There are certain items that just work well on most guys… items that stand the test of time, through passing fashions and styles.

Taking such an item and making it the centerpiece of your outfit by nailing the fit and style can elevate you above anyone else in the room, simply by using a classic piece the right way.

For the summer, it doesn’t get much more versatile or classic than a navy polo.

It’s simple. It’s understated. It can be dressed up (or dressed down), and as a young college student, wearing a well-fitting, logo-less collared shirt is one part of the equation to avoid looking like a slob.

Of course, there are other steps to getting it right, but looking good in a navy polo is classic and surprisingly easy. Its versatility lends itself to multiple outfits and situations that nearly anyone can use.

First, Nail Fit

The first step, however, is finding a polo that allows you to mix and match. That means the fit must be spot-on.

The perfect polo has sleeves that hit about mid-bicep; any longer and you run the risk of wearing an oversized, unflattering polo. And if you work out, all the better! The polo’s mid-bicep sleeve length will accentuate those hours in the gym.

The perfect length through the body tends to vary based on height, but ideally, you want a polo that’s long enough to be tucked in, but short enough that it could stand on its own.

Some polos are cut with a longer back tail, which means they should be tucked in. If the polo avoids a garish logo (personally, I stay away from those), it can be tucked into shorts without looking too preppy (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Polos like this one from Sunspel are able to be worn untucked or tucked in. They hit the sweet spot.

A Bit About Fabric

Fabric is another matter entirely. Pique polos are thicker, but can be dressed up more easily than a slub or cotton jersey polo, which has softer, sometimes slightly textured fabric and probably pairs more easily with jeans than chinos.

There are no hard and fast rules, but if you’re looking to dress up a polo, pique is a safer bet (but watch that logo). For maximum dressiness, look for something with a bit of sheen.

Care For Your Polo

And once you’ve picked out the ideal polo, caring for it is crucial.

As with any item, washing it too much can cause the color to fade and decrease its shelf life. If you aren’t sweating buckets and the polo doesn’t have stains on it, see if you can’t get more wears out of it (refresh it with a spray of Febreze, too).

If you’re particularly worried about washing in a machine, hand-washing is a gentler option that allows you to target specific areas.

Keeping laundry loads smaller and hang-drying the polo also helps reduce wear-and-tear.

Lastly, using a plastic hanger (sturdier than wire, more cost-effective than an expensive wooden one) or neatly folding the polo with the collar buttoned will help it retain its shape and structure.

Now, onto the outfits.

Option One (standard, everyday outfit)


The combination of a polo and khakis can go wrong in a hurry (think Best Buy salesman). But, the key is wearing a slimmer chino, and nailing the fit of the polo.

I find myself more partial to the desert boot options, but depending on the type of pants break you like, a low-cut shoe might do the trick.

Ideally, a shade of brown that contrasts with the chinos would be ideal for the shoes. If you go with a lighter shade of tan chino, dark brown suede would probably be a good color option.

The great thing about this look is the versatility; the outfit would work for a first date or, if you work in a more casual office, a polished Friday.

Note that the chinos could be switched out for a pair of jeans in, say, a sand color, if you like. Wearing this outfit near the beach is up to you.

Option Two (it’s hot out)


There’s nothing too fancy about this outfit. It’s perfect for an outdoor BBQ or grabbing a casual drink with friends.

The Lands End shorts (in a neutral palette that doesn’t clash with the polo) lets the shirt do some of the talking, and they nail the fit requirements for shorts—slimmer cut, above-the-knee.

As for the canvas sneakers, make sure they’re clean, and a white sole will actually add a nice contrast to the outfit’s darker shades. If they get beat up, that might even add some character to the outfit, if that’s your thing. As long as they’re relatively free of any logo, it will keep the outfit looking sharp.

This combination would work very nicely with a clean, simple Timex Weekender watch.

Option Three (to the beach)


It might seem a bit out of sorts to wear a polo to the beach, but when it’s time to head in from the boat or water to the local beach bar, a navy polo can keep you looking crisp without being overdressed.

