The following is a guest post by Dave Bowden, a menswear junkie, gym rat and fitness magazine editor turned award-winning blogger. He founded IrreverentGent.com in 2016, where he empowers guys to lead lives of strength, style, character and confidence (but not self-seriousness).
Take it away Dave!
As anyone who’s walked by a Tommy Bahama display at a department store knows, not all polos are created equal.
My dad, for instance, has a particular recipe for buying a polo (or “golf shirt,” as he insists on calling it): make sure it’s wide enough to wrap around his beer belly, long enough to tuck into his shorts, and has sleeves that are so wide they could fit his legs, and so long they touch his elbows.
If I had to describe his approach to polos in one word, that word would be “wrong.” Just…wrong.
So, what kind of fit should guys look for in a polo? Here are six things to consider:
The Collar: Crisp & Flat, Not Flaccid and Flappy
Keeping your collar straight, as opposed to curled up at the edges, is one of the perennial polo problems, and it can afflict shirts at every end of the quality spectrum (although the cheaper cotton kinds seem to be particularly susceptible).
One way to get around this is to avoid buying polos with a ribbed-knit collar, which tend to curl over time. But this would eliminate a lot of great polo options, including the excellent (and personal favorite) Luxury Touch Polo from Banana Republic.
Instead, I recommend investing in a set of Wurkin Stiff collar stays. These are essentially iron-on tabs that keep the corners of your collar crisp and pointy, and prevent them from curling up. I’ve attached them to nearly ever polo I own and ran them through the washer, many, many times, and not one of them has loosened or fallen off.
Sleeve Width and Length
When you spread my dad’s “golf shirts” out on a bed, they look less like shirts and more like those flying suits extreme sky divers use to glide for 30 or 40 miles before pulling their chutes.
That’s in large part thanks to the sleeves, which look more like a bird’s wings than a man’s arms. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve been working in the gym: if your sleeves are too wide, your arm will look like it’s drowning in fabric by comparison.
Keep the width of the sleeves slim so that the lip (the bottom part of the sleeve) hugs your biceps and triceps, or at least comes close, to cut a much more flattering silhouette.
And here’s the other thing about polo sleeves that my dad gets wrong: he doesn’t seem to understand that polos are short sleeve shirts. There’s no reason for your polo to cover the entire upper half of your arm.
Instead, take your cues from guys like Daniel Craig and Dwayne Johnson, and look for sleeves that hit about halfway down your bicep.
Fit Through the Torso
How your polo fits through the trunk will be one of the first things people notice, and contributes to the impression they form of you in their minds.
But be careful here. Just because you’ve been working on your abs doesn’t mean that people want to see them through your polo. If your shirt hugs your body too tightly you’ll look less like a strong and confident man and more like a rejected Jersey Shore cast member on his way to a golf game.
Make sure to pick a polo that fits well in the arms, as discussed above, but not so tight in the torso that it leaves little to the imagination.
Polos come in more materials than almost any other shirt, from 100% organic cotton to the completely synthetic kind that feels like it’s made out of recycled water bottles.
Which material you want will depend both on your own personal preference and where/when you intend to wear it. Cotton polos are comfortable but not great at absorbing sweat, so if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the sun you should be prepared for the possibility of sweat seeping through.
On the other hand, plenty of brands (including Uniqlo, Old Navy, The Gap and Banana Republic) now make performance polos, which are basically modern-cut polo shirts made from the same material as your gym shirt. They’ll definitely do better at wicking sweat than the cotton variety, but be aware that they also tend to have a certain sheen, if not outright shininess. In some cases that’s perfectly fine, but in others it can look a little cheap.
Editor’s note: I recommend checking out Lacoste’s sport tennis line for high quality performance polos. These will keep you cool and dry in the heat.
Either way, consider where you’re planning on wearing the shirt, how hot you expect it to be and how much you think you’ll sweat, then choose the material that makes the most sense.
Finally, give some thought to what color you want to wear. Classic menswear colors like navy and black are always safe choices, as are light blue and white. But don’t be afraid to mix it up a little bit.
Polos are summer shirts, and summer colors tend to run lighter and brighter. Pastels are perfect for this time of year, as are a lot of variations of orange, yellow, green and even pink. Just remember to keep it muted for a classic, vintage feel, ala Don Draper.
Thanks for the great tips, Dave!
If you’re interested in other ways you can improve yourself as a man, be sure to checkout Irreverent Gent.
As always, here’s to looking sharp!