If you're like me, you probably avoid wearing polos.
The common polo that we see has become associated with various “uniforms” that are easy to want to distance from: Middle-aged golfers, literal school uniforms, popped collar movie villains of the 80s, business casual of the 90s, and the list goes on.
And that's unfortunate, because men have a very limited number of shirt styles to choose from. And they're all based on attributes:
- Does it button up the front? Or Not.
- Does it have a collar? Or Not?
- Long sleeves or short sleeves?
- Is it meant to be worn tucked or untucked?
It's not the same for women – It's not hard for a woman with even a conservative personal style to go into an everyday place like Kohl's and find a uniquely designed blouse in a cut she hasn't come across before.
Even on a site like Mr. Porter or East Dane, two stores that offer an entry point into more fashion-forward stuff for men, you only get shirt options in the same basic, what, like 5 shirt styles guys have to wear?
So instead of limiting yourself to even one less option, use these ideas to more tailor the polo to your personal style.
And I should say, if you already rock polos, then keep on doing you, whether it's pink, or a popped collar, or a striped golf polo, none of this is to say what you're doing is wrong. On the contrary, these ideas are here to encourage guys who who have written the polo off – like I had done.
1. Dark, neutral, or dusty colors
One of the easiest ways to shave off the social baggage that comes with the polo is by avoiding brightly colored or patterned options in favor of dark, neutral, or dusty colors. Right now, my first-grab polo is black – I don't think I've ever owned a black polo before this, and it's been eye-opening.
It's inherently a little more dressed up and completely avoids some of the more over-the-top preppy connotations a polo can convey.
Beyond black, neutrals like tans can look great. And if you want more color, look for “dusty” colors – colors that seem subdued by mixing grey with them. LA-based brand Buck Mason does a great job with making the polo feel a little more rugged than it's known for.
2. Long sleeve with a button cuff
The second biggest revelation I had about polos was finding the long sleeve button cuff polo. You've probably had long sleeve polos that have an elastic cuff, similar to what you'd find on a long sleeve t-shirt, but you can also find long sleeve polos that have button cuffs akin to what you'd find on a button-up shirt.
This allows you to roll your sleeves up the way you would with a long sleeve button up shirt and the whole thing, even with your sleeves rolled up has a more rakish but dressed-up / put-together style.
Long sleeve button cuff polo recs
- Todd Snyder
- Ken Wang
- Peter Manning (Shown in photos)
3. Consider a knit polo
Another easy way to get more from a polo is looking for a knit option. These are more akin to a thin, lightweight sweater than they are the typical pique (“pee-kay”) sport fabric that is most common.
Knit polos can easily be worn dressed up or smart casual for work or social events but also made more casual with jeans or shorts.
4. For anything else, go for a retro look
Beyond that, a good way to avoid the uniform-y look is to clearly break out of the norm with the details. Opting for more retro styling in cuts, patterns, and piping says prominently I chose this on purpose. A few places to find polos with retro deets are Todd Snyder, Banana Republic, Express, and Urban Outfitters.