Once again, fit of the polo is crucial.

If you wear a darker shade of navy, you can probably get away with wearing a more vibrant-colored swim trunk, but something in a plain shade would work just fine.

As far as beach and dock footwear goes, grey boat shoes are a classic, safe bet that could be paired with chinos or jeans in different outfits.

Option Four (the dressier option)


Wearing a polo under a suit is slightly tricky. If you pick a polo without a substantial enough collar, it doesn’t stand up to the test. Collar stays (made for polo shirts) can be a perfect antidote to that. And because it’s a polo and not a dress shirt, the look needs to stay sharp.

A lighter-weight linen or cotton-blend suit in something like tan or a very light grey helps ground the outfit more casually than wearing the polo under a black pinstripe suit, for example.

Depending on the season and the weave of the fabric, linen or a linen/cotton blend can pull some duty in spring and summer.

For maximum versatility, something like the Ludlow could allow this combo to be worn any time. Add in brown loafers that show some ankle, and the casual look is dialed in from head to toe.

Because the outfit is less dressy, showing some ankle could be a good way to connect the dots. Dress shoes with a subtle brogue can also help the outfit stay casual.

Wearing crazy socks ups the ante even further.

Option Five (cold weather casual)


Assuming you’ve already mastered the art of wearing slim, dark denim, a polo can be a perfect way to add some dimensionality to your layering.

Under a V-neck sweater, the polo’s minimal buttons are a change of pace from your average dress shirt. Once again, the collar must be substantial and weighty enough to stand up inside the v-neck. Contrasting the navy with a red or neutral gray sweater keeps the outfit’s colors in balance.

Worried about the navy polo clashing with dark denim? That’s what the sweater is for. And maybe you could choose some jeans in a slightly lighter wash, with some (Read: SOME) distressing if it’s a concern?

If your denim is nicely pre-worn, that’ll work, too. Desert boots in a nice wax finish add another contrasting (yet neutral) color to the overall palette.


The key with wearing a navy polo is versatility – it’s a classic item that can work in multiple situations starting in spring and working through summer. Layering can work too, under a grey linen blazer in the summer or a sweater in the fall.

Nailing fit is critical, and some of these outfits (with your own personal twists) can quickly become simple, easy go-to moves.

What do you think?

Have any suggestions for other outfits or revisions to the ones above?

What’s your favorite thing to wear with a navy polo?

Let’s hear it below!


Beau is a senior editor at The State News, Michigan State’s student newspaper. A #menswear enthusiast, Beau can be found on Twitter (@BoKnowsClothes). He also writes about men’s style at Siblings With Style.

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32 Responses

  1. Scott Hampton on

    I wear Option One (that’s what I was wearing today when the email came in) and pair it with white, low-cut Chuck Taylor All-Stars. While casual, it’s more serious than the Best Buy look and is suitable for my day-to-day activities. I would consider Option Four…

    Great article, thanks for the tips.

  2. yoshi22g on

    Thanks for the article! How do you keep the collar from curling? Often I’ve seen one side of the collar curls up and the other curls down.

    • Barron on

      I haven’t really experienced any collar curling. I also press my collars after laundering (laid flat, as if “popped”) and then fold them back down after ironing. Perhaps yours just need a good press?

  3. Todd @ Fearless Men on

    Hmm I’ll have to chew on this one. Polos still seem very 2005 prep (or termite inspector uniform) to me. I remember having a pink polo 8 years ago and thinking it was awesome. What a shame…

    • Barron on

      What do you wear when not in a sport shirt or OCBD? T-shirts?

      I look at them as my T-shirt replacements, since I don’t wear tees. I have two pink polos, one more pastel and one this vibrant fluorescent shade. Wear em all the time!

      • Todd @ Fearless Men on

        I’ll take your advice and reconsider!
        I suppose I’m a bit influenced by what’s up in San Diego (whereas I lived in NorCal then Texas for a longtime). It’s a bit more “scenester” here, which I’m not into, but I suppose I’m wearing more chambray and denim, tees and of course collared shirts if I’m meeting with the 40+ crowd.

