The Ultimate Polo Shirt Guide

The Ultimate Polo Shirt Guide

One of the most versatile shirts any man can own, the Polo Shirt is an ideal summer staple every gentleman should have at least a few of in his closet.From sporting attire to leisurewear, polo shirts can be paired with many wardrobe items such as shorts, seersucker     and Madras. An exceptionally flexible shirt, it is predominantly worn in the warmer summer months due to its short sleeves and breathability. Perfect for the preppy gentleman, it is a common sight on golf courses, tennis courts, beaches and around town for leisurely strolls through the shops and an al fresco meal at a quaint bistro.

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1. Polo Shirt History

2. Polo Shirt Etiquette, DO’s & DON’Ts

3. How a Polo Shirt Should Fit

4. How Choose Polo Shirt Materials & Best Materials For Different Needs

5. Polo Shirt Details & Quality Hallmarks

6. How To Buy A Polo Shirt + Spreadsheet with 30+ Brands

The History of the Polo Shirt

Lacoste & India

While its history is uncertain, most believe it was originally developed as its known today in the latter part of the Roaring Twenties by Rene Lacoste. However, historians have also charted it as far back as the mid-1800s in Manipur, India. Allegedly,British Army soldiers witnessed a polo match by locals and took it upon themselves to open the very first polo club in the world where the sport grew in popularity throughout India. At the time, most of them wore long-sleeved shirts made of thick cotton with broad collars but due to the heat and discomfort, they began attaching buttons to the shirt collar to prevent them from flapping in their face as the horses galloped. When they returned to Britain, they brought with them the game of polo; introduced to England in 1862.

Brooks Brothers Brings The Polo Shirt To The U.S.

During a trip to England at the end of the 1800s, John E. Brooks, heir to the American Brooks Brothers haberdasher ,attended a polo game and noticed the button down collars on the shirts of the polo players. Thinking it was a brilliant idea, he brought back the idea to his grandfather, and they began to introduce a new dress shirt with a button-down collar that we know of today as the button-down dress shirt. Despite the idea and design of the polo shirt progressing, Brooks Brothers still maintains that they created the original polo shirt.

Polo Ralph Lauren Ad 1975

Polo Ralph Lauren Ad 1975

The Polo Horse Appears

As the Roaring Twenties hit, a designer and polo player named Lewis Lacey began introducing a new lighter-weight polo shirt with an embroidered picture of a polo player on the breast in his store in the Buenos Aires.

Lacoste & The U.S. Open 1926

Realizing that the polo shirt could have multiple uses, especially due to its wind resistant collar, tennis great Rene Lacoste designed the modern polo shirt as we know it today. He realized that one benefit it could have was removing the sleeves; an idea he got from rolling up the starched sleeves of his long-sleeved white tennis shirt. He also wanted a shirt without buttons as was common of the tennis shirts of the 1920s, so he removed those and was left with a short sleeved shirt that could be slipped on over the head. To make the shirt easier to wear, he invented the tennis tail which allowed the back of the shirt to be slightly longer than the front and therefore more comfortable to tuck in and keep in place during a heated match. He also adopted an innovative knit called pique cotton that allowed the shirt to be machine-knitted, which made it far more durable and lightweight. Despite not creating this technology, this added benefit caused the Lacoste line of polo shirts to become instantly famous. While trying to figure out a logo which would allow his brand to become easily recognizable, he took advantage of his nickname “The Crocodile,” which he got from his unusually long nose. He created the Lacoste crocodile logo and placed a small ironed-on logo on each shirt. Wearing his shirt proudly to the 1926 US Open, he won it, and immediately the shirt became a staple in tennis wear and active wear around the world. Immediately the polo world took notice and adopted the same shirts for use in their game. Paying homage to where Lacoste got the idea, he opted to name them polo shirts rather than tennis shirts. The button down collar was no more, and polo players liked the woven shirts because the comfortable, yet sturdy collar could be popped up, allowing them more protection from sunburns.

Tennis - International Tennis Party - Roehampton - 1920

French tennis players Rene Lacoste and Suzanne Lenglen in play during the mixed doubles.

By 1933, Lacoste started his company, and the polo shirt began selling quickly internationally to athletes and fans around the world. Looking for new opportunities, Lacoste realized he could sell more shirts if he created various designs, and so shirts of different colors began to be sold, which led to the modern trend of bold polo shirts. Sold only in fine menswear and department stores, the polo shirt was considered a staple in any well-dressed man’s wardrobe.

Eisenhower Wearing Lacoste in the Fifties

Then, in 1952, the polo shirt blew up when a picture of President Dwight Eisenhower wearing a Lacoste polo shirt on the golf course was released. Immediately, golfers from around the United States and the world started wearing the polo shirt as a part of their golf attire and country clubs began placing it on the approved list of appropriate golf wear in their dress codes.

Fred Perry & The Embroidered Logo

A couple of years later, tennis legend Fred Perry, decided to make his own version of the polo shirt using much of the same design but incorporating a logo that was stitched into the shirt rather than just ironed on. Despite the Lacoste polo still being the premiere choice for athletes, Perry’s shirt became popular with teenage boys in the mid 1950s and soon the polo shirt was no longer just a sport shirt, but a fashionable shirt to wear outside of athletics.

