue blazer and high grade slip-ins from Alden. I’ve occasionally seen a black polo paired with a pinstriped suit; very sharp in a George Clooney sort of way. If you are going to give that a try, opt for a very fine-gauge shirt in a silky finish.
Whatever look you’re trying to achieve, make sure to follow these simple guidelines to always be your best when sporting a polo shirt this summer. First, as always, ensure that the fit is right.
Avoid going too baggy. A trim fit across the shoulders – so the shirt’s shoulder seams actually land on your shoulder – should be your first goal. You don’t want any pulling or bunching, just a natural and comfortable fit. The body of the shirt should lightly touch yours, but not pull or feel tight.
The sleeve should hit somewhere around your mid-bicep and be fitted but not at all constricting. When un-tucked, your shirt should hang no lower than your hips and by no means cover your rear like some kind of mini skirt.
Regardless of how well it fits, when in the office, keep your shirt tucked in.
Even when you’re going for a younger look, say with modern jeans and some vintage shoes, a trim fit will keep everything looking fresh. Many designers have come out with slimmer fitting polo shirts, so make sure you try on several brands and see what feels best. And trim does not mean tight – unless you want it tight of course, which is another look altogether.
He can pull off a really fitted polo
One of the best things about polo shirts is their versatility. They come in almost any color under the sun, from basic white to jet black, solids or preppy stripes. Polo shirts also happen to age very well.