When to Wear a Polo Shirt (Work and Casual)

Few masculine clothing articles are as classic and standard as the polo shirt. Knowing how and when to wear a polo shirt to work or to casual events is key to showing your maturity as a well-dressed man. Contrary to what some guys believe, you can’t just throw on a polo shirt and immediately improve your style.

On the bright side, knowing when to wear a polo shirt isn't as complex as you might think.

What Are Polo Shirts For?

Polo shirts were first invented early in the 1900s, and they were originally designed for tennis players. Despite this initial intent, polo shirts exploded in popularity because of their comfort, class, and inherent style.

These days, polo shirts are mostly used to elevate the seriousness or classiness of an ensemble. For example, you can wear a pair of plain shorts, but pair them with a great polo shirt, and you'll look ready for the golf course or even a semi-casual meeting with your boss.

At the same time, polo shirts aren’t so serious or formal that you can’t wear them to meet with your friends or out on a date.

Wearing a Polo Shirt to Work

With that in mind, there are some things you should consider if you plan to wear a polo shirt to work.

Pair it with Khakis or Tailored Trousers

For starters, you should always pair your work-appropriate polo shirt with khakis or some other type of tailored trousers. In doing this, your polo shirt will lean more toward the serious side of things, making your outfit appropriate for any meeting that demands your maturity and full attention.

For instance, you can wear a white, gray, or blue polo shirt with these Charleston khakis from Vintage 1946. There’s a reason this is a classic or standard menswear option for work. It’s functional, still relatively casual (compared to something like a business suit), and it’s pretty comfortable when all is said and done. Just be sure not to wear a brown polo shirt with brown khakis; that kind of one-note color scheme won't do your style any favors.

Wear the Right Color of Polo Shirt

Furthermore, you should wear a polo shirt in a neutral, masculine shade like black, brown, white, gray, or blue. Don't wear a polo shirt in a bright, vibrant color like green, red, yellow, or pink to work. While it's true that any polo shirt will still help you look a little more formal than otherwise, a bright color will distract from the other effects that your outfit has.

Combine a polo shirt in a neutral color with a watch and good shoes, and you'll be set.

Wearing a Polo Shirt to Casual Events

Just like you have to think carefully before wearing a polo shirt to work, you should also consider your outfit entirely before slipping on a polo shirt to a date, a get-together with your friends, etc.

Wear Shorts and the Right Accessories

Always wear your polo shirt with shorts if you want to go to a casual event. If you pair a polo shirt, even if it is in a bright color, and wear trousers, you’ll look ready for work or, at best, a serious golfing tournament.

For example, you can wear a colored or neutral polo shirt with these gray golf shorts from Vintage 1946. Golf shorts, naturally, go perfectly with polo shirts: the two articles combine to make up most of the "official" golfing attire you'll see on TV and in magazines. So you can look and feel like a real golfer if you don your favorite polo shirt with a stellar set of golf shorts.

Then be sure to pair your polo shirt with the best accessories. To highlight the fun and energy of your outfit, choose a basic watch and your favorite set of sunglasses. This will make you ready to head to the beach with your friends or go on some other outdoor excursion. Just be sure to wear the right shoes for the occasion at hand (e.g., hiking shoes if you plan to climb a local mountain).


Bottom line: wear a neutral color polo shirt to work, then get more creative with color when wearing a polo shirt to casual events and golf games. Whatever you do, be sure to pair your polo shirt of choice with the right accessories, like shorts in a complementary color. If you’re having trouble finding the right apparel, Vintage 1946 can help!