How to Wear a Polo Shirt: 5 Ways to Style
Polo shirts are a classic look for summer and a must-have staple of any man’s wardrobe. Lightweight and breathable, they’re a cool, warm-weather alternative to long sleeve button-downs. Plus, they’re casual enough for a cookout and can easily be dressed up for special occasions.
In fact, for such a simple garment, you might be surprised by how many ways there are to style a polo shirt.
Want to know how to wear a polo shirt no matter where your summer takes you? Keep reading for five ways to stay fresh.
What is a Polo Shirt?
To track the origins of the modern polo shirt, you have to go back to the 19th century. Back then, Polo-playing members of the British Navy wore shirts with unique collars that could be buttoned down so that they didn’t flap around during gameplay.
Nowadays, however, it takes more than a special collar for a shirt to classify as an authentic mens polo shirt. You know you’re looking at the real thing when it has:
- A welted collar – These collars feature ribbed fabric and a smooth, finished edge. Polo collars can hold their position when you flip them up, which is ideal for shielding the backs of sun-sensitive necks.
- Short sleeve with welted cuffs – Although the original polo featured a long sleeve, contemporary versions usually end near the middle of the upper arm. Like the collar, the sleeve cuffs are welted.
- Welted bottom cuff – Welting is the name of the game when it comes to polos, so expect to see this technique used on the bottom hemline of your shirt as well. Additionally, some polos have a tail of a couple of inches, which helps keep the shirt in place if you decide to wear it tucked in.
That said, the criteria have loosened up over the years. Nowadays, you’re likely to find polo shirts with a breast pocket, with or without buttons, and in a range of materials, from cotton to knitted fabrics to silks and beyond.
Why Your Wardrobe Isn’t Complete Without a Polo Shirt
For men, there aren’t very many clothing items that are as perfect for spring and summer as the polo shirt. Polos combine the comfort and breathability of a t-shirt with just a hint of a button-down’s formality.
Admittedly, it’s the collar that is mostly responsible for elevating this simple look. There’s just something about a shirt with a collar that’s a little more dressed up than one without. That’s why polo shirts are just as popular at summer weddings and private yacht parties as they are at boozy beach Bacchanals—they’re the obvious choice if you want to achieve a clean-cut, polished look that won’t leave you overheated in the summer like a dress shirt.
Plus, polos are incredibly versatile shirts. No matter your vibe, polos are the perfect match for all of the other styles you rock all season, like:
- Jeans (skinny jeans , denim jeans, etc.)
- Chino trousers or shorts
- Tennis shoes
All of which is to say, if you don’t already own a polo shirt for men, you’ve got some shopping to do.
How to Style a Polo Shirt: 5 Ways
Now that you’ve added this essential piece of clothing to your wardrobe, it’s time to talk about how to wear a polo shirt. Yes, polos are simple shirts that look good pretty much on their own, especially if you go for one that has stripes, prints, or other design flairs. Wearing a polo outfit can be as simple as grab-and-go.
Here are five ways to style a polo shirt for men.
#1 The Laid Back Guy
Our first tip is for the guy who’s so laid back and loves his loungewear. If that’s you, we know you’re way too busy catching a vibe to think too deeply about what you're wearing. Wondering how to style a polo shirt for a look that’s as chill as you are?
Go with the Laid Back Guy look.
This classic, super casual look comes together with about as much fuss as you can muster—which is to say, the bare minimum. Simply start by pulling on your polo-of-choice. Then, go ahead and pair it with your favorite summer shorts. Depending on how casual you want to go, you can choose from:
- Chino shorts – Wearing a polo with flat-front chino shorts is a timeless, streamlined look for summer. Khaki or navy blue shorts are the go-to choices, but colors like green, yellow, or salmon can keep you from looking like you just got out of school.
- Denim shorts – Loose-fitting, light-wash denim jeans plus a polo shirt, especially in colors like pink, light blue, or greens, equals a quintessential laid-back look circa the early 2000s—and it’s a clever way to tap into current trends without looking like you meant to.
