Deciding how to choose a polo shirt, is arguably less complicated than the decisions surrounding the endless shapes, weights and textures of a T shirt. None the less, the same caution we exercise when moving from beer to wine before finishing off with a restorative brandy, should still be applied.
Compromise, is it fit for purpose?
We discussed, or at least I dictated, the importance of compromise when choosing a T shirt. For a polo shirt however, it’s more about they’re intended use, and so as long as we make them fit for purpose, perhaps less compromise is required. The two simplest polo shirt categories are work wear, or fashion. The former clearly needs to come in a wide variety of colours and SIZES. A work wear polo shirt must be made from fabrics which will not disintegrate in a small cabin, containing a crane driver after a large vindaloo, Fashion polo shirts however will need to be all about the fit, especially a snugness about the guns. Waffty sleeves are usually a no no. They must be available in more lux textures, and compromise is not an option,
Fit – fitted, semi- fitted, and standard polo shirts.
We used the fitted, semi-fitted and standard classifications as our T shirt criteria, and they can serve us again in our choice of polo shirt perhaps. There are some very fitted polo shirts available for fashion use. They have a firm grip around our rippling biceps, with just the right amount of tattoo peeking out from beneath the cuff. It’s a look, and again if your customer lives in the gym, stays on the weights and avoids doing anything aerobic, it could be for you (avoid a white polo shirt however, it’s a nightmare with the fake tan). A semi fit polo is perhaps the safest however, with the widest market appeal. By semi fit, think of a Ralphy and we’ll be on the same page. For workwear though, with a nice left chest embroidery and a matching half zip fleece, we have to go for a standard fit. We might have some fine lads in there at up to 5XL, and it’s not kind to try and force them into a textile drain pipe.
Weight – lightweight, mid-weight, heavy weight, and grams per square metre (gsm)
Polo shirt fabric, just like T shirt fabric weight is measured in grams per square metre, or gsm, where a lightweight polo shirt might be 165 gsm, a mid-weight 250 gsm, and a heavy weight 300 gsm. The lightweight versions again tend to be more fitted or semi fitted. The heavyweight with a few exceptions are the squarer more workwear cuts. Hardly surprising that the work wear versions, unless you’re an attendant at the local sauna, need to be heavy weight, more robust, and able to take a big blob of concrete without bursting into tears.
Fabric content – jersey or pique polo shirts.
A nice straight choice here for once, it’s jersey or pique fabric for your polo shirts (yeah ok, you can have them in pima cotton, or maybe even a modal, but generally). The jersey fabrics are the softer smoother option, like a heavy T-shirt fabric, and as such will hold the detail in a screen print better than a pique. Generally, a jersey polo shirt would lend itself better to a fashion option, and may be a touch more fitted. Unless your brand is a more old school Fred Perry vibe, in which case only a pique will do. The pique fabrics with their waffle look are more robust, and as such tend to be the obvious workwear option. So if you want really soft, go jersey, if you want fashion heritage or a strong work wear fabric, go pique.
If you were fascinated by our look at texture in the ‘How to choose a T shirt’ section, then the same rules apply when it comes to jersey fabrics in a polo shirt. They can be combed or ring spun, which will remove all the chunks of shizzle from the yarn and make them soft and smooth. We like that. When it comes to a pique, (pronounced pee-kay as you well know), there is of course a slightly more textured feel. Even this can be minimised though by a real tight knit micro pique. Not all pique fabrics are the same, so feel free to ask us about the difference.
Construction – how is a polo shirt built?
We’re going to make a personal comment here about polo shirt construction. Probably shouldn’t, but it’s never stopped us in the past. Polo shirts for us are all about the subtle detail. Many have contrast plackets, different under collar colours, drop tails, shoulder pads and revolving bow ties. Not necessary for us – as we tell our girlfriends, less is more. So a simple detail in the collar knit, just a little same coloured ridge of fabric perhaps. Or an understated vent, that says I’ve thought about it, but I’m not a total bloody show off.
Ethics – were any children or animals harmed in the making of this polo shirt?
As with our T shirts, in a perfect world we want a polo shirt to be carbon neutral, organic fabric, made under the accreditation of the Fairwear Foundation, Eco Tex 100 on dye stuffs, Soil Association accredited and without any Uzbeki cotton, maybe recycled and trucked, not flown in. These ae all things we’ll be looking for when making our polo shirt choice. We can’t totally change the world, and by the time you read this Mr Trump may be in charge of it, but we can have a good old bash.
What do I do next, my polo shirt check list?
Is it fit for purpose, is it for fashion or for work wear?
Fitted, semi fitted, or standard shape?
Do I want light weight, mid-weight, or heavy weight?
Would we prefer a jersey or pique fabric?
Am I after super soft texture, or something a little more old school?
How much construction detail do we really need?
Is it ethical, will I go to heaven?