Ralph Lauren 1971

Ralph Lauren 1971

Ralph Lauren Enters The Polo Market

Years passed, and the polo shirt continued to rise in popularity and maintained its status as a staple in men’s attire. Quietly in New York, a man who called himself Ralph Lauren sat at his desk trying to figure out a name for his new line of casual wear while still maintaining an air of sophistication. Since polo was the sport of Royals, he decided to call it ‘Polo.’ The polo emblem first appeared on women’s suits in 1971. To highlight the line, he designed a polo shirt, launched it in 1972, and used it as the marketing tool for his new line of casual clothing for men

A heated war between Lauren and Lacoste ensued and lasted throughout much of the 1980s and 90s. However, with the Ralph Lauren name and budget, as well as its reputation in the Ivy League schools, Ralph Lauren managed to beat out Lacoste and become the iconic shirt coveted by men worldwide. As the teenagers from the 1950s grew up, they continued to wear their polo shirts as a fashionable choice in clothing. With the start of the tech industry and more offices adopting less formal work environments, polo shirts began to be worn as standard work apparel. Soon industry took notice, and the polo shirt was included in many trade and retail uniforms. Companies began to realize that they could easily brand the shirts and began to use them as a regulated uniform for their staff with logos branded on the sleeves, breast, collar and back of the shirts.

The Polo Shirt Today

Today, the polo shirt can be worn in almost any environment where an open collar is substituted for a dress shirt and tie. From the traditional polo fields and tennis courts to the country club and offices, many industries have adopted polo shirts as a preferred shirt for uniforms. From blue collar tradesmen like plumbers and exterminators to retail stores like Best Buy and Target, it seems polo shirts are everywhere we look and they don’t appear to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Polo Shirt Etiquette – DO’s & DON’Ts

Let’s face it. People wear polo shirts interchangeably with everything from dress slacks to ripped denim jeans. They wear them ill-fitting and stained with ketchup to football games and perfectly tailored under a navy blazer to dinner on a yacht. Even James Bond is famous for wearing his Sunspel polo shirts, which pair perfectly with his Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster.

Despite this broad use of the shirt, there are a few rules we must impart on the elegantly dressed gentleman to help you look dapper.

1. Never Wear an Undershirt

A properly fitted polo shirt is tight but not too tight, and it’s just long enough in all the right places. Wearing an undergarment almost guarantees it will slip from under your sleeve or crumple at the collar. Polo shirts aren’t made for undershirts and undershirts should never be worn with a polo shirt. Just wear a bit more deodorant or carry an extra shirt with you.

Varvatos Silk Cotton Polo

Silk Cotton Polo

2. Wear them Fitted but not Tight

If you can’t stick a finger between your bicep and your sleeve, get a bigger size. If there’s a lot of slack, get a smaller size. Good quality polo shirts are made from light materials like cotton. Therefore, they should drape nicely over your body without showing your body.

A polo shirt that is too long

A polo shirt that is too long

3. Size Them to Your Height

Unless you have a penchant for wearing dresses, make sure the tail of the shirt doesn’t go midway past your buttocks. Not only will it crumple and show when tucked in, but it looks plain ridiculous if left untucked. Also, avoid tennis tails if you plan to wear your polo shirt untucked.

4. Don’t Pop Your Collar. You’re Not 12.

That trend of popping your collar is over, and it’s not coming back. Unless you’re lifting it to protect your neck from the sun, just keep it down. Do that and wear sunscreen and you won’t have to pop it in the first place. Popping your collar is kind of like wearing sunglasses at night. Leave it for the bar crowd and teenagers trying to look cool.

5. Avoid (Large) Logos

Recently a trend has hit with large oversized logos appearing on polo shirts. It started with Ralph Lauren and has progressed to other brands. Normally, at Gentleman’s Gazette, we advocate avoiding visible logos at all costs, but when it comes to polo shirts, having a small logo on the breast is often unavoidable since it has become the standard. Some companies offer logos that are tone-in-tone with the knit, which is preferable to contrasting logos. In any case, oversized logos are nothing short of atrocious. Unless you wear one as part of your work uniform, leave the logos to the kids.

DO NOT wear a polo shirt with a Blazer go with a dress shirt instead

DO NOT wear a polo shirt with a Blazer go with a dress shirt instead

6. Don’t Wear Polo Shirts with a Blazer

Some men think they look smart sporting a polo shirt with a blazer, even though the soft collar doesn’t lay flat. No matter what situation you are in, a blazer will always look better with a dress shirt. Therefore, skip the polo and go right to the shirt.

Correct - Long Tail Polo Shirt tucked in

Correct – Long Tail Polo Shirt tucked in

7. Tucked Or Untucked Depends On The Situation

It would be wrong to stipulate a rule never to tuck or untuck your polo shirt. Rather, it depends on the outfit and the occasion. With a pair of madras shorts, you don’t want to tuck them in, but with a pair of seersucker slacks or chinos, it will look better when it is tucked in.

Performance Polo

Performance Polo

Polo Shirts for Golf and Tennis

One big difference between the standard polo shirt and a golf or tennis polo is performance. These shirts are specifically engineered to allow the wearer a wider range of motion and to protect them by wicking moisture away from the body under the hot sun. In most cases, these shirts are made using a synthetic blend of materials designed for active living.

