The polo shirt has been an ongoing challenge in my style pursuits. I want more of them in my wardrobe as a more buttoned-up alternative to T-shirts, but I'm also wary of anything that veers too close to fratty. Consider it a residual effect of spending college woefully out of place in Greek life, but the sight of the standard pastel shirt from Ralph Lauren (often ill fitting) sends me running the other way. Wearing one is a great way of indicating that you think highly of yourself, despite a lack of anything resembling originality.
None of this, however, means that this type of shirt is hopeless. The colored shirt with a placket neckline has strayed far from its roots in the namesake sport, and most designers have given it their own spin and associations. What follows is a curation of polos featuring a variety of patterns, materials, and proportions that should have something for everyone. After all, you don't need to look like a douche to look a little nice.
Nike SB Woven Skate Polo ($46)
Nike's skateboarding subline made the shirt for preps work for the polar opposite crowd by replacing the buttons with a zipper and adding this tropical print fit for a camp collar shirt. It's also made of Nike's Dri-FIT material to help wick away any sweat you may produce.
Kenzo Sea Lily Polo Shirt ($115)
Taking the vacation vibes a step further is this polo from French luxury house Kenzo with a colorful print that references its founder's Japanese roots. The polyester gives it a nice sheen, while the added draw strings make it look even more casual.
Rowing Blazers Racquets Polo ($98)
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this offering from Rowing Blazers, which hews closely to the polo's heritage. Sometimes the most subversive thing you can do is to lean into an archetype, and you can do that here without a logo that already comes with baggage.
Thom Browne Jersey Allover Dolphin Print Polo ($390)
Thom Browne stays devoted to midcentury buttoned-up attire, but that doesn't mean he shies away from fun. This playful dolphin print maintain's the designer's signature red, white, and blue color palette and toes the line between work and play.
Dries Van Noten Multicolor Floral Pocket Polo ($390)
At first glance, this doesn't even look like a polo. But don't let the floral motif and spread collar fool you, this thing is still made of cotton jersey and has all the qualifications of a true polo. Its boxy fit will have you looking very of the moment.
Noah Mesh Knit Polo ($198)
The grown-up streetwear fanatic's favorite brand traded polyester for cotton for this sweater-style knit that could have come from the era of Mods. It's lightweight and breezy but not to the point of transparency.
Polo Ralph Lauren Tie-Dye Polo Shirt ($125)
While I may have knocked the pastels, that doesn't mean the standard-bearer Polo is completely irredeemable. Ralph Lauren has been embracing tie-dye for the past year, which has been just weird enough to work — despite Ralph being the furthest thing from counterculture.
Raf Simons "Illusion" Polo ($230)
The charm to this number is due to the long fit that extends well beyond the waistline for an excellent drape. Raf made it all the more indulgent by flipping the chest graphic so that it's only legible while looking in a mirror.
Paul Smith Cotton-Piqué Polo Shirt With 'Artist Stripe' ($177)
Paul Smith stays slimmer and more classically prep, with the panache coming from the multi-colored striping that looks best here in burgundy. It'd look just as great with a pair of dark jeans as it would with proper trousers.
Missoni Orange & Multicolor Striped Polo ($395)
Missoni's knit game is impeccable, leading to this multi-color cotton piqué in a soothing gradient reminiscent of the sunrise. It makes me want to wear it for a unnecessarily dapper shroom trip.