The Best Polo Shirts For Summer 2019
From the classic polo to long-sleeved styles, this sporting staple is your warm-weather wardrobe saviour
Summer brings with it the prospect of sunny afternoons whiled away in the shady enclave of beer gardens, nostalgia-induced cravings for a Mr Whippy ice cream (or soft serve, depending on where you’re reading this) and a whole new set of wardrobe parameters to negotiate. There’s your holiday wardrobe to consider, of course – two whole weeks of padding around some far-flung beach in swim shorts and sandals if you’re lucky – but there’s also what to wear when you’re on home turf: there’s work, the weekend and every eventuality in between to take into account.
For those occasions when a T-shirt just doesn’t cut it, we put to you the polo shirt, a piece of clothing that’s surpassed its sporting origins to become one of menswear’s true classics. And, because of its many forms, the polo shirt happens to be one of the most versatile options available when the mercury peaks. Here are nine choices that’ll keep you stylish (not sweltering) this summer.
The Classic Polo Shirt
It says a lot about a particular garment (and, for that matter, men’s fashion) when, at its Platonic ideal, it has hardly altered in the years following its introduction: the classic polo shirt hasn’t been subject to a radical rethink since it was invented by tennis great Mr René Lacoste in 1933. It’s still short-sleeved; it’s still made of breathable cotton-piqué; and it’s still embroidered with that instantly recognisable “The Crocodile” logo at the chest. In fact, the only thing that’s changed is that it now comes, not just in tennis-appropriate white, but in an array of colours. This leafy green one is an excellent all-rounder – it’ll look great with both true-blue jeans and chinos.
The Smart One
It’s somewhat remarkable that a piece of clothing that started life as an item of sportswear also happens to be incredibly smart. When done right, that is. For that, look to who else but the ultimate arbiter of all things tasteful, Mr Tom Ford. The first thing to note is the soft, subtly shiny (in a good way) fabric: it’s knitted from smooth cashmere and silk yarns which gives it a refined sheen. Then there’s the slim-fit silhouette, which will look neat tucked into tailored trousers (opt for linen if it’s especially hot). But what really cements this as an after-hours option is the attention to detail: Ottoman triple-ribbing on the cuffs and hem, rows of fine pointelle at the shoulders and, of course, gleaming mother-of-pearl buttons.
The Retro One
Fendi’s SS19 show felt like it spanned decades; the collection time travelled from the streetwear-heavy present, stopping off in the 1990s (bucket hats, belt bags, dad sandals) and 1970s (lots of brown, stripes, wide collars) and ended up somewhere around the mid-century mark, which is around when you’d sartorially locate this polo shirt. The main point of difference between this and your more traditional polos is that it buttons through, equalling more varied layering opportunities. The knitted fabric is also detailed with slight perforations, which makes it breathable enough for warmer climes.
The Terry One
If you’re currently tending Mr Ian Fleming-esque fantasies of reclining poolside somewhere in the Côte d’Azur with a stiff drink in hand, a terry polo shirt is all you’ll need to perfect the picture. Like the more formal Fendi example above, a plush polo of this variety gives off charmingly retro vibes, albeit in a much more relaxed fashion. This navy Orlebar Brown version – made from absorbent cotton – will also double up as a towel in a pinch, but is best paired with patterned swim shorts and leather slides.
The Sporty One
No, we don’t advise working up a sweat while wearing this Prada polo; it’s far too nice for that kind of thing and, besides, there are plenty of court- and course-appropriate options to pick from. But what it lacks in technical pedigree, it makes up for with style merits: in less able hands, the “sporty polo” can render the wearer a football fan of the hooligan variety. But here, the boldly graphic contrast-tipping and unobtrusive simplified tricorn logo make it less Green Street and more minimalist, which, after all, is what Prada does best.
The Linen One
There are few downsides to basking in the sweltering sun but, provided you’re already slathered in SPF, sweatiness shoots to the top of the list. We can get slightly evangelical about linen’s suitability for the summer months but we’ll keep this short and sweet: it’s light. It’s breezy. It’s the next best thing to walking around with your own personal cooling system, and also less cumbersome. And in polo form, like this pale-blue option from 120%, it has an effortless elegance about it that you can easily smarten up (with tailored trousers) or dress down (with swim shorts). Sold? We thought so.
The Striped One
It’s hard to pin down precisely why horizontal stripes are so appealingly summery, but we suspect it has something to do with the codified rules of menswear: vertical stripes – Bengal stripes and pinstripes (otherwise known as “banker stripes”) – are traditionally employed in tailoring: suits, club-collar shirts and similarly business-like accoutrements. Horizontal stripes on the other hand, are more commonly associated with sailing – the Breton top, for example – which is an inescapably summery pursuit. Switching from vertical stripes to horizontal ones is akin to shedding your city skin, then; a clear signal that you’re off-duty and done for the day (or week). The sartorial equivalent of an out-of-office email? Jacquemus’ open-collar polo shirt – a louche, loosely knitted cotton-blend piece from the designer’s first menswear collection.
The Logo One
A cynic would posit that the logo trend is a ploy to entice customers to pay for the privilege of being a walking, talking billboard, but summer isn’t a time for cynicism. It’s also not a time for subtlety. Holidays especially are a time when we all feel a touch braver when it comes to our style choices and open to experimentation (short shorts, anyone?) Nowhere was that more evident than in the world’s fashion capitals this season: for SS19, this mentality manifested itself in a series of top-to-toe logo looks. Those at Valentino’s show, while a masterclass in how to get it right, are probably best left to the professionals (and by that we mean seasoned stylists or anyone south of 25). Tapping into the trend, however, is simpler: try this polo, which is patterned with a recurring motif of the brand’s initial – the overall effect is entirely more grown-up than your average logo tee.
The Long-Sleeved One
If you’ve spent any time in the UK, you’ll know that most of us Brits are cautiously optimistic about the weather at this time of year. However, there’s a noteworthy contingent on this meteorologically-challenged isle whom tend to overexcite themselves at the first sign of sun and subsequently spend the next few months wearing as little clothing as possible, come rain or shine. Don’t be that guy. Instead, consider a more sensible route. If the sun is beaming, but it’s still quite blustery out, a long-sleeved polo in a fine gauge is a fitting substitute for a sweater and won’t leave you shivering. This navy one from Ermenegildo Zegna gets bonus points for its fabrication: a balanced mix of breathable wool and silk.