While many amateur golf and tennis players will simply wear a polo shirt from Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers or another brand, most professional athletes stick with the ones made for their sport. Whether that’s partially due to sponsorship from the brand or because of its enhanced performance capability is tough to say.

Top Polo Shirts for Athletes

Brand NameRecommended SportPrice
PGA TourGolf$20+
Nike GolfGolf$30+
Nike TennisTennis$30+
UnderArmourGolf and Tennis$50+
ReebokGolf and Tennis$40+
AdidasGolf and Tennis$15+
Snake EyesGolf$19+
Travis MathewGolf and Tennis$50+
OakleyGolf and Tennis$25+
New BalanceGolf and Tennis$25+
Ralph LaurenTennis$50+
WilsonGolf and Tennis$30+
AasicsGolf and Tennis$45+
Fred PerryTennis$78+

How a Polo Shirt Should Fit

Silk Cotton Polo

Silk Cotton Polo

Slim But Not Tight

Ideally, a polo shirt should be slim fitting with fitted sleeves that reach about halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. While it needs to be fitted, you also don’t want it tight. As mentioned, you can if you can slide a finger between the sleeve and your skin with ease you’re on the right track. Any less room and it’s too tight, any more room and it’s too loose. The neckline, while unbuttoned, should reach just down to the chest area.

Shoulder Width & Sleeves

Just like with a dress shirt, the shoulder seam should sit on the shoulder bone. The sleeves should come down about halfway to two-thirds of the way of your biceps. Anything shorter looks vintage; anything longer too trendy. Ideally, you want a very slim fit in the sleeve.

Proper Length

Traditional polo shirts are longer in the back than they are in the front and look better when tucked in. If tucked in, the shirt should not exceed halfway past your buttocks in the back or your fly in the front. When untucked, the polo shirt should sit just below the waistband / belt line.


Most polo shirts in the U.S. are sized the same as any other casual shirts in small, medium, large and extra large, etc. In higher end or European brands you might also find suit sizing based on your chest measurement. In either case, it pays to either try things on or to consult the sizing table of each brand because a size L from one brand be a size M in another.

Classic Fit

Today, many manufacturers offer different kinds of fits, and while they are not absolute indicators, they will tell you how they fit compared to other polo shirts of the same brands. Ideal for men who aren’t in the best shape with a washboard stomach, the classic fit is earmarked by lower armholes with sleeves that reach closer to the elbow. They offer a very relaxed drape over the torso with a longer back hem allowing them to be tucked into a pair of pants or shorts. Great if you have some love handles you’d like to hide.

Slim Fit

Perfect for the guy in great shape and for athletic use, these polo shirts have the trimmest fit throughout the torso and sleeves, with a shorter back and front hem that allows the shirt to be worn untucked.

Custom Fit

Custom Fit

Custom Fit

The custom fit is right in the middle of classic and slim fit polo shirts. It has higher arm holes than the classic fit with a shorter sleeve length. It also features a trimmer fit against the torso, with a slightly shorter front and back hem than the classic but longer than the slim fit.

Polo Shirt Materials

There are six primary types of polo shirts, not including the more casual rugby-style shirts. Of course, the quality of the shirt depends on the fabric or the knit.

Dri Fit Blended Polyester Polo

Dri-Fit Blended Polyester Polo

1. Blended

Blended fabrics are often used for corporate polo shirts or grocery store uniforms because the blended synthetics increase durability and stain resistance at a low pricepoint. At the same time, they are less comfortable than all cotton materials, and they sometimes make the wearer more prone to sweating. Usually right in the middle to low end when it comes to price, these are the most commonly found polo shirts on the market, and if you are on a budget, this is likely what you will end up with. If you can afford a better quality, you should do so because the feel and comfort of this type are just not desirable.

2. Performance

Performance polos are made with athletes in mind. They offer odor reduction by adding silver to the material or they come with UV protection. They are usually made from lightweight synthetics or blends. Depending on the marketing budget of the company and the brand reputation, the price will vary. These shirts are really only meant to be worn on the golf course or when you exercise — not anywhere else.

3. Polyester

While they don’t wrinkle or shrink and are resistant to staining, they also offer very limited breathability, meaning you will sweat a lot, and they look quite cheap. Definitely not recommended.

Silk Cotton Mesh

Silk Cotton Mesh

4. Silk

Light, comfortable and shiny silk seems like a great fiber for polo shirts at first, but pure silk is not a good fabric for polo shirts — it loses its color when it gets hot and wet. Sometimes you can find cotton-silk or linen-silk blends that can work for polo shirts but pure silk is not recommended.

All linen Jersey knit polo

All linen Jersey knit polo

5. Linen

In recent years, linen has become more popular for all kinds of knitwear and some offer linen polo shirts. With its crisp look and sophisticated wrinkles, it certainly adds another dimension, but it is also much rougher than cotton. As such, it is only recommended in blends if you want the crinkly linen look.

