The polo shirt is nearly 100 years old and, due to its flexibility for different occasions, it remains a staple in any wardrobe. We have created a comprehensive guide to the very best designer polo shirts in the market comparing and contrasting all of the key aspects of polo shirt design from active-wear polos such as those from Ralph Lauren to more occasion-oriented, structured polo shirts such as those made by relative newcomer Niccolò P.
Finding the Best Polo Shirt for You
The perfect designer polo shirt should, first and foremost, fit in a way that suits how you choose to wear your clothes whether that be loose, fitted or ‘regular’. We know that many well-established brands continue to use garment patterns which have not been modernised for decades and thus are based on body shapes from older generations. For this reason, we recommend that you choose brands which use a contemporary pattern which is more likely to give you a fit in tune with your aspirations.
A key aspect of the polo shirt often overlooked is the placket. Plackets can be made in several different ways but the most distinctive (and highest-quality) version is known as the ‘set-on’ placket. Instead of simply cutting the fabric down the front of the shirt these are made from an entirely separate piece of fabric and, thus, are considerably more involved to manufacture but the net result is a polo shirt with a more defined appearance. In terms of button count, we think the ideal placket should comprise ideally three and certainly no more than four buttons.
Buttons themselves should be the hallmark of all high-quality shirts and polo shirts. Unfortunately, the use of plastic or imitation mother-of-pearl buttons amongst even designer brands has become commonplace. These cheaper buttons have neither the crisp appearance nor longevity of genuine mother-of-pearl buttons.
Regarding sleeve length, we suggest that the sleeves should reach to mid-bicep with armholes comfortable enough to ensure a good drape to the polo.
Finally, in terms of the polo shirt construction itself, the very best polo shirts are sewn using a flat-felled seam making the garment more durable and less likely to lose shape – this is particularly important if you like to wear a polo with a structured appearance. Assuming this is the case, you will likely prefer a stand collar (rather than, say, a flat ribbed collar) as this gives additional height to the collar. For this reason, if you plan to wear your polo under a jacket or blazer you should opt for a polo shirt with stand collar.
1. Niccolò P.
Now I hear you ask; these details are all very well but where do I find such a perfect polo. Which brand is the best? We think London-based Niccolò P. polo shirts are some of the highest quality available today. They are also exceptional value as they employ a hybrid business model of direct-to-consumer with occasional pop-ups and events. This means that they pass the savings onto consumers rather than having to give a large margin to ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers.
Niccolò P. use only the finest quality natural materials (sourced from the famous fine textiles region of Montebelluna, Italy) and they employ all of the ‘extra’ features in their polo shirts outlined above making them an excellent choice. Discover more about their approach to structured polo shirts here.
2. Ralph Lauren
If it’s logos you want, you can’t beat Ralph Lauren. Polo shirts with the polo-rider logo are one of the brand’s most iconic items. When Lauren appeared on the cover of TIME in 1986, it was as “Polo’s Ralph Lauren” and he wore, naturally, a Polo shirt.
You might not get the quality offered by Niccolò P., but the brand is iconic and captures the imagination of jet setters around the world. Whether it is on a yacht on the French Riviera or at a real-life polo match, there will be a number of people wearing this iconic brand.
3. Orlebar Brown
Orlebar Brown is a British clothing brand specialising in tailored men’s swim shorts, but it also offers some distinctive polo shirts.
If you’re a designer who makes clothing for men, you may well want your clients to look like James Bond when they wear your clothes. Orlebar Brown references pieces worn by Sean Connery, Roger Moore and George Lazenby in films spanning over two decades, from Dr. No to A View to Kill. Orlebar Brown’s jacket and linen shirts have been worn by this fictional icon, so they can’t be bad.
Sunspel.com for the definitive range of luxury British staples for men and women. Using timeless design and luxury fabrics, this brand has been creating season styles since 1860. Today they produce luxury everyday clothing including t-shirts, underwear, knitwear, accessories, trousers, coats and of course Polo Shirts.
Who doesn’t love Gucci? I treasure my Gucci handbags, but did you know they make polo shirts too? These are, of course, fantastic quality and are fully logo-ed up, but at around £500, you would expect a certain level of loveliness.
Their cotton piquet polos often offer a contrasting collar and trim. The Gucci jacquard stripe is usually inserted somewhere, and the athletic influence is shown in the styling. Expect a button-through placket with mother-of-pearl buttons all created in fashionable Italy.
6. Tom Ford
Thomas Carlyle Ford is an American fashion designer, film director, screenwriter, and film producer. He launched his eponymous luxury brand in 2006, having previously served as the Creative Director at luxury fashion houses Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.
Some argue that his influence produced some of Gucci’s best pieces so you will be delighted to hear that he now produces designer polo shirts and they are much cheaper than Gucci’s equivalent at around half the price.
The Tom Ford cotton-piqué polo shirt offers pearlescent buttons, ribbed trim and brand logo embroidered at front hem. While Mr. Ford is rarely seen out of a suit, for tennis and more relaxed moments, surely, he would choose of wear one of these short-sleeved polo shirts.
7. Paul Smith
Enhance your casual attire with a Paul Smith polo shirt. His cotton style boasts short sleeves, a two-button placket, a spliced hemline and the brand’s signature zebra logo to the chest. These casual yet stylish shirts can be picked up from the PS range and cost around £60. While they are fun, they do not offer the quality of the Niccolò P. polos shirts in our number one position.
Burberry is one of my favourite brands. I have more than one of their handbags and my husband has a selection of Burberry jackets, all offering the stylish Burberry tartan plaid. Their designer polos shirts are cotton classics remixed with runway prints and house codes. Expect to pay around £200 for a Monogram Motif Cotton Piqué Polo Shirt.
Versace Collection of Men’s fashion T-shirts and polos shirts. Find the perfect Versace style for hanging out. Colours can be vivacious, but these casual luxurious cotton polo shirts for men are crafted in comfortable and breathable fabrics.
Moncler polos shirts combine the unique vision of the London designer and Moncler’s technical expertise. Their uncompromising pieces revolutionize any outfit.
Whichever polos shirt designer you choose, we hope this listing has helped you understand the intricacies of producing a quality designer polo shirt and has helped you make the right decision for your next purchase.
Disclosure: Most reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.