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Polo Shirt Etiquette

Posted on 12 August 2022

What is a polo shirt?

A polo shirt (also known as a tennis shirt or golf shirt) is an informal shirt featuring a collar, placket neckline, and two or three buttons. Polo shirts are usually short sleeved, plain, and without a breast pocket. It could be said that a polo shirt is midway point between a t-shirt and a dress shirt with its medium-weight (often brightly coloured) fabric being more akin to a t-shirt, yet its collar bearing more resemblance to a dress shirt. More often than not, a polo shirt with have logo embroidered on the left side of the chest, this is for branding and aesthetic purposes.

A little history...
From its conception in the 1930's to now, the polo shirt has not much changed except its intended purpose and the variety of colours available. Conceived and first modelled by French tennis player, Rene Lacoste, in 1933, the polo shirt as we know it has remained a firm fashion favourite ever since. Originally worn as sports apparel by leading sportsmen of the day (such as Lacoste), the polo shirt soon crossed over into the mainstream.

The original polo shirts worn by tennis players like Fred Perry and Rene Lacoste were plain white with their personal logos emblazoned on the chest. Polo shirts at that time were designed purely to be worn as sportswear with short sleeves for greater mobility, and a collar to shield the players neck from the sun when out on the court. Today polo shirts are very similar in form but are seen as less of a sports garment and more of a fashion item.
Major brands such as Lacoste, Fred Perry, and Ralph Lauren are all household names synonymous with polo shirts, distinguishable from each other by their well-known logos. For Lacoste it is a small green crocodile, Fred Perry a laurel wreath, and Ralph Lauren a polo player on a horse.

Polos today
The popularity of the polo shirt is partially due to its versatility. It is an item that can be worn in a wide range of situations and environments from beach parties, to sports events, to weekend get-togethers.
Polo shirts can be found in most menswear retailers both online and offline. Some polo shirts are designed to be fashion garments and others as performance wear. Colours range from white through to aqua blue and salmon pink, with the majority of fashion polos made from 100% knitted cotton or cotton picque fabric, whereas performance polo shirts are typically made from activity friendly materials such as polyester, melange, or jersey.

Style tips
So, now that we've covered a bit of the history and the technical detail, let's move on to some style tips. As we mentioned before, polo shirts are versatile and are appropriate attire for a wide range of events and occasions, there are some important things to remember when dressing:
  • Never layer your polo shirt (either with another polo shirt or any other type of shirt).
    • Wear your polo shirt fitted, but not tight. Polo shirts are not supposed to be oversized, neither should they be overly body-hugging.

  • Wear the correct size as per your height. Polo’s shirts look dreadful if they’re took long, and silly if they’re too long - like you’re clinging onto the sports kit of your youth.
    • Do not pop the collar. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a marker of your level of cool, it’s a hangover from a bygone era where being painfully preppy was all the rage.

  • Avoid polo shirts with oversized logo’s. We all know the ones I’m talking about. Just don’t, no matter how much cheaper they are in comparison.

    • Never ever wear your polo shirt with a blazer. This is fashion suicide. A polo is an informal, sports garment. A blazer is a formal, occasion garment. Never the twain shall meet.

  • Tuck your polo shirt if the occasion calls for it. If you’re at a organised sports event as a spectator, consider tucking your polo shirt into your chinos or jeans if you want to be taken seriously.
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