What makes a polo different from a t-shirt?
The signatures of the polo shirt are the collar and buttoned placket, aka the slit that comes down from the collar.
The polo has a rich history of slight adjustments over time, from the long-sleeved garments worn by English polo players in the 19th century to tennis player Rene Lacoste’s lightweight version (which was slightly scandalous at the time, due to its short sleeves) to Ralph Lauren’s perfection of the Pique knit and addition of the polo name.
Now, with more options on the market than ever before, polos have become a staple for everything from uniforms to business casual apparel.
One of the additional differences between t-shirts and polos is the construction of the fabric. While most t-shirts are woven, polos, at least traditionally, are knit. The looped fibers in knit fabrics, when compared to the gridded and interlaced pattern of fibers in woven fabrics, give polos more stretch than everyday t-shirts.
There’s more than just one way to weave a polo though. Here’s a look at the common terms:
Pique - Pique is the classic polo knit, identified by its “waffle” or “honeycomb” texture. Beyond being an attractive and traditional texture, pique polos tend to show sweat less - and despite their heavyweight, the small holes created by the pique knit keep these polos breathable.
They wash and wear well over time, but are also the most prone to wrinkling. A little tip: The bigger the pique knit, the more breathable the polo will be.
Double Pique - Double pique polos are “doubled” in that multiple threads are bundled together while they are knit. This can be done for a variety of reasons -- cutting costs by combining a more expensive material with a less expensive one, strengthening the fabric by doubling up on threads, and creating a subtle mottled effect by knitting two colored threads together.
Jersey - You might recognize Jersey knit from your favorite t-shirt or sheets. Jersey knit fabrics are lightweight, visibly smooth and soft to the touch -- making them feel more comfortable to some wearers.
While jersey polos are often considered to be the more casual choice, they are also better for professions with a lot of physical activity involved, and warmer climates, because they are lighter weight, wrinkle less and stretch more.
Polos also come in an array of materials and blends, ranging from silk and wool to polyester and rayon. Below are the polo compositions most readily available for embroidery and branding.
Cotton polos are often the most expensive. However, all cotton is not created equal. For a softer, higher quality cotton polo look for words like ringspun or Pima.
Benefits: Moisture-wicking, breathable, classic looking.
Disadvantages: May experience some color-fading, shrinking or stretching over time. Low-quality cotton will pill over time. More likely to wrinkle.
Best for: 100% cotton polos are widely considered to be the most formal polo, and they tend to look more expensive than other blends. This, combined with its traditional look, makes the cotton polo a classic choice for business casual apparel.
Blended fabrics can be the best of both worlds: they combine the softness and breathability of cotton with the ease of care of polyester.
Benefits: They are inexpensive, a compromise between the comfort of cotton and the durability of polyester. There are many good options available and they are often less expensive than 100% cotton garments.
Disadvantages: They can look less professional than cotton garments.
Best for: Corporate apparel, School uniforms
Performance polos get a different category than traditional 100% Poly polos because they are made with the principles of athletic wear in mind. They are often blended with polyester and other light fabrics like spandex and may contain UV and silver for sweat-wicking.
Benefits: They are lightweight, often designed to be sweat-wicking and stain-resistant and are more comfortable for those who are very active at work.
Disadvantages: They are less formal than other polos. The lightweight, drape and stretch many feel uncomfortable for some.
Best for: Professions that are physically active or outdoors.
100% Poly polos are the most cost-effective, and durable choice for polos.
Benefits: They will not shrink, wrinkle or crease. Colors will not fade over time. They are more stain-resistant than cotton or blended garments.
Disadvantages: They can be uncomfortable to wear, are not very breathable and can hold onto odors more than cotton or blended fabrics.
Best for: Any industry with heavy wash and wear uniforms like kitchens, factories, deliveries
Ribbed Vs. Shirt Style Collars: a quick note on collar curling
If you want a collar that will wear well throughout the day, go for a shirt-style collar with interlining. Shirt style collars, or flat collar, will not curl up with wear the way that ribbed collars will.
So what's the best polo for you?
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