In 2021, no wardrobe is complete without at least one—if not several!—of the best polo shirts on the market close at hand. They’re as laid back and versatile as a T-shirt, only with the addition of a face-framing, respectability-enhancing collar. You can trust ‘em to help you look handsome in a host of situations—with shorts on the weekend (think: deep ’70s energy), with denim at the bar, with a blazer at an outdoor wedding. And let’s not forget that they’re a cornerstone of the most essential dress code of our time, Zoom Casual. Truly nothing masks the chaotic energy of your WFH situation quite like a relatively wrinkle-free polo shirt.
And here’s the best part: You don’t just have to stick to the plain Jane polos you wore when you were younger. Like you already have with the rest of your wardrobe, get weird! We’re talking abnormal colors, vintage details, and yeah, oversized—but not Phil Mickelson oversized—proportions. Here are 23 of the best polo shirts for all tastes and comfort levels to get you reacquainted with—or just heavier into—the casual Friday hall-of-famer.
The Best ’50s Crooner Polo
The late ‘50s were a golden age for supremely handsome sweater polos worn by supremely handsome guys—think Arnold Palmer at the Masters or Sinatra at the Sands. Todd Snyder, the king of reinterpreting mid-century icons for modern dudes, really worked his magic on this one: it’s knit from linen and cotton to keep you cool in late-summer heat, with ribbing at the sleeves and waist for a snug fit. The real clincher, though, is the pattern: a rustic take on argyle that’ll look equally good with beat up blue jeans, linen shorts, or pleated trousers.
The Best Britpop Polo
If you were ever a teen who liked a British band too much—The Jam, The Specials, The Smiths, Blur, Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, name your decade—then you’ve probably owned one of Fred Perry’s retro twin-tipped polo shirts. Chances are, though, you’ve never worn ones of these updated striped-collar joints before, especially not in a pleasing pastel blue. Which is precisely what makes it so great: it nods to the NME subscription of your youth, but still reflects the more assertive, more open, less pimply you of right now. In other words, it’s a lot like the UK band you like too much in 2021.
The Best Acid Trip Polo
For a couple of years now, you’ve likely heard us describe the present moment as the no-rules, wild-style era of menswear. But as far as Missoni is concerned, it’s never not been the no-rules, wild-style era. For close to 70 years, the Italian knitwear savants have served up piping hot, abstract expressionist fever dreams like this one. It’s got the same onslaught of trippy colors and mind-bending patterns as the average Grateful Dead tee, done luxuriously enough that you can wear it to work without anyone blinking an eye. Even once fashion reverts back to all-black-everything minimalism, you’ll still look like a king in this polo.
The Best Top-of-the-Line Polo
Sometimes you want swervy tones and bold graphics and weird fabrics. Sometimes you just need a clean, crisp polo shirt to cleanse the palette. When the latter mood hits, you’d be hard-pressed to find one executed quite as flawlessly as this joint from Sunspel. Part of that just comes down to reps: the English label has been churning out top-notch basics since 1860, and it lays claim to producing some of the first T-shirts ever made. In other words, Sunspel has had more than enough time to nail everything from the soft-yet-sturdy pique cotton to the flatteringly tailored fit to the shine of the shell buttons. Like a Burberry trench or a pair of Stan Smiths, it’s simplicity you can count on.
The Best Budget Grail Polo
By now, you’re hopefully well aware of what Uniqlo and its various designers-in-residency—mainly, Jil Sander, Christophe Lemaire, and Jonathan Anderson—bring to the table: slightly offbeat, wholly game-raising staples at bargain basement prices. This guy—with its sophisticated color and pleasing-to-the-touch silk-cotton fabric—sticks to that formula with certified fresh results. You’ll feel like a million bucks in it, not least because only you’ll know that it actually cost less than $50.
The Best Long-Sleeve Polo
When you’re ready to graduate from the sporty, short-sleeve, pique cotton variety of polo shirt and go full king-mode in your wardrobe, this is your move. John Smedley has been making buttery soft merino knitwear polo shirts in England for over 200 years and you’ll feel it when you slip one of these over your head. The fit is “easy” which in this case doesn’t mean oversized but elegant as all hell.
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