Summer often means sartorial conundrums, and the unpredictable weather (in the UK, at least) can make a huge difference to how you dress. As the mercury rises, you’ll be thinking about dropping your usual uniform – sweatshirts, jumpers and heavyweight shirts – for lighter and cooler separates like tees and vests.
But just because you’re conscious of keeping cool, it doesn’t mean you have to look sloppy. Cue: the polo shirt, the ultimate in summertime smart-casual, and easily the most versatile piece you can add to your wardrobe this season.
How Your Polo Should Fit
Before we delve into some no-fuss styling solutions, here are a few guidelines on how your polo should fit:
- The sleeves should end at the mid-bicep mark.
- The hem of the shirt shouldn’t fall any further than halfway down your trouser fly.
- Check the neck opening – if it makes your neck look skinny and turkey-like, it’s too wide, but if it’s straining, then it’s too tight; aim for somewhere between the two.
With that out of the way, let’s break down five go-to looks you can add to your warm-weather repertoire.
Whether you’re heading to Wimbledon for the weekend, or simply want to look smart on your downtime, an all-white outfit can be just the tonic.
Start with a classic white piqué polo – keep logos and numbering to a minimum (i.e. nothing too ‘polo player’ ostentatious) and make sure it’s cut slim through the body.
Next, team with white chinos that are narrow through the leg and taper towards the bottom (a looser pair will instantly kill the sleek, tailored silhouette you’re going for). And, finally, to complete your one part minimal, one part American prep look, slip on some white plimsolls (to go white-out) or rich brown loafers (for a considered contrast).
The finishing touch? Ditch the socks and turn your hems up a couple of times to let your legs breathe.
And remember, if all-white doesn’t work for your skin tone, try introducing lighter neutrals like beige and stone, or subtle pastels such as mint green and sky blue, which won’t have the same wash-out effect.
2. Sports Luxe
Due to its sporting heritage (first appearing on tennis courts, and soon after at polo matches), the polo shirt will slot seamlessly into any outfit with a premium sporty slant.
Try teaming yours with a lightweight bomber jacket and tailored joggers for a slick streetwear-inspired ensemble, or wear it on its own with a simple pair of cropped black trousers and some fresh white leather or canvas trainers for a smart take on sports luxe.
If you go down this route, keep your eye out for designs crafted from technical fabrics like Polylain (Arc’teryx) or styles featuring details such as mesh panels (ASOS), zips (Cos) or baseball collars (Lanvin and Michael Bastian).
3. Shirt Replacement
An easy way to stay looking sharp while keeping your cool in the heat, switching out your long-sleeved Oxford button-down for a polo shirt works especially well for high summer events, as well as smart evenings out while on holiday.
Chances are you’ll be prioritising light coloured, unlined tailoring once the weather gets warmer, so with this in mind, go for a polo in a darker hue such as navy or racing green to offer a point of contrast to your suit and bring the focus to your torso.
A notch above a T-shirt and suit pairing but not as formal (and stuffy) as a suit and shirt, you can go two ways here: tuck your polo in and combine with a classic dress watch and leather Derbies/brogues for a sophisticated aesthetic, or stay cool and casual by leaving it untucked and completing the look with a pair of minimal trainers or suede loafers.
4. Dress It Up
If a suit is too much for you, a polo shirt can be used as a top layer for less formal events when you’re too hot to bear a blazer and want to put a modish spin on your attire.
Although a plain coloured pique polo will work here, it’s worth expanding your options by seeking out a slightly more attention-grabbing style – think printed designs or those crafted in premium fabrics such as Sea Island cotton or merino wool. Combine yours with neutral slim-fitting chinos in beige, navy or grey for a foolproof smart-casual look.
We’d suggest you button your polo up to the top to avoid appearing too casual, and if you’ve been benching PBs in preparation for summer, then tuck it in and belt your trousers to create that highly desirable ‘V’ silhouette.
Finish with a pair of leather/suede Derbies, brogues, Oxfords or – especially suitable here – loafers to let your hosts know you’re honouring the dress code.
5. High Summer
One way to look effortlessly stylish in high temperatures (and avoid resorting to the definitively casual vest) is to team your polo with your favourite pair of tailored shorts.
A go-to combination that every man should have in his repertoire, the key here is to choose a polo shirt in a lighter hue and breathable fabric, to ensure you stay comfortable in the heat.
That said, if you opt for a neutral pair of shorts, feel free to play around with patterned and printed designs, thereby adding some interest to an otherwise plain look. There was plenty of inspiration at the recent London Collections: Men SS16 shows, where designer Katie Eary applied ombré washes to her polos while the Burberry man wore his in a lace fabric.
We suggest you opt for some of the 1970s-inspired patterns currently available on the high street (from chevron stripes to florals to pin dots) and combine with espadrilles, sandals or boat shoes, depending on your terrain.
- Zara V-neck Polo Shirt
- Zara Piped Collar Polo Shirt
- Asos Polo In Blue Pique With Button Down Collar
- Lacoste Live Polka Dot Polo Shirt In Ivory
- Reiss Knitted Polo Shirt With Window Pane Check
- Pull&bear Polo Shirt With All Over Floral Print
- Allsaints Ground Polo
- He By Mango Slim-fit Cotton-pique Polo Shirt
- Reiss Maritime Textured Polo Shirt Navy
- John Lewis Organic Cotton Short Sleeve Polo Shirt Natural
- River Island Pink Dotty Textured Polo Shirt
- Reiss Folio Geometric Knitted Polo Shirt
- Austin Reed Melange Cotton Polo Shirt
- Uniqlo Men Dry Pique Short Sleeve Polo Shirt
- Pretty Green Albion Cotton Polo Shirt Maroon
- Sunspel Riviera Cotton-mesh Polo Shirt
- Nn.07 Pima Cotton-pique Polo
- James Perse Cotton-jersey Polo Shirt
Whether dressed up for a summer event or dressed down with streetwear staples, these are just five reasons why you’ll want to have a polo shirt in your arsenal this season.
But there are many more ways this smart-casual staple can be employed, and as you get more confident with your dressing, you’ll start to find new and interesting ways to integrate it into your existing wardrobe – whether thrown under your trusty denim jacket for a gig or matched with your favourite pair of wool trousers as we transition into autumn.
What are your favourite ways to wear a polo shirt?
Let us know in the comments section.