6. Pure Cotton

With moisture wicking abilities, breathability, and decent durability, cotton shirts are the most common polo shirts found today. Now, not all cotton is alike, and cheaper cotton polos use short staple cotton that will cause pilling and faded colors after a few washes. Of course, a longer staple cotton will last longer and likely feel better on your skin; however, it will also fade in color eventually, especially with darker colors. That aside, the quality of a polo shirt does not just depend on the materials but also the knit.

knit vs woven 1350

knit vs woven

Polo Shirt Knits & Weaves

In German, knits are fundamentally different from fabrics because they are always woven. In English, the term fabric is often used to describe any knit, weave or felt, which is unfortunate because the term lacks a proper distinction between different things. Most Polo Shirts are knitted.

So, what is knitting? Knitting is the process of interloping yarns, and while there are many ways to knit for the purpose of this article we will focus on just two basic knit categories that are the most relevant for polo shirts.

All Cotton Pique Knit Mesh

All Cotton Pique Knit Mesh

Piquée Knit

Also known as pique knit, this is not to be confused with marcella pique fabric, which is woven. The reason it is called that is because of the characteristic three-dimensional waffle look, also found in the marcella pique weave. Pique knit is not only flexible but also breathable, and, therefore, the most popular polo shirt knit. The scale of the waffle can differ tremendously, and different kind of knits are in existence. For more breathability, you want bigger holes, and for less weight, you want a smaller knit.

Jersey Knit

Jersey Knit Polo shirts have a smooth surface that is similar to a t-shirt or fine sweater. Often this knit is used for less expensive polo shirts but it can also be used for higher quality polo shirts. It simply creates a different look, and at the end of the day it all depends on your taste. In terms of breathability, an open pique knit is superior to any Jersey knit.

Polo Shirt Details

Ribbed Collar

Ribbed Collar


Soft Collar

Most polo shirts nowadays come with soft, ribbed collars that often look sloppy when the edges curl, which they do all the time. Therefore, it is advisable to opt for Shirt-Style collars with an interlining because they will stay in shape. You can also find companies offering polo collar stays that glue on the to the fabric, but they will fall off and are a waste of money. The only safe way to maintain a good collar is to use shirt collar stays.

Sewn Shirt Collar Style

Sewn Shirt Collar Style

Shirt Collars

The tailored collar is made using the same fabric as the rest of the shirt but with interlining to improve stability and looks. You can find them with a classic collar, cutaway collar, and button-down collar. These shirts are not meant to be worn with neckwear so you should choose a collar shape that appeals to you when you wear the collar unbuttoned.

Pocket or No Pocket?

Just like with shirts, some polo shirts feature a pocket. However, it is rarely used and if you do it sags. It looks bad either way and therefore it is better to skip the pocket on a polo shirt.

Sewn Shirt Collar with attached placket

Sewn Shirt Collar with attached placket

Plackets and Buttons

There are three main styles of plackets used in polo shirts today:

Solly Plackets

Named after Allen Solly, it’s the placket found on the more inexpensive polo shirts and is known as the ‘hidden placket,’ since you can only see one seam at the bottom. It’s lower cost is due primarily to the limited fabric and stitching needed to make it.

Set-In Plackets

Very similar to the Solly placket, the difference is that the Set-in uses more stitching on the button-hole side of the placket, giving it a more tailored and dapper appearance.

Set-On Plackets

Used on the most expensive polo shirts, the Set-on placket uses far more stitching and fabric, since the placket is sewn separate from the shirt and attached thereafter. With its hidden interfacing, it still offers the best option for a rectangular and clean appearance.

Plastic vs. Mother of Pearl Buttons

For a classic look, 2 to 3 buttons are normal. The more expensive polo shirts should have real Mother-of-Pearl buttons whereas less expensive ones will come with plastic buttons. Of course, less expensive brands like Izod and Chaps will use basic plastics for their buttons. However, you can always have your own sewn on.

When it comes to the number of buttons, there are no rules. Some shirts have more, some less. Most polo shirts will use two or three buttons. However, there are some that use as many as five or as few as none. For a classic look, 2 or 3 buttons are preferable.


Often, manufacturers try to skimp on the buttonholes and sew them before they are cut, leaving many loose threads and a buttonhole you don’t want to look at. Ideally, a buttonhole should be cut first and then sewn. While high-end Italian shirts often have handsewn buttonholes, polo shirts usually only have machine-sewn buttonholes, and that is fine as long as they look good.


Most polo shirts have short sleeves but some men also like to wear long sleeve polos. Both are fine, but in terms of construction these two types do not differ.

The most common sleeve construction is set-in sleeves, but many of the most expensive shirts offer raglan sleeves, which supposedly gives a better range of motion. But that also depends on the flexibility of the knit material used. Ideally you should try on the polo shirt before you buy it.

At the end of a sleeve, you will usually find three options including a basic hem, a welt cuff and a ribbed cuff. The only difference between the welt and rib cuff is the number of stitches, which causes the welt cuff to be slightly more elastic. The least expensive shirts will usually have a simple hem to finish off the sleeve. Choose what feels most comfortable to you.

Brioni Polo Shirt Dark Mother of Pearl Buttons

Brioni Polo Shirt Dark Mother of Pearl Buttons

How to Buy Polo Shirts

When it comes to a summer wardrobe, it’s not a bad idea to have a selection of polo shirts. I usually recommend at least having a navy and a white polo shirt but it’s wise to include other colors as well.

