What Exactly is a Knit Polo?

What Exactly is a Knit Polo?

Before the polo became a staple piece for the modern man, it was a garment with roots deeply ingrained in sport – worn by polo players, of course, and then perfected by none other than Jean René Lacoste. The tennis legend came up with a design that traded in the sport’s customary long-sleeve dress shirt for a style much easier to wear, with short sleeves, a flexible placket and collar, and of course, a customary crisp white color to fall in line with tennis dress codes.

The rest, you might say, is history, but it’s not quite that simple. The polo shirt is steeped in tradition, and modern varieties now abound in more colors, fits and fabrications than Lacoste might have ever dreamed up. The knit polo should be of particular interest for the modern man, as it’s different from the classic polo shirt – yet no less wearable, stylish or essential from season to season. 

What Is a Knit Polo? 

At Anatoly & Sons, we stock several varieties of knit polo shirts, and all are made from super soft, fine-gauge knits. But more on that in a second.

Think back to home economics class, and learning to knit or weave. Knitting interloops yarns, while weaving interlaces them. 

So, while the majority of polo shirts are made from knitted fabric, they’re not actually all technically “knit polos” – classic polo shirts are often made by cutting and sewing fabric panels together, although – once again – they do use knit fabric. 

But a true knit polo is known as “fully fashioned” in the industry. Instead of sewing individual pieces together, the yarns are knitted along the seams (similar to what you see on sweaters). A knit polo has better stretch and elasticity, and resists wrinkles easily. 

riva charcoal polo

You might not have given it much thought, but standard t-shirts also use knitted material, but the pieces are almost always sewn together. Fully fashioned or not, polos obviously differ from t-shirts, and are considered more formal. A polo shirt features a two or three-button placket (or else an open spread “V” placket) and that classic foldover collar, for starters. They’re also more likely to feature ribbed cuffs at either the bicep (on a short-sleeve polo) or at the wrist (on a long-sleeve polo), as well as a ribbed bottom hem, giving the shirt structure and a polished drape. 

What Are Common Materials for a Knit Polo? 

Knitted polos also separate themselves from the pack with fabric options aplenty, each of them more luxurious than the last. Take a material like merino wool, which is incredibly soft and durable, as opposed to a cheaper fabric like a textured slub cotton. It’s the same material you might find in a sweater, just knit into a “fully fashioned” polo. 

The result? A dressy polo with a noticeably smooth finish and a more crisp, formal look. 

Make no mistake, knit polos can also be made out of more classic materials, like linen or cotton. The difference is in the details, as in: The way the shirt itself is fashioned.  

But back to that classic piqué knit that first defined the polo shirt under the Lacoste brand. When compared to single knit jersey fabric (which is light, smooth, and stretchy), piqué knits are a little bit on the heavier side and more durable, making them ideal companions for tennis players and golfers. More importantly, piqué knit fabric allows for increased air flow via its waffle-like structure. You’ll see this pattern if you look closely at the knit, which resembles a series of small geometric dots. 

Another common polo knit is the jersey knit, which can come in either single knit or double-knit construction. These knits have a vertical rib pattern, giving it extra crosswise stretch. As we said before, the single-knit will be less durable because it’s not as thick as the double-knit, but it makes up for it if you need something lightweight. The double-knit, on the other hand, will be a bit less stretchy, but will keep its shape well.

Think of the difference in fabric weights and stitches like the construction of a jacket: A jacket with half or butterfly lining is going to hang differently and often prove more durable than an unlined jacket. The important thing for the consumer to know is that, whether they decide to get a piqué or jersey polo, a fully fashioned shirt will be their best choice.

How Should I Wear a Polo Shirt? 

Polo shirts, with their storied heritage and sporting background, still have modern utility today on the court and on the links (and of course, on polo grounds). There are options made from sporty performance fabric by the top athletic brands in the world, which are a fine bet for those who want a sense of polish and performance at the same time. 

But at Anatoly & Sons, we look at the polo as a fine fit for leisurely pursuits and elegant-yet-laidback style. The polo shirt exists in a nice middle ground between, say, a starched dress shirt (sometimes, too formal) and a standard henley or pocket tee (often, too casual). 

grey linen polo with olive green chinos

It’s also more informal than a classic Oxford shirt, and short-sleeve designs provide more comfort in the heat than rolling up the sleeves of one’s Oxford shirt––yet again, there’s that crucial middle ground.

