Polo Shirts vs. T-Shirts: Pros and cons of two iconic basics

Paulina Kulczycki

With summer just around the corner and the first warm days already upon us, short sleeves are surely making a comeback on the streets. Polo shirts and t-shirts are among the most popular short-sleeved options. No wonder: as fashion basics, they complement casual outfits in the day-to-day and work with pretty much any other style too. Whether for casual meetings at work or in your free time: both of these classics are a good choice. But how do you pick between both? Here at SANVT we have compared polo shirts vs. t-shirts and laid out the pros and cons of two iconic fashion basics.

When we think of the pros and cons of polo shirts vs. t-shirts, a few things come to mind:

  • A t-shirt is cool, it’s simple, and it (almost) always works.
  • But a t-shirt can sometimes look too relaxed and unstyled.
  • On the other hand, the polo-shirt is an elegant in-between solution, besides its functionality and sporty attributes.
  • Yet, a polo shirt can very easily turn into a fashion faux pas if the fit is wrong!

The difference in features and characteristics of both shirts are important to bring up, as they will ultimately help you determine when to wear which. Let’s dive right into it!

Polo shirts vs. t-shirts: two fashion basics compared.

What is a T-Shirt?

First, let’s first talk about the classic in fashion: the t-shirt. What used to be worn only as an undershirt in the 19th century is now probably the most worn fashion basic ever. Notably, this essential only became popular after the Second World War. In the 1950s, actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean made it extremely popular. Since then, the t-shirt has become an icon of pop culture and is now a fashion must-have. Usually made of jersey, it can be found in all sorts of shapes and colors.

You will usually find t-shirts with a round neck, short sleeves and a light material that drapes smoothly around the body. The t-shirt is uncomplicated and versatile (depending on the color, print and fit) and blends in with any look as a basic. It especially shines when chosen in monochrome colors. And as a little side note, do you know why we call it a “T”-shirt? It owes its name to the T-shape of the torso – it’s that simple.

Check out The Perfect T-Shirt from SANVT – a minimal, timeless essential.

What is a polo shirt?

It is said that the polo shirt perfectly bridges the gap between a t-shirt and a classic oxford shirt. In other words, it offers the elegance of a dress shirt, with the casual features of a t-shirt. As the name suggests, the polo shirt has its origins in polo sports but only became known through tennis. This was thanks to the famous tennis player René Lacoste, who popularized the polo shirt in the 1930s and put it on its path to the iconic status it enjoys today.

The material used for polo shirts is a knitted double weave of cotton called piqué. Piqué features a waffle structure that is breathable, elastic, high quality and absorbent. Classic polo shirts come with a subtle collar, a seamless button placket and a small side slit for extra mobility. Polo shirts are a casual, yet slightly more elegant option for outfits that can use a little more class and finesse.

Check out The Perfect Polo Shirt from SANVT – with a subtle collar and seamless placket.

Polo shirts vs. t-shirts: differences at a glance

Probably the most striking difference of polo shirts vs. t-shirts is the finish of the collar, or neckline. While the T-shirt usually has a simple round neck, the polo shirt has a stand-up collar with a button placket. Another major difference is the material. While both shirts are usually made of cotton, the polo shirt is made of knitted cotton (piqué) and t-shirts are made of woven cotton (jersey). Woven jersey gives t-shirts a soft touch and an easy-flowing silhouette. In comparison, knitted piqué gives polo shirts a more robust character, although one that’s still flexible and functional. You can read more about the technical cotton piqué knit here.

Pros and cons of a t-shirt

The t-shirt offers countless advantages: it’s cool, it’s simple and it (almost) always works. T-shirts are also extremely versatile – especially in classic white. When worn in the right combination, tees can actually look quite smart, too. For instance tucked in with a pair of chinos or a pair of rolled-up tapered jeans. The downside, however, is that t-shirts can sometimes look too relaxed and unstyled. When worn oversized with sweatpants for example, a tee quickly turns into loungewear.

And also, if the t-shirt gets wrinkly because of a poor material, it will most definitely look quite sloppy. Therefore, for formal occasions, it’s probably best to be on the safe side and simply leave your t-shirt in your closet and pick an oxford shirt or polo shirt instead. As a final note, beware of printed, brightly colored t-shirts. They may steal the show from the rest of your outfit and are falling somewhat out of fashion! Read here how to style the t-shirt best.

Pros and cons of a polo shirt

Polo shirts have a lot of advantages. Not only functional and sporty, the polo shirt is an elegant in-between solution. It’s an item that can be worn on various occasions when an outfit needs to be casual with a hint of chic. The downside, however, is that you can very easily land a fashion faux pas with a polo shirt.

How so? Well, whether a polo shirt is a hit or a flop is determined by small details, such as the fit, the collar and the button placket. A polo shirt can quickly look too “preppy”, or worse: it can give you the dreaded ”dad look”. Steer clear of bright colored polo shirts with decorative elements and badges! Lucky for you, we’ve got your back: to make sure that a polo shirt is timeless and stylish, we have put together a guide with the most important points on how a polo shirt should fit.

All things considered, how do you make up your mind between both? Well, it is always important to consider the occasion: when the t-shirt might be too casual or the polo shirt too dressy. In any case, we always recommend choosing monochrome, minimalist versions of polo shirts and t-shirts, so that the basics remain in the background and can be highlighted by accessories or other elements of the outfit. Like so many things in modern life, when it comes to polo shirts vs. t-shirts, less is more.