The polo shirt is an item of clothing that most country gentlemen and ladies own but it somehow seems to linger at the back of the wardrobe. People seem to think they’re awkward to wear, don’t think they suit them but can’t bear to part with them or simply don’t really know how to style them.
We’re here to tell you that the polo shirt is still a staple for any country wardrobe. It’s one of the easiest items of clothing to wear without you having to put too much thought into what else you’re wearing it with.
It’s also really easy to dress it up for smart-casual occasions as well as dress down for wearing during the daytime. As usual, most of the items that we recommend pairing it with will probably already be in your existing wardrobe.
In this post, we’ll look at the do’s and don’ts of wearing a polo shirt as well as some styling tips for both men and women but first, let’s have a quick look at how the polo shirt came into existence.
The history of the polo shirt
In 1926, Rene Lacoste, the seven-time Grand Slam winner, was fed up of having to wear a dress shirt when playing tennis because it was thick and cumbersome to move around in. He decided to make his own version of ‘tennis whites’ and came up with the ‘tennis shirt’: a breathable cotton fabric with a soft collar that could be flipped up to protect from the sun and short sleeves. Whilst it was a change, it still maintained its smartness whilst on the court.
Because of his nickname ‘The Crocodile’, he began to iron his symbol onto the breast of his shirt. When he retired in 1933, he began to produce the shirts en masse. It was adopted by European polo players who felt like Lacoste, a button-down shirt was too restricting to play sport in, and it was re-dubbed the polo shirt.
During the 1950s, Lacoste began to expand their colour range and brought them across to America for purchase for the first time. Golfers soon started to wear them for their own tournaments and they began to spread into everyday wear. At the same time, British tennis player Fred Perry introduced his own range with his laurel wreath embroidered on (rather than ironed on like Lacoste’s) and the polo shirt was adopted by teens and young adult ‘mods’ across the country.
The 1970s and 1980s saw Ralph Lauren enter the polo shirt market and Lacoste and Lauren battled it out for market dominance. The shirt was then associated with the ‘preppy style’ across the US during the late 1980s before the 1990s saw it be claimed for casual Fridays and workplaces sought to incorporate it as part of their uniforms.
Top tips for wearing and choosing a polo shirt
Polo shirts have this reputation now that only ‘older’ men wear them and that’s how it should stay. We think that anyone can wear a polo shirt and in fact, they’re so easy to wear and style. Here are a few of our top tips on how to wear a polo shirt in the 2020s.
1. Don’t layer polo shirts together - It was a trend in the 2000s and should remain there. That’s why you have plenty of choice of jumpers and jackets to layer on top but not multiple polo shirts.
2. Don’t wear the collar up - Again, it was very on-trend in the 00s and is not anymore. The only time you should do this is if you need a quick fix to protect your neck from the sun.
3. Keep any logos small - Polo shirts with large logos look garish and are tricky to dress up. Small, quaint logos are fine as most brands feature their own. The only exception are traditional ‘polo’ shirts as they will always be a country clothing classic.
4. Stick to cotton or jersey materials - Whilst you can purchase athleisure versions, those are best worn for sporting activities. For everyday wear, stick to the classic cotton or jersey versions.
5. Button up at least one button - One button looks casual and uniform, all three makes it look formal and changes the look entirely. Traditionally, one or two were buttoned up so all three is very anti-establishment!
6. Tuck or untuck is up to you - For casual occasions, leave the polo shirt untucked but formal events should be a tucked in time. If the back is longer, that usually means it’s been designed to be tucked in.
7. Invest in neutrals or classic shades first - If you’re new to the polo shirt world, stick with classic shades first, such as blue, grey, navy and deep reds, before adding in pattern and bright colours later down the line.
How to wear - country gentlemen
Whether you’re dressing a polo shirt up or down, a pair of dark wash straight leg jeans are the first item you should be wearing it with. Dark wash jeans are equally as versatile as a polo shirt is so pairing them together means business. For casual outings, loafers or canvas trainers will work well. Switch them for brogues or Chelsea boots for night-time events that aren’t too formal.
If it’s too warm for jeans, a pair of chino trousers are a great alternative. A beige pair compliments any colour of polo shirt (apart from beige, too much nude there) and fits into that preppy vibe. Embody your inner prep school kid and finish off the look with boat shoes. If you’d rather steer clear of that look, leather brogues keep the look put-together but not too formal.
In sunnier climates, chino shorts work just as well as full length trousers. Again, boat shoes complement this look down to a tee; invest in a pair and you’ll find they’re the comfiest pair of shoes you’ll ever own! You can change them for a pair of canvas trainers instead but don’t choose formal footwear, such as Chelsea boots or brogues, with shorts; it never looks right.
How to wear - country ladies
Just like the men, a pair of dark wash skinny jeans will always go with a polo shirt. You know they go with everything so if you don’t have a pair yet, what are you waiting for? Our skinny jeans are super stretchy so they’re perfect for any shape or size. The beauty is that you can wear whatever footwear you like with this look: ankle boots, knee high boots, loafers, boat shoes, brogues, canvas trainers or ballet flats.
If you prefer skirts over jeans, a chino twill skirt is a great option. A polo shirt and chino skirt is a preppy look, perfect for the summertime. Keep the look classic with boat shoes or go casual in canvas trainers. When the weather dips, switch them for ankle boots and you’re ready to go.
Chino shorts are perfect for polo shirts as they just scream casual summertime! Again, we love our boat shoes with shorts and this outfit not only looks cool, it keeps you cool too! Go for classic beige chino shorts or switch it up with a hot pink pair. Just remember, if you wear colour on your bottom half, stick to neutrals on your top half. You want your clothing to complement each other, not compete.
As you can see, the trusted polo shirt is just that! Whilst we don’t recommend wearing as formalwear, many offices have allowed their staff to wear them with suit trousers for an everyday office look. Many even have them as part of their own uniform too. Other than that, there aren’t many items that a polo shirt doesn’t go with!
If you have any questions with regards to what to wear with a polo shirt then please do not hesitate to contact our customer care team who are here to help. Be sure to explore the full range of men's and ladies polo shirts for for eye-catching styles and a huge selection of colours.