Lacoste Sizing and 2 hole Mother of Pearl Buttons

Lacoste Sizing and 2 hole Mother of Pearl Buttons

Basic Colors Always Work

Some people will claim that white and navy are the only acceptable colors, but that’s just plain ignorant and usually a sign of insecurity.

To start with, you should invest in basic colors including but not limited to navy, white, burgundy, light blue, green, purple, orange, yellow or pink. All of these are good colors but the right ones will depend on what the rest of your wardrobe — and you — look like. If you have black hair and Caucasian skin or if  you are black, high contrast outfits will work better. On the other hand, if you blonde hair and fair skin, muted colors and less contrast will work better.

Of course, having a white or navy polo shirt won’t hurt, but a light blue will look better on you if you are a low contrast person.

Once you have the solids covered, you can think about expanding into some patterns such as checks, stripes or something else. Fashion polos often come with contrasting collars, plackets or ribbed hems and will standout more, but they will look distinctly dated in a few years from now and are not a wise investment.

Price ≠ Value

When it comes to price, polo shirts can range in price from a mere $10 or less for a low-end chain to $1500 for a polo shirt from Brioni. In addition to the price, the quality also changes based on the manufacturer. Of course, a shirt for $10 cannot be of great quality, and generally, $50 is what you need to spend for better quality. Some $150 shirts have a particular design and/or a big marketing campaign behind them and therefore it is difficult to tell how well they will hold up in the end. For example, due to a marketing placement, Daniel Craig wore a navy Sunspel Riviera polo shirt in a James Bond movie, and therefore many men went out and bought it for $135 so they could feel like James Bond. If you need this kind of confidence boost, it is a good investment. On the other hand, if you are about the look and you are on a budget, the $15 shirt from Uniqlo might be a better choice. Of course, the Uniqlo one is made from a cotton blend, but it has a shirt collar, a similarly trim cut and the same color.

At the end of the day, you have to decide what provides more value for you, but it pays to look around and to compare options. Generally, it helps to look for quality hallmarks rather than brand names because hallmarks will help you to distinguish better quality from low-quality.

Look for Taped Shoulder Seams

In order to ensure longevity, one thing to look for in a polo shirt is a taped shoulder seam. This is easily distinguishable by looking at the inside of the shirt on the seam, where you’ll find a white piece of fabric sewn into the shoulder. This is what’s used to maintain the shirt’s shape with wear and numerous washes.

You Can’t Tell How fast Color Will Fade

Another thing that’s difficult to recognize is whether the shirt has been dyed correctly. Unfortunately, you really won’t be able to tell until you wash the shirt several times. Sadly, not even a brand label like Ralph Lauren Polo or Brooks Brothers will guarantee a certain quality anymore, because each season can be very different. I have old polos from Ralph Lauren that have been worn more often than newer ones, yet the new ones look considerably worse than no-name micro-brands or wholesale brands intended for use as branded uniforms. One tip is to look at the cuffs and the collar to make sure they match the shirt and aren’t from different dye lots.

Always bear in mind that the darker the color, the sooner it will age. White polo shirts don’t show washed out colors because they are white. However, you are more likely to get deodorant stains or stain it otherwise, so no one color is, per se, superior to others.

Wash your polos inside-out, which should help at least a bit. Blended polos will look new for longer but they are generally a bit rougher on your skin.

Soft Feel Does Not Automatically Guarantee Quality

You will not be able to predict longevity just by touching the fabric. Sometimes, polo shirts like the ones from Tommy Hilfiger feel soft, but in fact they do not last very long and look faded very quickly.

Side Seam POLO Ralph Lauren

Side Seam POLO Ralph Lauren

Opt for Single Needle Stitching

Generally, the more time that is spent on the making of the polo shirt, the higher the chance a better knit was used. However, that is not always the case. Try to select polo shirts with single needle stitching in the shoulder and a reinforced box that gives the shirt a more finished and tailored appearance. Interfacing in the placket and buttons that have been cross-stitched are simple additions that can improve the quality of the shirt.

In the following you will find a list of polo shirt manufacturers at different price points. It is simply a way to show you what’s out there. At the end of the day, there is not one perfect polo shirt for everybody — it really depends on what you value.

Brand NamePrice Range
Polo Ralph Lauren$50+
Fred Perry$75+
Tommy Hilfiger$45+
Orlebar Brown$115
Massimo Piombo$225+
H.E. By Mango$29+
Banana Republic$50+
J. Crew$45+
Club Monaco$50+
Band of Outsiders$145+
Jack Spade$50+
Todd Snyder$95+
Thom Browne$400+
Saint Laurent$340+
Brooks Brothers$65+
Southern Tide$78+
Smathers and Branson$80+
Southern Proper$75+
Vineyard Vines$70+
Southern Marsh$65+
Rowdy Gentleman$50+
L.L. Bean$25+


Regardless of whether you’re a country club prep from Manhattan or a blue-collared guy from the south, there is a selection of polo shirts for you. It’s as easy as shopping online or visiting local stores — regardless of where you live you’ll find something that works with your style. Who makes your favorite polo shirt? What do you wear it with?