        • Barron on

          Yeah, it just depends on the rest of your wardrobe. Polos may not be for everyone, just like how OCBDs aren’t for everyone, or plaid sport shirts, etc. You seem to know what you like and what works for you, so go with it. 🙂

          • Barron on

            As in, the current trend of buttoning your shirt up all the way? I like it, but I think it only works on certain people. I think I look silly if I try to do it, but I’ve seen it done well. In my mind, I give that person an imaginary high five.

          • Todd @ Fearless Men on

            Man you are definitely a good sport. It’s true, I have seen a FEW people it looks good on, and definitely not me. Having a bigger neck makes it feel uncomfortable too, not to mention I feel like I’ve got a bowtie missing!!

      • Dan J. on

        I wear dress shirts and a blazer to work regardless of the season. For after work/weekend, it depends on the time of year. In winter, I’m usually in a long-sleeve button-up shirt of some type. In the summer, I have both long-sleeve and short-sleeve button-up shirts in linen. I wear tees when I’m mowing the lawn or changing the oil in my car but otherwise, I have a full row of buttons. I like polos on some people, particularly younger gents, but not on me. I’m in my late 40s and prefer to dress a little more formally.

  4. AustinM on

    I’m here in hot as hell Mississippi with option number 2 right now — navy RL custom-fit polo, lobster Bonobos shorts, and grey Tretorn sneakers.

    • Barron on

      If you want to wear a purple polo, go for it. That would look great and you can use it in pretty much the same fashion as described above.

      If you’re going for purple as a sub for navy to ground your outfits, make sure it’s a deep, dark purple… almost like a black (but when you look up close, it’s purple). I think that’s the only shade that could substitute for a deep navy in that case.

      Did I read too deeply into your question? haha

      • Luqman on

        No, you didn’t read too deeply into my question lol. Actually, you spoke on things that I’ve had in mind. For example, I purchased a pair of purple sun-faded chinos from j. Crew because, at the time, the navy color was sold out. Just as you said, the purple should be a dark purple to give a certain look. Since that purchase, I have always wondered if purple was an appropriate substitute for navy. I’ve never received comments such as, “wtf” or “purple pants, smh?” However, I’ve always received positive comments when coordinating them with my outfit. With that said, I figured the sun-faded chino in purple for J. Crew is a winner. Thanks for the advice and tips. You always take the extra step to explain things in further detail and I truly appreciate you for that. Keep up the good work.

  5. Jeff on

    been on the hunt for a nice dark navy blue polo that isn’t too heavy on the pocket; still in college. turning up empty, any suggestions?

    • ian on

      The one pictured; Old Navy brand is $10.00 last time I looked. I own several, they hold their shape better than some pricier brands i’ve found.

    • Barron on

      Old Navy, though they have a bad rap, are decent for the price, especially for those on a really small budget. I have gray ON T-shirts from 2007 that are still in my regular rotation.

  6. Amir on

    I have several colored polos as well, and I read that Navy is a great colour, and this article confirms both great design – a Navy Polo. In Malaysia I usually wear polos and khaki colored pants or deep blue jeans with B&W Converse shoes. I think I need to get more ‘stylistic’ shoes such as the ones above, in grey colors. I’d love to get a blue loafer tho.

  7. donjuanmegatron on

    This might get some flack, but would light grey toms work instead of boating shoes? I hate the look of those type of shoes with a fiery passion. I like my toms and have been wearing them with that exact look (number 2) for a while. I also sub in red, purple, and sometimes forest green polo’s from Penguin. Any advice on this subject would be great!

  8. americanmadeclothing on

    I love this style, I will certainly going to find one this season. I appreciate slim polo and denim jeans; incredibly comfy and classy. Street clothing and glam grunge is so amazing these days.
    Carl from american made clothing

    • Barron on

      Yep, no limitations at all. Just wanted to focus on one particular color and style, to show its versatility when building outfits off it 🙂