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Are Polo Shirts Appropriate for Casual Business Events?

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Click on any clothing website, and you will indeed be bombarded with a few hundred polo shirt options. And while some might think the timeless item might be over-saturated in the market, we disagree.

The answer to the big question that this article focuses on is a solid and resounding yes! According to Fresh Clean Threads, polo shirts are not only appropriate for casual business events but are the backbone of this niche.

But before we jump head-first into how you can appropriately style polo shirts for your next work event, let’s learn a bit about the item and how it became a closet staple for millions of people around the world.

History Of Polo Shirts

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They are known by many names: golf shirts, tennis shirts, and of course, polo shirts. But, no matter what you call it, they are easily recognizable with their knit construction, a collar that you can pop up, short cuffed sleeves, and slimming silhouette.

Despite being around since the early 19th and 20th centuries, the core construction of the polo shirt hasn’t changed.

Just going by the name, most people assume that polo players might have had a direct hand in inventing the item. But, in reality, its history is heavily linked with tennis.

It was created by René Lacoste, a seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion. The sportsman was tired of dealing with the regular ill-fitted tennis clothes that were traditionally worn and wanted to wear clothes that could mitigate some common problems he faced while on the court.

He looked high and low but found a massive gap in the market for such an item, so instead, he designed the perfect tennis shirt himself. Lacoste updated the classic shirt silhouette and incorporated a collar and button at the top.

While many people ” pop their collar” to show a sense of style and flair, the original collar was kept upturned to protect Lacoste from sunburn while he was on the court. The addition of the buttons allowed him to be comfortable while playing in the warmer months.

He included short cuffed sleeves to ensure his shirt didn’t hinder movement while playing tennis and assembled everything in loosely-knit piqué cotton. Lacoste wore the polo shirt at the 1926 U.S. Open championship.

After a year of wearing it, the accomplished tennis player added the final touch to the garment. The press had nicknamed him as ” The Crocodile,” so to celebrate that, he placed an embroidered crocodile emblem on the left breast of his newly created polo shirts.

The tennis player had no idea that he had just constructed a shirt that would become a wardrobe staple not just for athletes around the world but would turn into a fashion item celebrated on the glitzy runways of Paris, New York, and London.

At the time, though, the item was known as a tennis shirt and wasn’t widely popular outside the sports community. The name ” polo shirt” was only invented 33 years later by Ralph Lauren, who marketed the shirt to polo players and the general public. The fashion designer changed the crocodile emblem to a polo player; the rest is history.

While Lacoste is still a successful brand, Ralph Lauren is often credited with creating the polo shirt we know today. However, we would say that it was, more or less, an amalgamation of both creative minds that led to the creation of the polo shirt.

Different Ways Of Styling Polo Shirts

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Now that you know all it took to form the polo, let’s also discover more about how the timeless item can be made wearable throughout the year and for different dress codes.

Casual Business Events

While some would think that an item of clothing made for the tennis court might not transition easily to the board room, that is far from the truth.

The key to ensuring that polo shirts are readily accepted at work events is hidden in balance. We would recommend that you avoid any over-the-top colors and overt branding when looking for a polo shirt for a professional event. While a simple brand logo is appropriate, recent polo shirts feature audacious colors and branding on collars and cuffs. While this is an easy way to attach personality to your outfit, it might make you look juvenile and harm your image.

Pick a monochrome polo shirt for your next business event and pair it with some well-fitted dark-washed jeans without any rips. Also, pay close attention to the quality and cut of the item. You do not want noticeable loose threads or tears seen on your polo shirt during a work event, even if it is casual.

If you are worried about wearing half sleeves to a professional event, throw on a blazer to bring more structural integrity to the outfit. No need to make sure your blazer matches the polo shirt perfectly; you can pick different colors that complement each other without sacrificing style.

Formal Wear

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While traditionally, the item is ideal for casual business events, it isn’t impossible to style it for formal occasions, from weddings to work events. The key here is how you accessorize the shirt.

As we already mentioned, a blazer immediately brings a professional flair to the comfortable and casual item. But if you want to dress it up further, we recommend adding a sweater and letting just the collar of your polo shirt peak from underneath.

Finish the look with a high-quality belt, a classic watch, and lace-up shoes for a timeless look that exudes confidence while setting you apart from an ocean of black suits and ties.

You can also wear a polo shirt instead of a button-down with your classic suit. This will help you stand out instantly, especially at formal events, without making it look like you didn’t put any effort into your look!

Every Day Wear

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The options for this category are endless, from wearing your polo shirt with shorts during a hot day to utilizing it as a layering piece when the weather cools down.

Choose neutral colors; classic brands like Lacoste and Ralph Lauren naturally have an immediate luxury impact. But even your local polo shirt, which doesn’t have the well-known branding, can easily be worn and convey the same result.

To create a closet that relies heavily on polo shirts, we recommend focusing on versatility, especially if you plan on using the item for all three events, business casual, formal wear, and casual wear.


Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignpolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com