This guide was written by Sven Raphael Schneider & J.A. Shapira

Article Name
The Ultimate Polo Shirt Guide
Explore this comprehensive polo shirt guide for men with How To Buy, DOs & DONTs, Materials, Quality Hallmarks & more including 6 Videos.
Gentleman's Gazette
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66 replies
  1. Walter Matera says:

    They are also a staple under shooting vests on clay bird courses around the world. One thing I wish to point out, there seems to be some indication that the polo shirt has no breast pocket and that a shirt with the pocket is a golf shirt–allegedly. For those of us whose years have surpassed our near vision, the latter version is essential as being without reading glasses is not to be borne!

  2. Antoine says:

    My personal rule considering Polo Shirts is: Do not wear Polo Shirts.
    That pretty much solves it 😛

  3. Jim says:

    “From sporting attire to leisurewear, polo shirts can even be paired with a navy blazer for an elegant dinner at the country club.”

    “6. Don’t Wear Polo Shirts with a Blazer”

    Okay, now which is it?

    • Joe says:

      This is a case of… do it whether GG says it’s OK or not. Blazers are generally not my thing but I have a new seersucker suit, and the jacket is very casual with patch pockets, single vent and no lining. You bet I wear it with either a dress shirt (tie or no tie), blue or pink Polo, or even a pale blue V-neck tee!! (L’horreur!!) Panama hat optional. I also have a blue/gray fine check suit in silk and linen which goes well with a bright yellow Polo I have. I think “Never” and “Don’t” are for beginners. You will learn when and where you can break such rules. Try new things! If you don’t pull it off, you’ll notice in people’s reactions and will not try that combo again.

  4. Old Timer says:

    Allow me to differ:

    1. It is extremely easy to find polo shirts without logos, L.L. Bean and Lands’ End being the first that come to mind.
    2. A buttoned-up white polo shirt under a navy blazer is the height of smart casual.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Lands’ End quality is nothing to rave home about and their collars are awful, just like LL Beans.

      Buttoning up a a collar without neckwear looks awful and so does a blazer with a white polo shirt but each to his own.

      • Joseph Ofungwu says:

        Hello Sven,
        You made a great point about the sloppy appearance of polo collars when they start to fall apart, curling up and even worse in some cases, leaving a gaping hole around the neck. The problems is that most stores only carry polos with the conventional ribbed collars. Where do I find polos with the shirt-style collars that you recommended?


  5. Edwin says:

    Question… I am a portly man and I have to wear braces since belts don’t work well for me…. What about polo’s and braces? I tuck the polo in and braces over… I don’t care for the look but what am I to do?? Thanks…Edwin…

    • Joe says:

      Hi Edwin… I love side tabs on trousers, but due to my waist, I can’t use them and must have a belt or braces. I tried, but had to return to my tailor to have him redo the trouser with loops instead. He warned me, but I didn’t listen. I hate to say it but you may be in the same boat with Polos. They are nice, but may not work for you. Personally, I think you could find some braces that would work if you coordinated with a harmonious color. Maybe analogous or complimentary. Worth some experimenting. I think if you’re already going casual enough for a Polo, you can go more playfully casual in the braces. If that fails, adios Polos.

  6. Damosa says:

    I would just like to mention that EVERY average Italian wears his polo with the collar popped up. Whatever you think of it, it’s a (funny) fact!

  7. roda says:

    I am italian and I find it ridiculous to wear the polo shirt collared up. Look at who exactly is doing so in italy. Amongst them you’ll hardly find someone to whom you would trust your luggage to look at for a moment…. polo collar fold up is for maniacci and more or less wealthy youngsters or dudes in their midlife crisis- with one word: Berlusconi’s. Italian gentlemen with dignity would avoid such appearances.
    As to blazer and Polo shirt: I have problems with this less for estetical but for reasons of more tecnical nature: The Polo’s collar needs to be fold or completely buttoned up in order to avoid the direct contact of the jacket collar with my neck (thats the reason why I never wear T-Shirts with a blazer). A Polo Shirt buttoned up looses much of its attraction for me, talking terms of comfort. But the worst thing is that i dont like to sweat the arms linings of the jacket and I dont like to touch that with my skin. A Blazer with a Polo Shirt for me works only when I need to appear formally at a friends door, certain that as soon as I got familiar with the other people in occasion I can remove the blazer.

    • Fen'Harel says:

      Funny fact: I’m Italian, I’m an undergrad student and sometimes I wear polo shirts with the upturned collar, thyough I don’t belong to any of the cases you told us about. I think that the possibility of popping the garment’s collar is related to roughly three parameters: the length of your neck, the length of the shirt’s collar, and the circumstances you are dressing for (morning/afternoon/evening/night, class/brunch/dinner, night out/date/dinner with relatives, weekend/weekday/Casual Friday/holidays, and so on). Also, sometimes I wear my polo shirts buttoned-up and I would sometimes wear it with a blazer or a sport coat.

  8. CryptoReporter says:

    I recently went to a nice casual yet upscale afternoon party and I wore a black polo with a camel colored light blazer. I personally felt a bit uncomfortable with this setup, but I got a ton of complements.

