The Essential Guide to Men’s Polo Shirts (2024)


The Essential Guide to Men’s Polo Shirts

The Essential Guide to Men’s Polo Shirts (1) Mr. Draper

The polo shirt has not only become a staple requirement in most men’s wardrobes but, over time, has also earned its place as a fashion classic. You’d be hard pressed to find a man who doesn’t own at least three or four of these comfortable and versatile pieces. Smart and sporty, this style icon is infinitely versatile, which is why it can be your ultimate ally.

The first polo shirts date back to the 19th century, when they were worn by the British Army and named after the game of polo, which originated in India. Back then, polo shirts were made out of thick, long sleeved cotton and looked much like any other shirt but with one crucial difference – the collars were adapted, so they could be buttoned down to prevent flapping whilst galloping on horseback!

It was this modification that was noticed by John E Brooks, the grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers. He quickly spotted the potential of the buttoned-down collars and went on to apply a similar look to Brooks Brothers dress shirts. Now labelled 'the most imitated item in fashion history', the Brooks Brothers still claim that their buttoned-down shirts were the original polo shirts.

Sport and the polo shirt

In order to really get under the skin of the polo shirt and its journey into our hearts and wardrobes, we need to look at the crucial developments that took place between the polo shirt and the sporting world. A certain Henry Lacoste played a key role in the advancement and adaptation of the polo shirt as we’ve come to know it today. After rolling up his shirtsleeves to play tennis, Lacoste went on to shorten the sleeve entirely, prompting a new dawn in comfortable, practical sportswear.

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This idea was picked up by another tennis legend, Fred Perry, who adapted the tennis white polo shirt further still by stitching in his famous logo, as opposed to ironing it on. When teenagers in the 1950s adopted the polo shirt as a fashion item things really started to pick up. By the 1970s Ralph Lauren was using the polo shirt as his signature piece, branding his new casual wear company simply ‘Polo’.

The first Fred Perry polo was created in 1952.

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The 21st Century polo shirt

But enough of the past. Let’s fast forward to the 21st century and the man of today. With so many polo shirts and brands to choose from, how can you possibly decide which one to choose and how to wear it well? At Mr. Draper, we’re here to give you all the advice and guidance you could possibly require on all matters polo. So, let’s take a deep breath and dive into the essential guide to men’s polo shirts together, but first let's take a look at how much Fred Perry has changed.

The fabulous thing about the polo shirt is that it suits ALL body types – enhancing the parts that you like to showcase yet subtly disguising the parts that you may be less keen on. A polo shirt always fits well (unless it’s way too big) and lends itself well to layering up with other items, such as a sweater or blazer. Plus, there’s a real range of choice to suit all budgets. From designer to high street, there’s a polo shirt out there for everyone, if you know where to look.

Which fabric suits which body?

We’ve already mentioned that polo shirts suit all shapes and sizes. But, as well as size, it’s also necessary to consider the type of material the shirt is made from before making your selection. Pique cotton shirts are made with a cotton yarn with a slight ribbing in it. Piqué polos are best suited if you are heavier-set with a wider physique because the textured fabric hugs the body without accentuating the less flattering areas of chest and stomach.

Pique Cotton

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If you’re a little less body conscious, then cotton and cotton blend polo shirts are the perfect choice. This kind material is softer and more comfortable than pique cotton. A cotton blend polo shirt has a sleek, modern look that is great on its own or worn underneath a jacket.

As a general rule, it’s better to stick to the plain polo shirt when you’re first trying them out and perhaps to also experiment with more muted colours. White, black, navy and grey will offer you the most versatility as they work with most skin tones and body types. When you’re ready, then by all means start to widen your horizons by checking out the wide range of coloured polo shirts on the market and even working up to stripes and patterns. We’d advise choosing a colour that complements rather than clashes with your skin tone or hair colour. Remember not everyone can pull off yellow or fuchsia pink, but if you’re feeling confident then go for it!

The sky's the limit when it comes to what colours Polo's come in.

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In or out – that’s the question!

