In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about wearing polo shirts. As always, our guide places a special emphasis on the shorter man.
The wrong polo (you know, neon colors, popped collars, huge logos and sleeves that reach your elbows) can make a man look like a prep school freshman.
But the right one can make him look like James Bond landing on a secluded beach via speedboat, pistol in one hand and mysterious lady friend in the other.
We think polos should fit really well - not too baggy, not too long in the torso or sleeves. We recommend solid color and tasteful patterns (such as thin horizontal stripes).
A great polo can be worn alone with shorts, jeans or chinos. It can also be worn under a sportcoat or your favorite jacket. Polo shirts are best for spring and summer, but they can definitely be worn all year round, especially long sleeve polos.
How Polo Shirts Should Fit
A polo shirt is basically a t-shirt with a collar, so it should fit just like a t-shirt. Just like a t-shirt, a polo shirt should sit close to the body. Not skin tight or restrictive, but there shouldn't be much excess fabric anywhere either.
Let’s start from the top:
Polos are usually worn unbuttoned, so the neck size isn’t as important as it is with a dress shirt. But it should still fit your body.
A good way to test this is by buttoning the top button. If there’s a lot of extra space between the collar and your neck, the shirt might be too big.
It it’s so tight that it’s cutting of oxygen to your brain, please unbutton it ASAP. The shirt may be too small for you!
Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect since you’ll probably never actually button the top button.
The most important part of how a shirt fits is in the shoulders. This is one of the only areas that can’t be altered, and if the shoulders don’t fit properly, this usually means the shirt is the wrong size for you.
The shoulder seams should end right around where your actual shoulder ends, on top of the acromion bone.
If they’re too wide, the shirt is too big. If they’re too narrow, the shirt is likely too small everywhere else.
The sleeves of your polo shirt shouldn’t be too much wider than your actual bicep. If they’re too wide, they’ll dwarf your arm and hide all the gains you’re getting at the gym!
They should end right around mid-bicep. If the sleeves are longer than that - for example, if they stop an inch above your elbow - you should definitely size down.
Just like with any other shirt, your polo should be fitted without being tight or restrictive. If you can see the outline of your ribs or navel, it’s probably too tight.
But the vast majority of men, especially smaller men, wear polos that are too big, not too small.
Here's a good rule of thumb: you should be able to pinch 1-2" of excess fabric on either side of your torso. Any more than that, and the shirt is probably too baggy for your build.
Worn untucked, polo shirts should end around mid-fly. They should be long enough to cover your belly when you lift your arms up, but they shouldn’t go past the zipper of your pants.
If they end below your belt and above the bottom of your fly, you’re probably good to go.
Common Fit Problems for Short Men
Just like with most shirts, polos are often way too long for men 5’8” and under to wear untucked, which is how most guys like to wear them.
Worn untucked, most mass manufactured polo shirts go down past the shorter man’s crotch, which only makes him look shorter. Not a good thing!
Another all too common fit problem with polo shirts is the sleeves. Shorter than average men typically have shorter than average arms, which means the sleeves are often way too long. If your sleeves go past mid bicep, it makes your arms look shorter.
Just look at Mark Wahlberg, who is about 5'8" and totally jacked. Even his impressive biceps are completely swallowed up by an oversized polo shirt.
The polo that fits, on the other hand, shows off his arm muscles. Of course, we won't comment on the length of his pants...
Short men who are also smaller (lightweight) have trouble finding polos that are slim enough through the sleeves. Again, it’s all about proportion. So if you sleeves are way too wide around your arm, this makes your arms look, to be frank, thin and weak.
Another set of problems that shorter men face when buying polo shirts is in the details. Take the placket, for example.
The length of the placket (how far it goes down the front of the shirt) is determined by height. Most apparel brands make polos that are meant to flatter men who are at least of average height (above 5’9”), so they design the placket accordingly.
This looks great on average height or taller guys, but it makes short men look shorter.
Same goes for the size of the collar. Just like the plackets, collars are designed with the average build in mind. So the collar point length is typically a bit too long for shorter men. For short and slim men, polo shirt collars often seem too big, in general. This tends to make their neck and head look oddly small.
So...what should you do?
So, as you can see, shorter men have an uphill battle when it comes to finding polo shirts that really fit and flatter their bodies. What can they do about this?
If your polo is a couple inches too long but fits well everywhere else, you can have it hemmed to a shorter length at the tailor, but this will usually throw off the proportions of the rest of the shirt.
The best solution is to buy polo shirts that are made specifically for short men from a brand like Peter Manning.
What Makes Peter Manning Polo Shirts Different?
Peter Manning polos were redesigned from from scratch with the shorter man in mind. We didn’t just chop a couple inches of the bottom and call it a day. We actually went back to the drawing board (then the cutting table and sewing machine) to make something truly unique.
The length is perfect for shorter men. You can wear our polos untucked with confidence. The sleeves are the right length, and they’re just snug enough around your arm to be simultaneously comfortable and flattering.
We also thought about all the little details, from the length and width of the placket to the size of the collar. It’s all designed for the ‘not-so-tall’ man. When you put all of this together, the visual effect is striking.
Whether it’s a classic pique polo (The James), a lighter weight pocket polo or a long sleeve striped polo, we’re confident that you’ll feel amazing in one of our polo shirts.