The men's polo shirt is the middle ground between formal and casual. Since it is not quite one or the other, it can be hard to figure out what to do with it. But by that same token, the polo shirt is the answer to mixing the two categories: you get the comfort of casual without sacrificing the sophistication of formal. It's a staple of the "smart casual" style. And it's ideal for guys who want something other than a t-shirt and jeans to wear but know that donning a suit to go to the grocery store isn't quite the right choice.
Here are some tips on choosing a polo shirt and outfits ideas for projecting confidence and taste.
Unlike other more formal wear, where it is better to stick to neutrals, polos can give your wardrobe a little bit of color. The question becomes: which color? If you aren't confident in colors, neutrals are still great options: charcoal, white, and navy are all safe bets that look good on everyone. But if you want to liven up your closet, a colorful polo is an excellent way to go.
The idea is to choose a color you like that is flexible and versatile, something that goes with multiple outfits. A neon green, for example, is eye-catching but limiting. Choose more muted tones that you feel look good on you. If you want a red, go with brick or maroon. Sage is generally a solid pick for a shade of green. If you want something a little lighter for the warm-weather seasons, a light blue might be just the thing. As with any clothing recommendation, be sure to try it on and see what you think and how you feel.
This is the most formal of the polo shirt looks. Pairing your (nicest) polo shirt with men's dress pants is a classic warm-weather office option. Tuck in your polo shirt, wear a nice belt, and add a classy watch, and this is a look that people will take seriously. Neutrals are best for keeping with the overall impression of the look. Black pants with a light gray polo, gray pants with a white polo, or white pants with a navy polo are great combinations. You may even be able to put a blazer over the top without creating too much visual mismatch. Finish the outfit off with dress shoes (or at least loafers) that either match your belt or blend in with your pant color, and you are ready for an interview, a meeting, or an upscale restaurant with outdoor seating.
This combination is a step down the formality scale but still an outfit you could wear downtown somewhere. Men's chinos are a little more flexible, giving you the option of dressing up or down. For dressing it up, tuck in your polo, grab that belt, and go with the loafers. Neutrals are more formal, but you could also opt for classic colors such as red or green, and you would still maintain the reserved air. For dressing it down, pick up your colored polo, untuck that shirt, and put on some nice white leather sneakers. Grab a pair of shades, and this becomes a great day look or a nice party outfit.
This is the adult version of a t-shirt and jeans. The most informal of your pants options, this combination works for most casual situations you will come across. Stick with darker jeans with no distressing since that's a little too laid-back on the bottom. Lighter gray and green polos, in particular, are nice with either blue or black jeans. Having a brown belt and brown slip-on shoes will pull this look together. Or you can go with an untucked maroon red polo and either white sneakers or darker canvas sneakers. Both work well as day looks for the summer.
Lastly, you have the polo-shorts combo, the most casual of our options. This is the best outfit for strolling the boardwalk or captaining a yacht. Flip-flops or other sandals may work if you are going on a boat or walking in the sand, but in general, sneakers and slip-on shoes are the choices that match the best. Wear your polo untucked with a watch and sunglasses to complete the look. As for color, khaki men's shorts work well with white and navy polos. Or, if neutrals feel too stiff, play with color in your shorts by taking that navy polo and matching it with olive green shorts. A dark red polo and navy shorts also pair well together. All aboard!
Your options are in front of you, and your stylish future is ahead. Welcome to your new polo shirt life!