For the polo shirt being such a basic staple of men’s style, there sure are a lot of crappy ones out there. But these aren’t those. These are not your grandpa’s boxy, logo emblazoned golf shirt. These are slim or athletic, clean lean and mean. Below is the best of the reasonably affordable polo crop from this year. Got a lead on a polo that should have made this list? Send those tips in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
***Best in Show*** Let’s not bury the lede. Exceptional. Especially considering they’ve been going for $19(!) – $25 often lately. They’re all cotton, yet somehow manage to be almost glass smooth, stretchy, and soft. (As if there’s some silk in there.) They’re so smooth they’re almost cool to the touch. Plenty of colors and patterns to pick from, and available in both slim and regular fits. There does seem to be a catch for some though. Many have reported shrinkage problems with these. Especially when it comes to the length. I don’t have this issue, and I can’t tell you why. I wash on warm or cold and dry on medium or cool. Do they shrink up a little in the wash? Maybe. But not to the extremes that I’ve heard. If you’re 6′ or over, maybe order a tall instead of a regular? Precise polo shown above is a large slim fit in one of their basic solids, on 5’10” / 195.
***Best Super Cheap*** A strong showing thanks in part to the strong collar. No weak curl action happening here. Under that collar is a reinforced placket, with a sideways top button and rounded collar band, much like you’d see on a dress shirt. While the texture of the fabric is almost slub-like, I wouldn’t put it in the same category. It wears too nicely for that, though the material is lightweight, airy and almost gauzy. The pattern is subtle, not loud, and it’s something I could wear to work and then right out to a happy hour. There’s a subtle, almost imperceptible patch chest pocket, and the fit, of course, is spot-on. Size shown above is a small on 5’9″ / 160.
Made in the USA? That’s tough to do these days. 100% supima cotton in a “baby jersey” knit. Nice and soft. More of a vintage-look. Not super slick or polished, so probably best for more casual duty. Certainly not a boxy fit, but not a super slim fit either. More athletic. Size shown in a large on 5’10″/195. Just about sold out at post time, but such a wheelhouse standard that you’d think they’d restock soon.
Tremendous, with one catch: there seems to be quite a big jump between sizes. Shown above is a medium, and it’s just a touch too tight for my taste. That said, a large was WAY too big. This isn’t a unique issue. Lots of brands are struggling with these big size jumps in the 21st century (see Target’s Goodfellow & Co). But back to the polo. It’s the real deal. Feels great, not cheap. 52% Polyester, 48% Nylon fabric is lightweight, moves great, and looks polished, not, “techy.” Six colors to pick from. Size shown is a medium on 5’10” / 195.
EXPRESS Tech Stretch Polos – $29.94 when 40% off ($49.90)
Fabric & fit seems to be unchanged over the last few years, and still very, very good. 4.9/5 stars after 79 reviews. 95% cotton and 5% spandex = quite a bit of stretch. Yet still plenty smooth and soft. 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… even retro.) Super smooth. Often goes on sale for 40% off. Size shown above is a large on 5’10” / 195.
A bit of an investment, but could be a real winner for those who prefer all cotton polos and crisp button down collars. But a word of warning about those collars: you’ll have to iron them. The body of these polos is 100% cotton jersey (mid weight), but the lighter, crisper, chambray collar wrinkles like CRAZY in the wash. So you’ll have to do a quick ironing job on just the collars pre-wear. From the contemporary, higher-end but not runway-luxury Good Man Brand, which Russel Wilson has a hand in. Size shown above is a large on 5’10″/195.
Blasted Lululemon. They make great stuff, but man do they make you pay for it. Lightweight, breathable, flexible… the works. You could easily run a dang 10k (or more) in one of these things and feel great. Raglan sleeves are terrific, and sure seem to add more range of motion. Some colors are on sale, but most are not. Size shown is a large on 5’10″/195.
