The polo shirt is a wardrobe staple for a reason. It’s classic and versatile, and the ideal piece of clothing to wear on those warm days when you need to toe the line between formal and free-wheeling. You can never have too many good polo shirts in your closet. Pocket. No pocket. Colorful. Plain. But among the classic options in your closet should be a few good knit polos. Why? The knit polo is the cousin of the standard piqué cotton polo and a beloved old-school staple that just so happens to be making a comeback. The best knit polo shirts deserve a place in your rotation.
Now, you’re probably most familiar with the knit polo because of Don Draper, Tony Soprano and co, or maybe a certain talented Mr. Ripley. And yeah, depending on what you go with, the shirt can have a classy, back-in-the-day charm to it as well as an old-man-at-the-racetrack vibe. Honestly, both are pretty in right now. Regardless, the real appeal of the shirt is its subtle, stylish distinctions. It’s often more obviously textured than your standard polo and usually has the more relaxed look and feel of a lightweight cotton sweater. It hugs the body, and might sometimes even ditch the classic button placket in favor of an open collar. It’s available in a variety of textures and throwback-appropriate colors and bold stripes. It’s also a bit more fortified and slightly warmer, which makes it ideal for those blustery spring days.
Here are a few great knit polos, including both subtle and more in-your-face options. All are worthy additions to your spring and summer wardrobe.
When trying out a trend, even one that’s still grounded in a style as classic as the polo, it sometimes nice to keep things simple. This affordable option is a great example. Ribbed chest stitching and a slim grey line at the collar and sleeves make it stand out quietly, and the straight hem means it’s easy to wear untucked.
A knit polo can refer to either a polo knit similarly to a sweater, or in this case, a waffle-knit design that more closely resembles, say, a thermal shirt. It’s a unique touch that gives this shirt a nice amount of texture and depth, even in a versatile shade of blue. The polyester-cotton blend allows for plenty of stretch and breezy comfort, so it’s a reliable choice for all-day wear.
Onia’s identity is rooted in refined-yet-functional swimwear, with a sort of easygoing flair that looks especially great when worn on vacation. You can bring that same energy to a backyard barbecue or poolside cocktails with this cotton-blend polo: Here, cotton meets rayon, the material used predominantly in Hawaiian shirts. It’s feels incredibly soft on your skin — the brand itself describes the texture as “velvety” and that isn’t hyperbole.Not bad for what looks like a classic navy polo on the surface.
Of all the brands to make a knit polo, Perry Ellis might be one of the most all-American (they’ve been around since the late 1960s, after all). This preppy, classic appeal is translated into a modern take on the knit polo, and it’s the use of viscose and polyester that makes this both sustainable and stretchy. The fabric is moisture-wicking and anti-microbial, making it more performance-minded than other polos on this list, too. The open collar and Cream colorway scream laidback refinement.
Whenever merino wool is in the mix, we’re inclined to pay attention. The fabric readily blends performance and style, regulating your temperature and fighting odor along the way. It’s been turned into an elegant iteration of the knit polo by the prep style masters at Ted Baker, yet one that’s got just enough differences to justify the higher price tag. Note the bold color-blocked design, plus the zip collar in place of a button placket. Wear it with off-white jeans or chinos if you’re really wanting to go a bit more adventurous.
Wearing a knit polo is an intentional style move, a level up from a more straightforward version, so treat it accordingly. In this case, that means going ultra-premium (yet still accessible at under $100), thanks to a blend of silk and linen. Yes, silk. The shirt’s vertical knit detailing helps elongate your torso – a helpful visual move – while the ribbed waist cuff ensures a more snug fit and no bunching at your waistline.
A certain Madison Avenue ad executive isn’t the only one to bring the knit polo back into the fold. The Talented Mr. Ripley — a film oozing style — also makes a strong case for the shirt and indeed, for splurging on one that fits with a coastal lifestyle. Todd Snyder delivers as splurge-worthy a knit polo sweater as any, with trendy yet not ostentatious tipped detailing, and a handsome Ivory color. It’s a knit polo you’ll wear all spring and summer long.