When it comes to tucking in or hanging out, there are some very simple rules to follow. If you’re sporting your polo without a jacket then, unless you’re a professional golfer, don’t tuck your shirt into your pants or trousers. It really doesn’t work! That said, if you are wearing a jacket with the polo underneath then you could tuck in the front part of the shirt just a little so it partially covers your belt. This looks stylish because it breaks up the look without overdoing things. Oh, and when it comes to logos then small is beautiful. Either go for a small, subtle logo or avoid altogether.
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Do’s and don’ts of polo shirt fashion

Do wear a fitted polo shirt but don’t make it too tight. If you find there’s a lot of slack material on your body then by all means go for a smaller size. Good quality polo shirts are made from lighter materials like cotton, so they should drape nicely over your body without showing too many lumps and bumps!

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Don’t wear anything underneath. Polo shirts look best next to the skin. Plus, in warmer climates you’ll stay much cooler this way. Vests and undershirts are a complete ‘no-no’. Wearing anything underneath almost certainly guarantees that excess material will slip out from under your sleeve or crumple at the collar.

Do tailor your choice to your height. Generally speaking the tail of a polo shirt shouldn’t hang down any further than midway past your behind. The tennis tail look of the past is definitely not the way to go in everyday life – you can trust Mr. Draper on that!

Don’t turn up the polo shirt collar. Ever. Popping your collar only works if you’re a teenager, so if you are concerned about sunburn and want to protect your neck, slap on some extra sun cream but don’t use your polo shirt as a sun shade.

Don't be this guy, it's not "cool".

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We’ve already mentioned the logo issue and tucking in, which are both pieces of advice that we would urge you to follow. Other than that, just enjoy yourself and start to pick out polo shirts that you not only like the look of but will also suit your body. At Mr. Draper, we’re all set to help you selectstylishpolo shirts that don't go out of fashion.

Collars and pockets

And finally, before we leave you in the capable hands of our stylists, we’d also like to mention the small matter of collars and pockets – crucial details in your choice that can make all the difference to the overall look. Polo shirt collars tend to either be soft or tailored more like a shirt. Soft collars do tend to curl up at the edges, so you may wish to opt for a collar with an additional lining sewn in, which helps the collar to lie flat.
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Polo shirts with pockets tend to look saggy very quickly. Plus, the pocket itself is pretty useless as a practical addition because anything you may put inside it will be visible and potentially pull the shirt out of shape. As a general rule of thumb, we’d say go for a smooth fronted polo with no pockets.

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And that’s it! Our essential guide to polo shirts is complete. Remember that you can wear a polo shirt with any combination of trousers/pants – chinos, jeans and even suit trousers. When paired with a polo shirt, each looks good and can easily be dressed up or down to suit. Whatever your preference of polo shirt, Mr. Draper is always on hand to help you find the colour and style that suits you best. With a range of shirts to choose from, we’re more than ready to introduce you to the joys of this versatile and always in fashion item.

Whether you’re a seasoned polo shirt aficionado or more of a polo first timer, we can guide you in the right direction. From sports club to conference and from date night to playing with your kids in the park, at Mr. Draper we can show you a whole new way to sport your polo and adapt the choices you make to a range of different occasions.

So, why not get started on your search for the ultimate polo shirt with Mr. Draper today.

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The Essential Guide to Men’s Polo Shirts (2024)


What are the qualities of a good polo shirt? ›

The Ultimate Polo Shirt Guide [2024 Update]
  • Shape and Fit. Fit is undoubtedly the most important aspect of polo shirt design. ...
  • Mother-of-Pearl Buttons. The hallmark of all high-quality shirts and polo shirts. ...
  • Fabric Weight. ...
  • Pristine Seams. ...
  • Mercerised Finish. ...
  • Stand Collars and Interlining. ...
  • Logo or No Logo? ...
  • Tennis Tail.

What to look for when buying a polo shirt? ›

Good quality polo shirts are made from lighter materials like cotton, so they should drape nicely over your body without showing too many lumps and bumps! Don't wear anything underneath. Polo shirts look best next to the skin. Plus, in warmer climates you'll stay much cooler this way.

What are the essential polo shirt colors? ›

Most men can look good in a variety of polo shirt colors, but some colors are considered to be more versatile and universally flattering. This includes white, light blue, black, grey navy blue, I can say the colors that generally goes well not only with polo but in general terms of clothing and combinations.

