For the polo shirt being such a basic staple of men’s style, there sure are a lot of crappy ones out there. Whether they’re sweatshirt-thick, boxy pique, old-man golf shirts, or goofball-young-guy polos emblazoned with enormous logos, a lot can go “wrong” w/ the humble polo shirt. Below is the best of the reasonably affordable crop from this year, with categorical distinctions when warranted. Full honesty fellas, this year has NOT been the best year for polos. Lots of brands and stores were tried, but the plenty just didn’t make the cut. Got a lead on a polo that should have made this list? Send those tips into email@example.com.
Pique, but not bad pique. More crisp and cool than suffocating and spongy. And unlike other, cheap pique polos, these use the same fabric from the body of the shirt for the collar. There’s also extra, reinforced stitching for that collar. So? It’s got a cleaner, sharper look. It’s not a poplin or twill collar attached to a pique body… but it’s not that curled up ribbed junk found on most polos either. Size shown is a medium on 5’10” / 185-190 lbs.
Seems like Kohl’s sneaks one of their “Apt. 9” polos into this list every year, and this year is no different. This isn’t their “luxury” polo line (the local brick and mortar was lacking in those when I went in?), but instead the more basic “soft touch” polo. A little thicker than the BR Luxe Touch polos, but still not overly weighty. Good stretch to it even though it’s 100% cotton. Tons of colors. Cheap. Size shown is a medium.
Lemme just let reader Marshall A. handle this one: “It nails the deeper placket, pocket, and substantial fabric. The collars hold up well too but that may decline with wears and washes. It worked pretty well with a blazer the other day. I’d say they’re definitely worth checking out.”
**BEST IN SHOW CHEAP** I was honestly super surprised when I put this thing on. The level of stretch is incredible, and unlike Old Navy polos from years past, these aren’t paper thin. It’s more of a pique weave, but the fabric isn’t weighty or bulky. And again, that stretch. Super comfortable. They’re also claiming it has moisture wicking properties. Fabric makeup is 58% cotton, 39% polyester, and 3% spandex. Lots of patterns to pick from. Solids too. Should go for around $13 – $18 depending on codes and promos. Size shown is a medium, and know that these might fit a touch looser than polos of the same size from other brands.
B.R. SLIM Fit Luxe Touch – $26.70 – $29.70 @ 40% off ($44.50 – $49.50)
Heads up guys. Banana Republic is now offering TWO fits in their highly desirable Luxe touch polos (a regular and a slim fit.) And some seem to think that the new regular size is a bit more generous than last year’s standard fit. Now, that aside, they’re damn fantastic. They’re all cotton, yet somehow manage to be super smooth, stretchy, and soft. Like there’s almost some silk in there. Plenty of colors and patterns to pick from. Size shown above is a Large Slim.
A legend and for good reason. Heritage slim fit isn’t too tight, but it’s far from bulky. And that retro piping is the bee’s knees. Daddy-o. But beware: these things seem to be at risk for shrinkage in the wash. And that’s coming from a fella who rarely, if ever, shrinks anything in the wash. A bit pricey, especially considering many other brands are now making piped retro-style polos.
GAP Slub Cotton Jersey Polo – $17.97 w/ FILED ($29.95)
Gap is a perfect example of what’s going a bit sideways with the polo offerings this year. They’ve made either pretty standard, not that great feeling pique polos, or? These SUPER casual slub things. These will certainly appeal to some, but between the slub weave (purposefully a little uneven with texture) and the pre-distressed tail, these things are produced to look like an old, very worn in favorite. Again, not everyone’s cup of earl grey, but plenty will like how lightweight and washed they are. Color above is a charcoal/washed black that doesn’t appear to be for sale on the GAP site. Plenty of other colors though. Size, once again, is a medium.
Wanted to get hands on with these, but surprisingly, they weren’t in stock yet at the ol’ local Tarzshay. It was just the crummy, standard pique Merona polos there. And those are kinda a “thanks but no thanks.” These sure appear to have a slub weave a la the GAP option above? Also, Mossimo stuff has a tendency to fit noticeably slimmer than the regular fits of Merona.
Yes, they “Americanized” the fit last year. But most of us have made the adjustment to the more generous fit by now. The fabric holds up well, seems to dry a bit quicker than standard cotton, and the button down collars are a game changer for many. For the taller fellas, these might not work for you. They seem to run like UNIQLO’s blazers… as in, a bit shorter than the competition. Size is a medium in their newer, more generous fit.
Still legendary, and they get a mention every year. Also, as you’d expect, they’re priced like a legend too. The collars are constructed like a woven shirt, with a collar band and a double layer of self fabric (what the body is made out of). So, none of that limp ribbed fabric that curls, bends, and rumples. Honest to goodness mother of pearl buttons. Slim fit.
JCP MSX by Michael Strahan Tech Polo – $22.50 w/ 37SAVE ($30)
These are basically super cheap technical (think Under Armour) polos. All synthetic, super stretchy, and built to breathe and wick. They are also VERY lightweight. Just about paper thin. And beware the logo/stripe underneath the back of the collar. Still, not a bad option when on sale, and you’re looking for something that’s basically a workout shirt cut into the shape of a polo for the course. Code above jumps to 50% off if you trip a $50 balance, so, if you buy two? It’ll end up being just thirty bucks. Size above is a medium.
H&M makes one of these every year, and be aware that they might not have made it into all brick and mortar stores quite yet (like the Mossimo polos, they were absent at mine). 90% cotton, 5% spandex, 4% rayon, 1% polyester. Super stretchy. But if past is prologue, expect them to be very, very thin. That’s H&M for you though.
**BEST IN SHOW** 95% cotton and 5% spandex = quite a bit of stretch. Yet still plenty smooth and soft. Chambray, deeper 4 button placket is a nice touch as well. (Not that you should be unbuttoning all those buttons… hardly… it just makes the shirt look and feel a little more substantial.) Super smooth. Often goes on sale for 40% off and thus, can be had for around $24. Then there’s the usual multi-buy deals that they run as well. Thank goodness they left their lion logo thing off these polos. Really well done. Somewhere between a true slim and a more contemporary fit here. Size shown above is a medium. A good option for the guys with a little more bulk on em’.
Yes, this list isn’t as long as it usually is. But, to reiterate, it wasn’t the best year for polos. Lots of bad feeling and/or wonky fitting stuff out there. For the record, the following brands/retailers were all explored for sourcing polos for this list, some with better luck than others: Macy’s, J. Crew, J. Crew Factory, Express, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, JC Penney, UNIQLO, Spier & Mackay, Kohl’s, H&M, Target, and more. Got a favorite polo that didn’t make the list? Send in a style tip. They’re always welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org.