And when you have no other choice but to dress for dinner, just swap out your shorts for chino pants, a nice pair of jeans, or a suit pant for a more presentable but still laid-back look.
#2 The Nautical Guy
Ever since humans first learned how to build boats, people have been fascinated with sailing the open seas. But even if you’re not charting unknown waters, you can still capture some of that seafaring adventure by dressing the part.
Meet The Nautical Guy.
You know The Nautical Guy when you see him. No swashbuckling pirate in buckskins, he represents everything that’s classy about being on the water, like elegant sailboats and cabins below deck. His look is distinguished for its:
- Nautical colors – When it comes to color, The Nautical Guy follows one simple rule: match the ocean. That means blue or white polos that match the sea, sky, and clouds, tucked into khaki shorts. A brown leather belt completes the look.
- Boat shoes – Also known as deck shoes, this iconic footwear has long been a popular land shoe as well. That said, their slip-safe rubber soles, water-friendly canvas or rubber bodies, and decorative laces still evoke the essence of the sea.
- Nautical accessories – From sailor caps and bucket hats to nautical-inspired jewelry or a sweater loosely tied over your shoulders, there are many easy add-ons to enhance your nautical look. Don’t be afraid to go for it.
#3 The Retro Guy
Although a polo shirt for men looks as fresh as ever in 2022, the look does have its place in history—making it the ideal summer shirt for the man who likes his fashion with an ample dose of nostalgia.
Enter: The Retro Guy, directly from the 1950s and 60s. When you pair your polo shirt with pleated trousers in a natural earth tone and a pair of loafers, you open a portal to the middle of the last century and unlock an ensemble that’s both timeless and unique.
You can really lean into this look by:
- Opting for a slightly raised waist
- Adding an extra-thin belt
- Wearing your polo over an undershirt
#4 The Dapper Guy
If there’s one thing that The Dapper Guy knows, it’s how to style a polo shirt in a way that optimizes opulence but stays true to the shirt’s casual charm. From the office to the dinner party, The Dapper Guy is living proof that polos are versatile enough to play dress-up with clothes like:
- Suits – Polos look smart with a dress pant or suit, no matter the occasion. If the event isn’t super fancy, you can liven up your look by choosing a brightly colored polo that pops. Need something more formal? A black or white polo with a dark suit will do the trick.
- Blazers – Top your polo with a lightweight cotton or linen blazer and add a pair of chinos to emphasize the business casual or preppy angle.
You’ll sacrifice much of this look’s office-ready appeal if you slip on your beach thongs. To keep it nice, top it off with a good pair of loafers and maybe a watch. If you want to dress it down after work, you can trade your loafers for sneakers.
#5 The Half-Tucked Guy
You might not realize it, but a big part of styling a polo shirt for men comes down to the tuck. Going completely untucked is casual and low-key while tucking in your polo shirt projects a more conservative, dressed-up vibe—which is why your grandmother was always hassling you about tucking in your shirt.
The Half-Tucked Guy would drive your grandmother crazy—at first glance, anyway. Then he would probably help her with her crossword puzzle, come with her to BINGO night at the senior center, or do her yard work for her with that half-cocked smile like the mensch he truly is.
Instead of going all-in either way, he opts for the charming dishevelment of the half-tuck. You can be like Half-Tucked Guy by:
- Tucking your shirt in only in the back
- Or only in the front
- Or by tucking just a bit of it in on the side.
The Perfect Polo for Every Guy
With so many options for how to style a polo shirt, you’ll want to wear yours for a long, long time. When you shop Tommy John, you can rest assured that your shirt will hold up through all those costume changes.
Every Tommy John’s men’s polo shirt is made from specialized fabric that feels great and won’t pill, shrink, or fade, ensuring that your polo is there for your look and after look—no matter how many times you change it up.
Mr. Draper. The Essential Guide to Men’s Polo Shirts. https://www.mrdraper.com/blog/article/the-essential-guide-to-men-s-polo-shirts
The Trend Spotter. How to Wear a Polo Shirt (Men’s Style Guide). https://www.thetrendspotter.net/how-to-wear-a-polo-shirt/