Eternally stylish and comfortable, polo shirts are offered in a slew of colors, styles and fabrics today. But our seven current favorites, presented here, honor the rich tradition of this shirt with classic looks and high-quality materials and cuts that only augment this evergreen item’s never-ending appeal and games-based history.
Created by French tennis champion René Lacoste in the 1920s as an alternative to the stiff “tennis whites” uniform that was de rigueur for pros in that sport at the time, the short sleeve so-called “tennis shirt” later became known as a polo shirt when polo players co-opted Lacoste’s creation as a sportswear staple of their own. These collared, usually cotton creations with a placket have long since transitioned from the courts to the streets and were a favorite of such style icons as James Dean and JFK long before Ralph Lauren (redundantly?) put a polo player emblem on his polo shirts from his brand called – you guessed it – Polo.
Polo shirts are now pivotal items in a well-dressed gent’s spring and summer wardrobe whether he’s an athletic preppy type or not. Try one (or more) of these styles this spring to score a stylistic grand slam that’ll last you for years to come:
“René” Piqué Polo by LACOSTE, $125
One of the few rare styles from the father of all polo shirt brands that does not feature its instantly recognizable iconic crocodile, this model in traditional, comfortable piqué cotton is instead emblazoned with an image of its Gallic tennis whiz founder, racquet in hand. It comes in five different color options and has a contrast color placket.
Sport Ultra Dry Jersey Striped Polo by LACOSTE, $98
Another welcome new option from Lacoste, this polo is both stylish and functional. Created especially for the golf course, it employs a technical fabric to keep you cool and dry while playing. It comes in four different color options and has a zippy striped collar that complements its body’s horizontal stripes.
Single Tipped Polo by FRED PERRY, $95
Arguably the second most famous polo shirt maker in the world, UK brand Fred Perry was also started by a tennis ace, who first put his name on clothing back in 1952. Part of the label’s Reissues collection, this piqué cotton shirt is an exact re-creation of a 1960s archival model but it looks more modern and fashionable than numerous present-day designs. It comes in six color choices, which are also exact replicas of the originals’ palettes.
Bomber Stripe Panel Pique Shirt by FRED PERRY, $110
With a contemporary slim cut, this 100% cotton polo has a stripe across the chest that’s inspired by the heritage brand’s tennis jackets of yore. Available in navy (pictured) or royal blue, this spiffy shirt features the brand’s famous embroidered Laurel Wreath emblem over the left breast.
Plaid Patch Pocket Polo by ORIGINAL PENGUIN, $69
This American sportswear company with the flightless seabird as its logo pays homage to its 1950s and ’60s roots with pops of retro-looking plaid on this otherwise all-gray cotton jersey shirt with a slim fit. We really dig the “modern Mad Men” look of it.
True Fit Short Sleeve Polo by FELDSPAR BROOK $125
This relatively young brand from New York has one goal and one goal only: to make the perfect polo shirt. In fact, the only garments it currently offers are this True Fit model in short and long sleeve versions, along with four button-down shirts. Boasting a precise fit, side vents and made from sumptuous Pima cotton, this winning top comes in more than 30 solid color options from neutrals and pastels to an eye-catching bright red, orange, green, magenta and yellow.
Alec Jersey Polo by ONIA, $75
Offered in three shades of cool blue and purple, this supersoft cotton jersey polo blends 60-thread yarn count Supima cotton with a touch of Spandex to allow for some stretch in its slim cut. It’s truly a new luxurious, yet affordable, take on a time-honored classic.