As the temperature starts to rise, and the "sun's out, guns out" practitioners emerge, we urge you to take a closer look at the T-shirt's more sturdy, well-dressed cousin: the polo. When done right, it's the most casual way of looking put together. When done wrong, however, it can make you look ridiculous. Here's what to look for when you're out there in the wild shopping and, eventually, wearing.
Watch Your Ass
Traditionally, the common piqué (a weave of cotton that adds texture) polo shirt is longer in the back and shorter in the front to help it stay tucked in when you bend over. But when worn untucked, as we recommend, they're menswear mullets (though we doubt a mulleted man wears polos). You'll want to take this into consideration when looking for one. If it covers more than half of your back pockets, it's too long.
Don't Go Deep
Once you find a length that you like, be sure that you take a quick look at the buttons. Many polos have pretty deep Vs, which when left open and floppy is TMI for everyone. But every brand is different. Lacoste polos, for example, have two buttons with a placket (the piece of fabric the buttons sit on) that stretches down to the nipple line; it demands to be buttoned. On the other hand (chest?), portsea polo what to wear J.Crew's offering doesn't go quite so low (about midway down the chest) and can be worn completely unbuttoned.
Mind the Sleeves
Another thing you'll want to look for is the ribbing on the sleeves. This varies across all brands and comes down to personal preference. Some have no tension at the end of the sleeve, some hug you like a rubber band. If you've been up in the gym all winter polishing your guns, you might want sleeves that hug (not constrict) your arms to show that off. Just be sure you don't get anything that's too tight. Nobody looks good when their muscles are fighting their clothes. They should complement each other.
Polos Are Team Players
If you're not going with piqué and are instead opting for a more old-school knit polo (something with a ’50s vibe that feels like a super-light sweater), you may have to contend with a banded bottom. This can get a little tricky with the rest of your clothing. A waistband will cinch everything in, which can make you look slimmer. The only thing is, you have to make sure your pants aren't at odds with it. That means nothing low-rise—waistbands usually hit just around where your belt would sit, and you don't want any glimpses of midriff. Go for a pair of pants that complements the vintage vibe of the polo. Rule of thumb: If they're JFK-appropriate, they're knit-polo-appropriate. And avoid leather belts—you sweat more around them, and that can easily seep through the leather and stain your precious polo.
Wear It Right
Now, when you've actually found your dream polo, there are some tricks to rocking it properly that'll make you look completely at ease. First, do not wear them with an undershirt. They're meant to be casual. They're meant to project the notion that you may or may not be on a boat in the next few hours. An undershirt will bulk you up (in a bad way), and the sleeves might peek out from underneath—not a good look. Go commando above the waist! And if you're concerned about sweat stains under your pits, you should be. So apply that deodorant and make sure it's aluminum-free—otherwise your beautiful white tennis shirt will get yellow in as little as one wear. Protect the polo!
Oh—and never, ever pop the collar.
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