From its niche origins in early mid-century tennis circles, the polo shirt has become a fashion staple in the modern wardrobe. Today, it is both a sporting shirt and an essential business casual piece that exudes an air of sophistication. Women’s and Men’s polo shirts are essential items in the summer and spring wardrobe for when you want to look good without resorting to hot long-sleeve button-down shirts. Enabling free air circulation, you can stay cool but be a step above casual too. However, it is a misconception that the polo shirt is a static, “one-trick pony.” While it is common to wear this shirt with a pair of jeans or slacks, it can be used in many other ways. Here’s how to style your polo shirt to keep it feeling fresh throughout the spring and summer.
Polo shirts were originally called “tennis shirts” and only came in the color white, but today you have more options than ever in colors and patterns. Go beyond the neutrals and collect strong basic colors like black, red, blue, green, and yellow that can catch the eye. Polos are also adopting color block patterns, stripes, and contrasting colors on the collar and sleeve bands. This added twist on the traditional white polo shirt provides a modern refresh to this decades-long trend. If you wear a cardigan or blazer over a colored polo, make sure that the colors complement each other, such as purple and yellow or white on black. This play on color makes your outfit visually interesting and appealing.
Polo shirts come with their own set of rules for expert styling. If you avoid these fashion faux pas, you can look even better as you pull off this style. Firstly, skip the undershirt. Polo shirts were intended to be a cool, airy sports shirt for tennis, so it is a base layer item. If you feel like there is a need for an undershirt, you may consider upgrading your polo to one that is made of thicker cotton. If you must wear an undershirt, make sure it won’t heat you up and that it is low enough to not peek through the neckline.
While polo shirts do have three buttons, it is advised to not button fully to the top or leave all the buttons undone. Think about buttoning your polo with a happy medium in mind and leave one or two open. And finally, popping the collar is currently not a trend. That ship sailed in the mid-2000s and is not likely to return any time soon. Keep your collar folded over and clean. This layout not only looks neat and professional, but also brings attention to your face and smile. And finally, never wear an athletic polo as streetwear. Golf and tennis polos may have cost you a pretty penny, but they are specially designed for sporting and generally don’t match well with street clothing.
Now that you know what not to do, you can use some expert tricks to wear your polo in all social settings — from game day to an important business meeting. For starters, polos can be worn alone and untucked with jeans or shorts to fit any casual situation, from a barbecue to a birthday party. As you amp up the formality, you trade shorts for long pants and tuck in the polo. Then, for a more professional edge, you trade out chinos and jeans for slacks and include a belt and blazer.
Ladies can also pull off a professional look by wearing slacks or a skirt with a tucked-in women’s polo shirt. Pay attention to footwear when adjusting your outfits. Flats, sneakers, flip-flops, and sandals are common options for lazy polo shirt days, while Chelsea boots, pumps, and penny loafers take the outfit to the next level.
If you want to stay cool, avoid silk or polyester blends because they can trap in heat and sweat. Instead, stick to 100% cotton and activewear materials if you are wearing a shirt for sports. If you’re looking for materials for daily wear, look for Pique and Jersey. Pique is the original polo fabric and is essentially a textured cotton shirt. The thread is knitted and woven together in a way that makes the shirt breathable and sweat-concealing.
On the spectrum of polos, Pique is considered to be among the most formal polo materials. Jersey cotton can also keep you cool. T-shirts are also made of jersey, so a jersey polo has a familiar thin, soft, and stretchy feel to it. These are lighter than Pique polos and often cost less. However, this non-textured cotton will show sweat more than Pique, and its overall smooth texture gives it a more casual appearance.
By following these styling tips for polo shirts, you can look your best wherever you go, whether it’s a casual party or business meeting.