black business casual polo with khaki pants
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The Business Casual Polo (The Perfect Polo for Work)

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You might be wondering; what is a business casual polo? Does such a thing even exist? You might be saying in your head, “I thought polo shirts were casual wear and could not be worn as part of business casual attire”.

Well, things have changed. Workplaces have become more and more casual over the years and unless you are a lawyer or work at Wall Street, you probably don’t need to wear a suit every day; maybe not even a tie with a dress shirt. In fact, most workplaces now refer to their dress rules as business casual.

Polo shirts which were once thought to be just a step above a t-shirt in formality (which really isn’t saying much) are now considered acceptable and proper business casual attire in many workplaces.

Are Polos Business Casual?

So does that mean you can wear any polo shirt to work? The answer is no. The business casual polo shirt has to have certain qualities in order to make it appropriate for business casual attire. Here is a list of things to look out for:

What to Look for in a Business Casual Polo

Color

You want the color of the polo shirt to be solid which means little to no patterns. No stripes, polka dots or other color variations since they will make the polo shirt too casual for business casual attire. Instead opt for black, variations of gray, navy, brown, dark green, burgundy and other neutrals. If you are just starting out, I recommend getting black, dark gray and navy. These will serve you well and will go with a host of pant combinations.

Fabric

You probably own an athletic polo shirt that you use for sports with the shiny ‘plasticy’ fabric, company logo (think Nike, Adidas et cetera), and bright neon color. This is exactly the type of polo that you don’t want to wear as part of a business casual outfit.

Not a Business Casual Polo: Fabric is overly shiny and the color is too loud. There is also a logo with Adidas on it (not exactly a brand known for business casual attire).

red polo shirt
Source: Adidas

Instead, you want to look at a polo made from a solid 100% cotton or cotton blend fabric that has a smooth and clean look, no logos (maybe a small one is okay), and a neutral color (black, navy, gray, burgundy, dark green et cetera). This type of fabric is smooth to the touch, is not overly shiny and drapes wonderfully.

black business casual polo with khaki pants

The fabric you want to go for is referred to as interlock cotton or interlock cotton blend. It won’t say this on the label but you can tell it is interlock fabric if it is made from cotton or a cotton blend and has a silky texture.

I especially love the luxury touch polos from Banana Republic which fit this criterion well. The fabric is incredibly soft, feels like silk, has wonderful color consistency and drapes really well.

Many brands make interlock cotton polos and each brand refers to their version with a different name. I have linked below to some recommended polo shirts that are perfect for business casual wear.

Business Casual Polo Outfit

This is a great way to style a polo shirt for a business casual look. The polo shirt is well-fitted, has a neutral navy color and is tucked in. The pants are light grey chinos and the shoes are medium brown leather boots. This is a great business casual look for summer.

What shoes should you wear with business casual attire? Check out Business Casual Shoes.

What about Pique Polo Shirts?

Pique polos (pique refers to the fabric that has small indentations that feel slightly rough to the touch) have gotten a bad reputation as of late and are not typically recommended for business casual wear. Although I agree that many pique polo shirts have a fabric that is too rough and as such looks too casual, not all pique polo shirts are bad news.

In fact, the polo shirt I am wearing in the outfit above is a Massimo Dutti pique cotton polo shirt. The fabric has small indentations but they are not noticeable unless looked upon with a closely. Moreover, the fabric is smooth and drapes well and I find it looks great and is perfect for business casual.

Fit

No matter how fine the fabric is, a polo shirt that does not fit your body well will never look good. You want a polo shirt with a straight to slim fit that fits your shoulders and chest well and drapes cleanly down your torso. You also want to avoid sleeves that are too loose which looks sloppy and makes your polo shirt look too casual. The sleeves should fit the width of your arm and you should not have more than 1 inch of room between your upper bicep and the polo shirt sleeve opening.

Well fitting polo perfect for Business Casual Attire

perfect fitting business casual off white shirt
Source: Ralph Lauren

Business Casual Polo tucked or untucked?

If you are wearing a business casual polo shirt to work make sure you tuck it in. The polo shirt is more casual than a typical business casual collared shirt. So making sure you make the polo look as formal as possible is incredibly important. And the first step is making sure you tuck it in.

How to Wear a Polo Shirt

You can pair the polo shirt with any of your business casual pants and dress shoes. During the warmer months, pair a short sleeve polo shirt with chinos and khakis for a sharp business casual look.

Long sleeve polo shirts are also becoming popular these days and are a great option during the cooler months. Pair them with wool dress pants and dress shoes for a unique yet perfectly appropriate business casual look.

Calvin Klein Liquid Touch Polo

Ralph Lauren Interlock Polo

Banana Republic Luxury Touch Polo

Final Thoughts

This is the business casual polo you want to look out for. Follow the tips I listed in the article and you will definitely distinguish which polo shirts are great for business casual attire and which are not.

Looking for fall outfits? Check out “10 Amazing Fall Outfits For Men”