Men’s Polo Shirt Outfit Inspiration: 17 Modern Looks For 2022
A smart casual classic, here's how to ace this sportswear icon.
The polo shirt has long been a men’s fashion staple. Like many classic items of clothing, it was born out of necessity and function but over the decades became an essential part of the everyday wardrobe. Smarter than a T-shirt yet more relaxed than a shirt, the polo is the ideal in-between garment – making it to dress up or down.
Polo shirts take their name from the horseback ball game, but actually started life in the world of tennis. Rene Lacoste found it easier to play in lightweight, short-sleeved tops rather than the long-sleeved shirts and ties that were the norm at the time. He wore them during his career, and then sold them in retirement, profiting off the design’s comfort and laid-back appeal.
Today, polos have transcended their sporty heritage and are widely available in a huge range of styles and variations, all offering their own unique look. From how to achieve the perfect fit to polo shirt outfit suggestions, here’s how to ace this sportswear icon.
How to wear a polo shirt: general tips
The fabric of your polo shirt plays a big part in the garment’s feel. The classic choice is of course pique cotton, which has been used since the polo’s invention in the 1920s. Synonymous with the style, pique cotton is relatively soft to the touch and boasts a unique waffle texture due to the way it’s knitted. Because of its heavy associations with classic tennis wear, pique cotton polos have a distinct casual, sporty look, so keep this in mind when considering the pieces you combine with yours.
However, the beauty of the polo shirt today though is the sheer variety in fabric offerings available. Pique cotton might be the standard, but they are also available in cotton jersey, which has a flatter look similar to a T-shirt. through to premium cashmere and merino wool versions, which elevate the once humble polo into an altogether smarter style, allowing them to be combined with tailoring without jarring.
Polo shirt style
The type of polo shirt your choose will make a big difference to how you style it. Traditionally, polos come with short sleeves and two- or three-button plackets, which finish around chest height. But again this has evolved over time. Sure, you can pick up a polo with the classic ‘tipped’ collars (think Fred Perry), but modern-day iterations also feature things like single chest pockets, full button-through plackets, long sleeves, cuban collars… you name it.
With this in mind, it’s worth deciding when and where you’re going to wear your polo most regularly. If you want something that leans smarter – perhaps to wear with unstructured tailoring – look for something long-sleeved and made from luxury fabrics such as Sea Island cotton or a wool-bend.
If you want something more casual and sporty, on the other hand, you won’t go wrong with a washed cotton or pique polo. Want to bring a more Italian flavour to your look? Try an open-neck style, which are more relaxed and reference the classic resortwear of the mid century.
The polo shirt is a sort of blank canvas – you can wear them however you want, you just need to pick a style that suits your needs.
Modern polo shirt fit
Given that polo shirts were initially intended as sporting uniform, they’ve always been cut relatively close to the body so as not to distract from play. The fit has remained relatively unchanged since the 20s, when they were cut close to the chest and waist but still allowed for plenty of movement. Why fix something that ain’t broken?
Because of this, classic polo shirts still look incredibly contemporary today, slotting seamlessly into the 21st century wardrobe. If you’re after a looser, more relaxed fit, try sizing up or considering a modern design. Button-through polo shirts, for example, tend to be slightly boxier so they can be worn untucked, while plenty of brands offer oversized polos, which are ideal for slotting into streetwear-inspired looks.
Polo shirt outfits for men
Polo shirts can be a great way to add a pop of colour or pattern underneath a layered look. Try a plaid polo in colours that pick out those in garments worn above it. Keep the overall palette classic using neutrals and earthy tones and you won’t go wrong.
Taking a minimalist approach and opting for a tonal look is foolproof. Polos are perfect for this, standing in where a T-shirt might otherwise be a bit too plain and ordinary. The collar keeps things from becoming too casual, combining perfectly with the sharpness of the overcoat and tailored trousers.
Polo shirt with shorts
Back in the day, Rene Lacoste only wore his polo shirts tucked in. While it can look a little like you’re ready to hit the golf course today, a tucked in polo is still an effective way to wear one. Try a slim-fitting pique polo with a pair of shorts and minimal sneakers for a smart casual, summer-ready outfit.
The long sleeve polo shirt
Smarter than its short-sleeved cousin, long sleeve polos are ideal for adding a sharper edge to your casual wear. Look for a cotton or wool-blend design and combine it with slim-fitting jeans or trousers and loafers.
The smart tuck
Did we mention polo shirts are versatile? Sure, they can be worn untucked with tailored trousers, adding a casual edge to an otherwise smart look; or they can be tucked in, instantly elevating said trousers while still remaining more laid back than dress shirt.
Riviera-inspired polo shirt
Riviera style is one we come back to every summer, and for good reason. It’s easy to wear and makes use of soft, pastel colours that look particularly good on hot, sunny days.
Take this polo shirt – with its slim fit, open collar and knitted construction – it looks effortlessly chic when paired with tailored shorts and white sneakers.
Monochrome polo shirt
An easy way to dress smart casual, try combining a charcoal, long-sleeved polo with black jeans or trousers and finish with contrasting white sneakers. It’s a simple, unassuming look but one that will see you through a wide variety of social settings.
Polo shirt with tailoring
Polo shirts are often thought of as strictly casual items, but this isn’t true. Find a cotton or wool-blend, long sleeve polo and it’s the perfect substitute for a shirt when worn under a suit or separates.
Zip-neck polo shirt
A more contemporary take on the classic design, the zip-neck polo offers an easy way to mix up your casual wear. Try one in stone coloured wool and pair it with a brown suede trucker jacket, navy chinos and chunky sneakers for an alternative take on smart casual dress.
Ivy League inspired
Polo shirts owe a lot of their popularity to Ivy Leaguers of the 60s, who heavily adopted the style as part of the burgeoning preppy way of dressing. As cool now as it was then, channel your own bit of American prep by combining a green knitted polo with a suede bomber, off-white jeans and loafers.
Statement polo shirt
A polo shirt can easily become the focal point of your look, especially if you go for one in a bright colour like burnt orange or sunshine yellow. If you fancy going the colourful route, keep the rest of the look muted, which will allow it to take centre stage.
Polos are often associated with vintage sportswear looks, but they can easily be incorporated into more modern athleisure fits. Try this for yourself by pairing a white pique polo shirt with drawstring trousers, a cropped blouson jacket and knitted running shoes.
Minimal polo shirt
While they can make a statement, polo shirts are often at their best when worn as part of a minimal outfit. Long sleeve, knitted polos are the perfect match to tailored trousers and Derby shoes – it’s a pared-back look but one you’ll return to time and time again.
For fans of lightweight jackets like bombers, Harringtons and truckers, polo shirts are your best friend. For a staple spring look, opt for a light blue polo worn under a navy bomber, pulling the two together with neutral trousers and canvas sneakers.
Athletic polo shirt
They may have stepped off the tennis court and into the casual wardrobe, but polo shirts can still be worn for exercise. For a look as suited to the gym as it is grabbing a coffee, try a pique polo tucked into drawstring shorts, a matching hooded jacket and running shoes.
Dress down your suit
A knitted polo might just be the perfect finishing touch to an unstructured suit and sneakers. It’s difficult to wear tailoring with sneakers, but an open collar knitted polo makes the job a whole lot easier, offering just the right amount of sharpness while subtly referencing your shoes’ sports heritage.
Textured polo shirt
A textured polo shirt might be the menswear move you need to make. Although harder to find, they offer a unique look that adds a point of different to smart casual fits consisting of bombers, tailored trousers and boat shoes.