Polo shirts look great, but wearing them well can be tricky. Read on for our favorite polo shirt outfit ideas.
The polo shirt is one of the most iconic men’s garments. While it’s historically associated with golfers, the polo shirt has become much more common, with everyone from office interns to celebrities sporting them.
However, the polo has also developed a reputation for being somewhat basic and lame. That might be because polos are part of many uniforms.
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You see them on everyone from elementary school boys to food service workers. The polo is also an integral part of the preppy college look that many guys prefer to avoid.
Simply put, it can be a polo-rizing garment. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
So how do you make a polo look good without looking like a ten-year-old or a frat bro?
In short, the trick is to start with a well-fitting shirt and build a complementary outfit that doesn’t make you look like you’ve just stepped onto a tennis court in the 1960s.
First things first: the fit.
We’ve covered how polo shirts should fit in another article, so make sure you check that out. After all, if your shirt doesn’t fit you well, your outfit isn’t going to look good.
Trust me, you do not want to start shopping without knowing that basic info about fit. It’ll save you a bunch of time (and probably money).
Now let’s take a closer look at the polo itself and the different options you have.
Table of Contents
The Polo Shirt Deconstructed
Before we get into specific outfits, let’s look at the garment itself.
The basic polo is a short-sleeved, collared shirt with a three-button neckline. Functionally, it’s a lot like a t-shirt, but the collar and neckline set it apart.
Polos can also have breast pockets, though this isn’t a universal feature.
In terms of materials, polos are usually made from knitted cotton, which makes them a little heavier than t-shirts. Cotton is the most common material for polos, although some may have polyester or Spandex in them.
There’s no “best” material, but cotton polos tend to be the most comfortable in any season. 100% cotton can be incredibly comfy if the cotton is high quality, although high-percentage cotton blends (like 95% cotton/5% Spandex) are also great.
While we’re at it, let’s get some terminology out of the way.
If you’ve shopped for polo shirts before, you may have seen the terms “pique” and “jersey” tossed around. These terms refer to the knit of the fabric.
A pique knit has a textured waffle weave, whereas a jersey knit creates a smooth, flat surface.
Most polos you’ll come across will be pique knit. In fact, many people use “pique polo” to describe the standard polo shirt.
Because of their crosshatched weaving, pique polos are thicker and sturdier. Jersey knit polos are more lightweight, similar to a t-shirt.
Both types of fabric are great in their own way, but pique knit fabric is much more common than jersey knit. If the description doesn’t specify, it’s probably a pique knit.
It’s important to know the distinction between pique and jersey knits. Some outfits may work really well with a pique polo but not so well with a jersey polo. And, of course, they feel different, so you need to know what you’re getting yourself into––literally.
A Word About Branding
Part of the reason why the polo has such a weird reputation has to do with the branding.
You’re probably familiar with polos that have really noticeable branding on them like this one:
In fact, this is what many guys think of when they hear the term “polo shirt.”
Heavily branded polos like this tend to detract from the actual polo by covering it up with massive logos. And unless you’re literally a polo player, it’s hard to successfully rock that logo.
That’s why one of the biggest polo shirt hacks is to look for polos with minimal to no branding.
This just gives you a classier, more understated look that doesn’t make you come off as pretentious.
Patterns can be cool (and you’ll see some of those later) but when it comes to branding, keep it minimal.
Okay, no more beating around the bush. You’re here to learn how to wear a polo shirt for men, so let’s get to it. Here are our favorite polo shirt outfit ideas for all seasons and situations.
Casual Polo Shirt Outfit Ideas
Let's start out with some casual polo looks…
#1: Smart Casual Polo With Chinos
Here’s a simple yet stylish outfit that’s great for pretty much any situation or season (okay, maybe not winter). Polos go well with a variety of pants, but chinos are especially complementary and tie the outfit together.
If you want to add a little bit of flair, throw a couple of accessories into the mix. A great watch is always a safe bet that matches the polo aesthetic nicely.
#2: Preppy Yet Casual
When you think of a polo shirt, you probably think of an outfit like this one. This is an elegant version of the preppy collegiate look that’s often associated with Ivy League or other private schools. Both pique and jersey polos will work with this look.
It’s an excellent outfit for situations that call for smart casual dress. If you want something more on the casual side of things, you can always switch the loafers for a pair of boat shoes or slip-ons.
#3: Casual Polo With Shorts
If you need a summer outfit that’s not just an old t-shirt, look no further. The combination of a relaxed polo with shorts is a surefire winner for the warmer months. This outfit will keep you breezy when you’re out and about, so even on more sweltering days you’ll be (relatively) cool.
Again, you can switch out the shoes depending on the vibe you’re going for. These boat shoes give an added touch of classiness to the outfit, but you could also rock anything from
#4: Polo Shirt and Jeans
Wondering how to wear a polo shirt with jeans? It’s an easy outfit to get wrong, but it can look fantastic if you do it right.
A fitted pique polo is best since the texture of the shirt will match the texture of the denim, making for a really balanced outfit. Think of it as an upgrade to the classic t-shirt and jeans combo.
#5: Dual-Color Polo
If plain polos aren’t your thing, try a two-toned polo that uses a different color for the collar (and sometimes sleeve cuffs).
The one pictured here is a nice white-on-navy combo that looks great with shorts.
#6: Dark Polo With White Trousers
This stunning black-and-white look is understated yet expressive. The white trousers pop against the black polo and shoes, but this isn’t a loud outfit at all.
The watch is a nice touch that adds some grey tones into the mix.
#7: Neutral Polo With Chinos
This is another outfit that teeters on the line of casual and formal. It’s the sort of outfit you might wear for your office’s Casual Friday or perhaps to a family dinner or social event.
Choosing a dark color like black or navy for your polo will give it a more formal look, and pairing it with simple pants helps it look even more formal. At the end of the day, this is still a casual outfit, but it’s a lot dressier than, say, a t-shirt and jeans.
#8: With a Coat
Another excellent outfit for fall and winter, this pairing of a buttoned up polo and thicker coat is super stylish while also staying minimalist.
This outfit allows you to stay warm without layering a ton, making it a perfect choice for chilly weather.
Dressy Polo Shirt Outfit Ideas
You can dress up a polo, too. Here are some outfit ideas…
#9: Formal Polo With Dress Pants
For more formal outfits, having your polo shirt tucked in makes a huge difference, and adding a belt ups the formality level even more. Finish the look off with some dress pants and nice shoes, and you’re ready to go.
This combination makes the polo “formal by association.” The polo is kind of a chameleon garment that blends into its surroundings, so wearing lots of formal elements will give the polo a more formal look as well.
#10: Dressy Long Sleeve Polo
That’s right, polos also come in long sleeved varieties. These are pretty uncommon, but they have a really nice look that offers something a little different from the standard button down.
Long sleeve polos afford a bit extra warmth, so if you’ve wanted to know how to wear a polo shirt in winter, definitely try a long sleeve polo. You can even layer it underneath a cardigan for added insulation.
#11: Under A Blazer
Closing off our list is this unexpected yet dapper crossover. Wearing a polo under a blazer isn’t common at all, yet it works surprisingly well.
A thicker long sleeve pique polo tucked into dress pants complements the smart blazer, and everything comes together for a nicely balanced formal outfit.
There you go––11 of our favorite ways to wear a polo shirt. The polo is a really misunderstood garment that can be styled in many different ways. If you’ve passed up on polos in the past, give them another shot.
What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!