      • Joe says:

        Not being widely travelled anymore, I probably don’t really know what I’m talking about, but I think there must be some truth to the idea that where you are in the world makes a great deal of difference in what you can wear and be considered well dressed for an occasion. Certainly here in Los Angeles for casual events, T-shirts, Polos, sometimes bare skin are worn under a jacket/blazer/sport coat. Don’t ask me how that works for people… I can go with the T- if it’s a really nice one and a Polo seems just fine if it’s hot. I like a open-collar dress shirt sans tie as well, but that is pretty conservative for L.A. in the summer. Jeans, shorts, and sweatpants are all worse options compared to a Polo under a jacket of some type.

  9. Mark Hewitt says:

    Gentlemen ,
    Polo shirts are tricky , even some of the more costly look nasty .
    Always press them prior to wearing , they are meant to be tucked in and not tucked out.

    I have a couple from Paul Fredrick which I put with sharkskin trousers and tan and white spectators , seems to work . Throw in a blouson for cover , a jacket can over do it a tad .

  10. Victor Naves says:

    I’d add something: a Lacoste polo shirt is the cheapest garment you can buy. It resist without losing its colour and tearing the cloth for years and years. Maybe it is a bit expensive, at least here in Europe, but it is worth it.

  11. Philip Sawyer says:

    Sven, you have separate fabric categories for Performance and Polyester. I swear by 100% natural fibers, both personally and in my business, however I have a few of the newer polyester microfiber performance underlayers, which when made up in a pique-type waffle knit are on a par with or better than all-natural fibers for wicking and heat retention properties. Modal fibers in the right weight fabric are also very good. Finally, when buying Japanese higher-end fabrics, hardly a one doesn’t have some small admixture of a man-made fiber, or fibers, for performance and wearability purposes.

  12. Squirrel says:

    Nice guide, yet I thought long sleeves polo were considered as polo shirts too. I would never wear a short sleeves polo with a jacket, but a long sleeves one can look and feel really nice.

  13. Don says:

    Loro Piana makes the best dress shirt style polo shirts out there. The collars are beautiful and they have the best material combinations too. Some have no buttons. svevo makes cool collar diamond designs as well. Prepare to pay up and wear infrequently. They fall apart faster than cheap ones.

  14. Joe says:

    Interesting and informative article which I am enjoying quite a bit, but I think the format is a little strange. Appending a new day’s worth of info to the end of the previous day’s will eventually make a complete article but will temporarily cause people who already read the earlier installments to do a lot of scrolling and searching for where they left off. It’s already becoming a bit cumbersome. And this is my personal preference but I prefer not to watch the videos and just read the text and photos. It seems a running issue that typos and sentence structure take a back seat to the slick video production. People who primarily want to look at the video have to do a lot or scrolling to find them and those who don’t want to be bothered have to scroll past them.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Joe, at the top of the article you have a little menu that you can click on so you get right to the section you want to read.
      what typos are you talking about? Please point them out specifically because otherwise it is not helpful.

      • joe says:

        Sorry but the big bold red text slipped in after the first paragraph did not say “Menu” to me. I did miss it. Sorry!

        As for the typos… not all is outright typo, which might be caught by a spell checker. Some of it is writing style… other is obviously a place you edited the paragraph or sentence and left a part behind that should have been cleaned up. Quite frankly, I usually read these during a lull in my work and I don’t have time to note and point out problems. But they do reflect the same way an ill fitting suit reflects on someone who doesn’t take care to manage the details. You need a proofreader and that isn’t me. 🙂 But I’ll give you an example and tell you I see this kind of thing all the time in these articles.

        Under the paragraph for “Classic Fit”, you have: “Today, many manufacturers offer different kinds of fits nowadays,” “Today” and “Nowadays” are the same and sound redundant in the same sentence. Then the paragraph ends with “They are”. Well, they are what? No period, no comma, just a sentence that got chopped off.

        I don’t mean to offend but this is a site about style, elegance, doing things the right way… so don’t cheese out on the proofreading.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:


      We have a proofreader, but these fragments are actually a result of an additional software we use. When editing an article it can add parts of the following paragraph in strange ways. We will try to figure out a way to do that. That being said, bear in mind that even books you buy in a store have typo and these articles are completely free to you, so be kind.

      • Dutch Uncle says:

        Please tell your proofreader that there is no such expression as “nothing to rave home about”.
        (This was in your June 26 comment to Old Timer).
        The expressions are : “nothing to rave about” and “nothing to write home about”.
        I’m sure that your proofreader will be grateful for this tip.

      • Joe says:

        Raphael, please do know that it is not my intent to be unkind. My apologies if it came across that way. As a regular reader, I see this a lot and I usually ignore it. But I think it’s fair to point out where articles about elegance and style are slightly untucked. You can’t be offended by this. Your tone in response to Dutch Uncle’s comment about “rave home” was petulant. If someone tells you your tie is askew, you thank them and go fix it. You don’t say you fell sorry for them that they can’t appreciate the magnificence of the rest of your outfit. You above all should know the details are important. Yet, I understand the reaction and have had it myself. No worries. This is a great site, with content that is indeed free, although it is an adjunct and lead-in to your premium line of merchandise. (Which, judging by the items I’ve purchased, is excellent.) My feedback on your articles is also free my friend. I won’t stop being a customer or reader any time soon.

        • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

          Joe, your comment was not unkind, and I did not intend to highlight your comment. Just in general, people who have a tendency to complain often take that tone.
          I am grateful for everyone who points out mistakes so we can fix them. What I do not like is people who try to say, get a proofreader because they found one mistake. We are all people and we make mistakes.

          Of course, details are important and language matters too, but to expect that a proofreader reads comments is ridiculous. If I spent money on a proofreader for all comments, then I would have to invest North of $5,000 and I simply to do not see the return on investment. That being said, when you google “to rave home about” you will come up with 138,000 results which shows that it is used online even though it is technically not correct.

          If I see that someone has a stain, or a crooked tie, I quietly tell them in person so no one notices and that’s the end of it.
          I don’t proclaim to the public:”Tell your stylist and drycleaner to do a better job cleaning next time. I am sure they will be grateful for that tip.”
          Obviously, Dutch Uncle was not interested in helping. He was interested to show that he is smarter, and he wants to be recognized for it.
          The tone makes the music, and if people are aggressive or if they choose an inappropriate tone, we reserve the right to either ban them from commenting or to tell them that we do not appreciate their comment.

          All he had to say about a great article, was that a phrase that is widely used is not correct. If that’s the only thing, I am indeed sorry for him, and I do not want to spend time reading his comments in the future.

  15. John says:

    Sven, I find your articles very informative, and do no understanding those who find it necessary to pick things apart. I do at times wear a polo with a blazer, if for no other reason, I am in outside sales and it gets very hot in the south! Again, thanks again for your blog.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      typically the people who criticize a lot do not create a lot of stuff themselves, but I am fine with critique as long as it is helpful and we can improve things. However, more often than not, people seem to be taking the intellectual high-ground, which makes me laugh.

  16. Boston Bean says:

    Some rules from New England:
    Polos are only proper in one of two colors: navy or white.
    Polos should have only two buttons.
    Pique knit is the only acceptable knit.
    Polo collars should curl up (just like authentic oxford cloth should wrinkle).
    A buttoned-up white polo shirt under a navy blazer will result in people treating you like a lord.
    L.L. Bean polo shirt is the preferred, minimalist brand. Understatement is everything: Old Money doesn’t ever flaunt its wealth.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Brand fixation has nothing to do with personal style and it’s the typical hallmark of people with insecurities.
      As always, it pays to learn the rules and then break them. At the end of the day each can wear their own but to claim navy of white are the only proper colors makes me sad.

  17. Minimalist Trad says:


    I fully appreciate the contribution that you have made and continue to make to your readers’ sartorial knowledge, but I’m afraid that calling your readers ignorant and insecure is not exactly gentlemanly. Some of us prefer to dress like adults, and feel sorry for those who choose colors appropriate to the wardrobes of nursery school pupils.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Minimalist,

      If you read the comment again, you will see that I do not call any reader insecure or ignorant. I simply stated that “it’s the typical hallmark of people with insecurities.” The word typical implies that it is the rule but as you know there are always exceptions to the rule.
      So, most people who believe that just one brand is the only thing to go with and nothing else will work are typically ignorant and insecure. If that doesn’t apply to you, that’s great, but please don’t twist words ;).

  18. Jon says:

    Anyone have a recommendations for polo shirt that taller guys can wear and tuck-in? I am 6’2″ with a longer than average torso for my height, and want to have some polo shirts I can wear for casual workdays, but would only do so if I can tuck in. The problem is that it seems most polo shirts that fit well otherwise are usually too short to tuck in, anyone know of good polo shirts for taller guys?

  19. Shawn says:

    Thank you for the educational and informational dialogue and diagram of the polo shirt. I was very impressed by thé six part showcase. For thé past twenty five years I have been wearing polo shirt for wok and for semi formal events. They are truly versital and Eastwood to maintain ,if you know how to tales care of them. I have always worn Ralph Lauren and LaCoste, They are my main staples my wardrobe. I was wondering if you could enlighten me on Daniel Crémeux. I recently came into possesion of one of his polo shirts and it is nice. I just never heard about his fashion line. And I also

    see that you mention Brioni several times in the presentation. I world like to know if they are preppy or more high end bourgeoise.

  20. Al R. says:

    Bonkers on not popping the collar on a polo shirt! My take is that I identify with my youth when the collar is popped. (I do not suffer from middle age dilusions, thank you!) It adds a bit of ‘flava’ to my look. (My personal style, I’ve developed and nurtured!) I believe, it makes me appear hip, not ‘square’ uptight, stodgy. Con-ventional! Couple the look with fitted b- ball cap (very informal, casual, if you will) or with a summer straw or panama hat, worn ‘old school’ – flat brimmed, “acey-ducey”… the total look works!! Fabulously for moi!! IMHO….

  21. Herald Schwartz says:

    Have you heard of Gestalt polo shirts? Given your detailing of collars, sleeves, MOP buttons, plackets, etc., it seems like a shirt you’d be into.

  22. Joseph Ofungwu says:

    Hello Sven,
    You made a great point about the sloppy appearance of polo collars when they start to fall apart, curling up and even worse in some cases, leaving a gaping hole around the neck. The problems is that most stores only carry polos with the conventional ribbed collars. Where do I find polos with the shirt-style collars that you recommended?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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