How many polo shirts does a man need? ›

A man should aim to have at least 3 to 5 polo shirts in his wardrobe to ensure a versatile selection for different occasions, ranging from casual to semi-formal events.

What is the most versatile polo shirt color? ›

Light gray is a neutral color that is perfect for any season. It is a versatile color that pairs well with many different styles and colors. Light gray polo shirts are perfect for both casual and formal occasions and can be paired with jeans or dress pants for a classic and timeless look.

What is the best material for a polo shirt? ›

The best fabric for polo shirts: Piqué

The most traditional material for polo shirts is probably piqué. Piqué is a robust yet soft cotton double weave with a waffle-like structure. It is super easy-care, breathable and extremely absorbent, making it ideal for polo shirts for any occasion – even for sports.

Should polo shirts be tight or loose? ›

Polo shirts should be fitted but not tight. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to pinch fabric either side of your torso by 1-2 inches. It's a common misconception that if you have a larger stomach a loose polo will hide it but this isn't the case. It just makes the polo shapeless and boxy.

Should polo shirts be buttoned or unbuttoned? ›

Traditionally, you can leave one button undone for a more casual look. For a neater or formal appearance, you may choose to button all of them.

What color polo shirts should a man own? ›

Colors. Black and navy should be the first colors you choose for your polo. These will give you the most versatility with the rest of your wardrobe and will work with any skin tone and body type. After you've got these, you can go for other neutral colors (brown, olive, heather gray).

Who wears Ralph Lauren polo shirts? ›

It's been worn by prepsters and politicians, super models and school kids, rockstars and rappers. “Everyone and anybody, all over the world, from all walks of life,” Mirkin explains. “Anyone can wear one,” adds fellow stylist and costume designer Miyako Bellizzi—who also just happens to be Mirkin's best friend.

Do all polo shirts have collars? ›

Classic polo shirts come with a subtle collar, a seamless button placket and a small side slit for extra mobility. Polo shirts are a casual, yet slightly more elegant option for outfits that can use a little more class and finesse.

What is basic polo shirt? ›

Polo shirts are a knitted fabric form of shirt with a collar and placket with 2 or 3 buttons, generally worn as part of a smart, casual uniform as an alternative to a less casual, regular cotton t-shirt or a smarter, corporate shirt.

What size men's shirts sell the most? ›

When you look at the numbers, large is the most common shirt size. In fact, it accounts for about 30 percent of shirt sales. Coming in at 28 percent, the size medium is a close runner-up and extra large is next at 20 percent.

Should men's polo shirts be tucked in? ›

So depending on what you plan to do, just remember the general rule for tucking that polo shirt. If you are wearing a pair of shorts, it is strongly advised not to tuck them in. If you wear slacks, do tuck them in. A stout body type may avoid tucked in Polo and go for tucked out for a relaxed look.

Should you tuck in a polo shirt with jeans? ›

Whether Polos look better tucked or untucked largely depends on the occasion and the fit of the polo. Tucked polos offer a more formal, neat appearance suitable for business casual settings, while untucked polos provide a relaxed, casual look ideal for everyday wear.

What are the pros and cons of polo shirts? ›

Polo shirts have a lot of advantages. Not only functional and sporty, the polo shirt is an elegant in-between solution. It's an item that can be worn on various occasions when an outfit needs to be casual with a hint of chic. The downside, however, is that you can very easily land a fashion faux pas with a polo shirt.

How would you describe a polo shirt? ›

a short-sleeved, pullover sport shirt, usually of cotton or cottonlike knit, with a round neckband or a turnover collar.

What defines a good shirt? ›

It should look of equal quality. No loose threads, no chain stitch, great stitch tension and a high stitch per inch count. Not only does a high stitch per inch count make for a longer lasting shirt, due to stitches not catching and breaking on sharp objects. It also makes for sharper lines and tighter seams.

What makes something a polo shirt? ›

A polo shirt, tennis shirt, golf shirt, or chukker shirt is a form of shirt with a collar. Polo shirts are usually short sleeved but can be long; they were used by polo players originally in India in 1859 and in Great Britain during the 1920s.


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