Are polo shirts still an appropriate piece of casual wear?

Are polo shirts still an appropriate piece of casual wear?

Q. Are polo shirts still an appropriate piece of casual wear? If so, do they go in or out of pants and what do I match them with?

A. Polo shirts are definitely an appropriate piece of casual wear. In fact, they may be one of the most basic garments that men can wear to dress casually. On the other hand, you may be wondering about a broader question about polo shirts: “Where, when, and how can polo shirts be worn to look appropriate in a casual setting?” 

But first, it would help to clear up just exactly what the definition of a polo shirt is as opposed to what is sometimes confused with that term. That is to say, what is the difference between a polo shirt with a lower case p and a Polo shirt with a capital P? The lower case word is a generic term for the casual style of knit shirt with a collar and usually three buttons at the top. The capital letter word, Polo, is a brand of clothing by the widely-respected designer Ralph Lauren. His various lines of clothing include brands called Polo and Polo by Ralph Lauren. A Polo brand shirt could be any style of shirt–a knit casual shirt or a woven dress shirt–and not necessarily a golf-type shirt. 

The highly versatile knit shirt known as a polo shirt is a casual style that works nicely with all levels of informal dressing from shorts and jeans to khakis and dress pants, either worn alone or layered under sweaters and sport jackets. It is usually made of cotton, but may include other fibers, such as wool, linen, cashmere, or silk, and increasingly in technical synthetics such as Under Armour. The range of possible prices is huge, going from as little as $15 at discount outlets to as much as $500(!) for imports and designer names such as Burberry. Knit polos come in solid colors (both bright and neutral), stripes (subtle and bold), short or long sleeves, and with matching or contrasting collars.  

In my opinion, there is no logical reason to spend a great deal on a knit polo, no matter how lofty the designer’s name might be. If cost is not a concern and you don’t have a limited budget, I suggest that you spend more on a statement piece, such as a top-quality suit, blazer, or sport jacket, or on perfectly tailored trousers. 

The most usual way of wearing a polo shirt is untucked. But polos can also be worn tucked-in for a slightly dressier and more polished  look. This works especially well when layered under a blazer or sport jacket.   

Men’s clothing does not generally allow for much in the way of colorful additions: when wearing dressy clothes, the tie can be the one bright item; and when wearing casual clothes, the polo shirt can add a bold note. This is one of the pluses about wearing polo shirts. To go with the neutral color pants in your closet, you can choose any polo shirt from white and pastels to brights such as fire-engine red or royal blue, or you can decide on any dark color. Versatile polo shirts allow you free choice.   

When it comes to which polos for you to choose, this is where you can show your individuality. If you have a personal color and/or pattern preference – classic and quiet, or vivid and attention-grabbing – why not choose a few that are a bit special?

And, as an aside, I might insert here a pet peeve of mine, namely when people mispronounce Ralph Lauren’s name as “Lau-REN’” with the accent on the second syllable as though it were the same as the French designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Ralph’s name is correctly pronounced “LAW’-ren,” with the accent on the first syllable.

Categories: Male Call