The polo shirt has been a year-round menswear favourite for over 100 years. But how do you choose the best polo for your money? We selected a polo shirt from five well-known brands including Sunspel, Ralph Lauren, James Perse, and Lacoste to compare each polo in order to answer the question: what makes a great polo shirt? To ensure a fair comparison we chose a single, main range navy polo shirt from each brand and compared them on several different measures including the type of cotton used, buttons, stitching of the garment and collar details. We then set the results out in the table below to enable you to draw your own conclusions.

 

Brand Niccolò P. Sunspel Ralph Lauren James Perse Lacoste
Style Niccolò P. Polo Shirt Sunspel Polo Shirt Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt James Perse Polo Shirt Lacoste Polo Shirt
Price £90 £80 £100 £95 £80
Fabric Egyptian cotton; extra long staple variety Long staple cotton but not extra long staple; no special variety listed Run-of-the-mill cotton; no special variety listed Supima cotton; extra long staple variety Run-of-the-mill cotton; no special variety listed
Knit Double-jersey. The most common knit is single-jersey which has a 'right' side (facing out) and a 'wrong' or slightly rougher side (facing in). This means it feels softer on the outside than inside. Using double-jersey, this polo has a 'right' side outside and in giving the wearer silk-like feeling Single-jersey Double-jersey Single-jersey Petit pique. Pique is a popular knit for polo shirts as it offers good breathability in warmer weather given its waffle-like structure
Buttons Australian mother-of-pearl buttons (dyed in Italy to match shirt) Plastic Plastic Plastic Plastic
Collar Self fabric stand collar (uses a good weight of interlining to ensure no curling; this collar type lets the polo sit properly under a jacket Self fabric stand collar Ribbed collar - tendency to curl and doesn't pair well with blazer/sport coat Self fabric stand collar Ribbed collar - tendency to curl and doesn't pair well with blazer/sport coat
Seams Flat-felled seams. These take around 5x longer to finish but the benefits include a definite improvement in comfort with a cleaner fit around the arms. As this seam is ‘over-engineered’, fit and shape are more durable, withstanding wash after wash Standard overlock seam Standard overlock seam Standard overlock seam Standard overlock seam
Branding No external logos No external logos Logo on front breast No external logos Logo on front breast
Fit Straight fit  Straight fit  Slim fit Slim fit Straight fit
Provenance Fabric knitted in Italy, garment made in Portugal Made in Turkey Marked as "Imported" Not disclosed Not disclosed

 

Guide to Buying a Polo Shirt - The Do's and Don'ts

When shopping for a new polo shirt, the fit of the polo is the most important thing to get right: it should be comfortable around the shoulders, arms and torso, neither too slim nor overly loose. The sleeves should reach to mid-bicep to show just the right amount of arm. We prefer a front placket which has been 'set-on' meaning that it is fashioned from an entirely separate piece of fabric (rather than simply cut into the main body of the shirt) and is considerably more complicated to manufacture - it gives the front of the polo a defined appearance and is the hallmark of real craftsmanship. To finish, the classic placket has no more than three buttons.

For flexibility, we recommend avoiding overly 'sporty' polo shirts unless that is the sole purpose of buying it. As such, select a polo with a moderate hem split (no more than an inch) with no extended or so-called tennis tail.

For flexibility, we recommend avoiding overly 'sporty' polo shirts unless that is the sole purpose of buying it. As such, select a polo with a moderate hem split (no more than an inch) with no extended or so-called tennis tail.

A note on buttons: a high quality mother-of-pearl button custom dyed to match a Pantone colour can cost around 50 pence or £2 per polo shirt (three buttons on the placket and one spare on the care label). Compare this with plastic buttons which typically cost less than 5 pence per piece. There are also imitation mother-of-pearl buttons which are better than a plastic button but are no substitute for the real thing.

 

Polo Shirt with Mother-of-Pearl Buttons

 

Make quality: we can't stress enough how important the make quality of a polo shirt is. We have inspected sample products from many factories around the world and there is often a huge variance in how well the garments are put together. The approach to quality control will differ depending on what other brands a particular factory produce for. If the factory typically makes for 'fast fashion', there simply isn't the time or inclination to ensure to a close enough extent that, for example, each size in any particular style precisely matches the others. For polo shirts, we prefer brands which rely on suppliers which are based in Europe. Countries such as Italy and Portugal have a long history and expertise of working with jersey fabric. 

  

Designer Polo Shirt

  

Lastly, the question of whether you brand which adds a logo or not. This is a matter of individual preference but we recommend that if you do choose a polo shirt with a logo that the logo itself is relatively small. Remember that the presence of a logo on your clothes is rarely there for your benefit!

On all measures then Niccolò P. polo shirts stand apart as using the best available materials and make techniques compared with more established brands. As a true direct-to-customer business (and polo shirt specialist), Niccolò P. does not have to bear the significant costs of a physical store network and associated management expense. For this reason, the brand is compromise-free and uses - demonstrably - the very best fabrics in the world while still pricing significantly below equivalent traditional retail (a polo shirt with comparable features from the other brands featured here would cost in the region of £130).