The poor polo shirt. Long maligned as being part of the uniform of sloppy dads and IT professionals, it’s mostly avoided by anyone who cares about how they dress. On a hot summer’s day, however, your best bet for shirt fabrics is pretty much narrowed down to two options: loosely woven linens and lightweight pique cottons. Both will be more breathable than almost anything else you have in your closet.
I find the best way to wear polos is to pair them with tailored sport coats – especially ones made from more casual fabrics, such as cotton or linen. This does require, however, a few things out of the shirt. It has to have long sleeves, so that a bit of cuff peeks out; it has to be long enough to tuck; and the collar ought to stand up a little when you wear your jacket (rather than slip under the lapels). This is made easier when the collar has a lightweight, fusible interlining, but it also helps if the shirt is constructed with a traditional collar band – rather than having the collar leafs grow out of the body of the shirt itself.
I’ve been wearing an old model from Brooks Brothers, which has unfortunately long been sold out (this looks close, although the fabric looks a little too thick in the product images). For alternatives, you can try Kent Wang, Sunspel, and Proper Cloth. Sid Mashburn and Orlebar Brown also sell models with extra-long plackets, although I’m not sure how I feel about those designs. The best I’ve seen this season is from Ascot Chang. It’s expensive, to be sure, but The Armoury guys tell me they specially designed it to be worn underneath tailored jackets. There’s even a button down model if you want to go a little trad.
Pair a long-sleeved cotton polo shirt with a casual sport coat, tropical wool or cotton trousers, and brown suede slip-ons. And leave the collar unbuttoned unless you’re as handsome as Harrison Ford below.