Wow the fabric is much softer this time around. I usually don’t like 100% cotton, pique fabric polos. But these are threatening to change my mind. Super soft, but still has a bit of welcome crispness thanks to the pique weave. Terrific collar, great buttons, well put together placket. Also available in a spread collar. One note on laundering: They say lay flat or line dry. So no machine drying here. Sizing might run a touch big, but maybe that’s in case they shrink a little in the wash? Shown above is a medium on 5/10″ 195.
Arc’teryx does a great job with their fit and fabric quality, as expected from a premium outdoor athletic company. The shirt is fitted, but not clingy, and has a nice taper from chest to waist. The 60% cotton, 35% polyester, 5% elastane fabric is soft, with legitimate breathability. It drapes lightly and never feels heavy, despite being of substantial build. On the build; what’s with all the stitching? For a tech polo, there sure are a lot of seams front and back, and they’re noticeable when wearing. I surmise those who engineered the shirt did this to create the athletic silhouette, but it comes off as over-engineered and other brands are able to create a taper without all the stitch work. And, the price. $69 at full retail. Arc’teryx is certainly a premium brand in the outdoor space, but this one, for most, won’t be worth the premium. Size shown is a large on 5’7″ / 175.
Good. Very good. Super breathable. Stretch is incredible. Size shown above is a medium on 5’10” / 195. So consider sizing down if you’re in between sizes. Tough to top for fifteen bucks. Just wish they made solids. Currently all options are heathered/marled looking.
Quite nice for the price. Tail isn’t chopped and this can be tucked in or left out, making it hugely versatile. These are one of the softest shirts around. You might end up buying multiple colors. And they have options. Nineteen different colors to pick from at post time. “Light Aqua” is shown above in a size small on 5’10” / 170-175 lbs.
A bit legendary, and as you’d expect, they’re priced like a legend too. 100% cotton jersey that’s a little thicker than I had anticipated, but not overly bulky. 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 that are THICK and really do stand out. True slim fit. They’re nice. Real nice. $65 nice? I think most will say that’s a little steep. But maybe worth a splurge for some. Size shown above is a large on 5’10″/195.
***Best Affordable Tech-Fabric*** No logo. That’ll please plenty. Not on the chest, not on the sleeve, not even on the hemline that would be hidden when tucked in. Nowhere. Unbelievable. Second, a lot of performance polos are slick, shimmery, and overall very “artificial,” barely being passable outside the links. Not so here. Not only is it not slick, it has a pique texture that is matte in appearance and feels premium. Third, the collar actually looks like a collar. This one is stitched all the way around, giving it structure and hope that it won’t flop over after the 4th hole. The fit is spot on and there’s just enough flex to give you full range of motion. Worth every penny at $22. Size shown is a small on 5’9″ / 160.
A perfect polo for when you want to wear a t-shirt, but also want to look a little more put-together. The garment-dyed slub cotton creates a natural weathered fade in the shade of red, which will continue to evolve over time. That slub fabric makes it more casual than, say, the Banana Republic Luxe Touch polo. If a henley is a step above a plain tee, this is a step above that henley. Wash this on it’s own for the first few times, so the dye doesn’t bleed onto other garments. A perfect go-to barbecue polo. Size shown above is a large slim-fit on 5’7″ / 175.
***Best for Shorter Guys*** They truly do run short. Which is great if you’re not tall. But if you’re average, it’s gonna be close. If you’re tall? Forget it. But if the length works for you, they’re terrific. Improved, smoother fabric this year on the NON WHITE options. Really. White is the old fabric. I don’t know why. Just about a 50/50 cotton nylon blend that’s almost cool to the touch. Runs $29.90 a pop, but will drop to $19.90 with select sales and multi buy deals. Size shown is a medium on 5’10″/195. And yeah, it’s a bit too short for my current tastes (and my slightly longer than average torso), which bums me out.
Got a favorite polo that didn’t make the list? Send in a style tip. They’re always welcome at: email@example.com.