The right polo shirt, especially a fully fashioned option made from a fine-gauge jersey or piqué knit, is every bit as elegant as a button down shirt you’d normally pair with a crisp blazer. A knit polo adds class to chino shorts and leather loafers, and the same look works very well on its own with tailored linen trousers or chinos. 

It dresses up more casual items and adds some refinement to work day looks (provided your office has flexibility with dress code on certain days). And in the right setting, it can even be swapped in for a dress shirt beneath a suit jacket (particularly a suit with some texture, like a linen or linen-cotton blend). 

Polo shirts work well for coastal vacations and waterside dining, and they also add a touch of continental flair to situations where you might normally wear a dress shirt beneath a blazer. 

Shades of navy, olive and cream tend to work well for knit polos in virtually any season, while lighter shades like lilac and light blue wear with particularly effortless style in the warmer months. 

Timeless Knit Polos to Shop Now 

Now that you’ve got the basics down pat, perhaps visions of knit polos are dancing in your head. These are a few of our favorites at Anatoly & Sons:

Anatoly & Sons: Cotton Knit Polo Shirt 

Recall that a knitted polo – one that’s fully fashioned, as ours are constructed – refers to the build of the polo itself. It features the customary ribbed knit bicep cuffs and bottom hem for structure and drape, and corozo nut buttons are another distinguished feature (as is the rich Cream color, ideal for pairing with shades ranging from olive to navy to dark tan). The real point of differentiation here is the use of Zegna Baruffa-milled 100 percent long-staple natural cotton – an eco-conscious, safe material that lends itself to a finely crafted polo in a handsome color. In terms of specs, long-staple cotton features a longer fiber that lends itself to a more premium weave and a more durable finish – in fact, all of our cotton polos at Anatoly’s are made with long-staple cotton. 

Anatoly & Sons: Riva Merino Polo Shirt

Merino wool might seem like a fabric geared solely toward performance, as with jogging pants and hiking T-shirts, but it makes for a fine addition to your wardrobe of stylish, comfortable leisurewear for many of those same qualities. It’s naturally breathable and anti-microbial, and Zegna Baruffa’s merino wool is sourced from Australian merino sheep (the finest and best-quality raw wool you’ll find on the market). Other distinctive touches make it all the more wearable, including the open collar, streamlined without any buttons. It’s got a touch of sprezzatura in a vibrant Light Blue color. 

Anatoly & Sons: Extra Fine Merino Polo Shirt

There’s performance-minded merino wool, which in and of itself makes for a standout polo shirt, and then there’s extra fine merino wool from Zegna Baruffa known as Cashwool®. It’s the only extra fine merino wool yarn made entirely in Italy, and the results are certainly made to be seen and felt. In fact, it feels as soft as cashmere, and at 19.5 microns thick, it’s exceptionally lightweight and breathable while retaining its shape. The entire formula makes for a remarkable polo, finished with handsome corozo nut buttons in a rich Forest Green color. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: “Life is too short for a second-rate polo.”

Anatoly & Sons: Riva Cotton Polo Shirt

For a somewhat less expensive, yet no less premium, polo shirt, opt for timeless cotton in our fine-gauge jersey knit. Like other models of the Riva Polo, it forgoes the buttons for an effortlessly cool look that only gets better when considering the vivid Lilac color. Offset that tone with natural or cream trousers or five pocket pants and dark brown leather loafers: It’s a look that’s practically begging to be worn to a beachside dinner or a rooftop soiree. And yet, if you just want to swap in this breathable cotton polo with stretch chino shorts and navy boat shoes, we wouldn’t blame you. 

Anatoly & Sons: Linen Knit Polo Shirt

Although perhaps more commonly associated with trousers, suiting and blazers, linen makes for a fine knit polo shirt. Linen has a naturally textured feel and weave, and we’ve gone a step further in the design for this option. Look closely and you’ll spot a vertical rib pattern for stretch and durability among the fibers. Like other linen shirts, this gives it breathability – a touch more breathability at that, thanks to the distinctive weave. The cool Grey color is also a wise option to style with everything from rust-colored chinos to olive shorts and navy trousers. 

Anatoly & Sons: Merino Knit Long-Sleeve Polo

Don’t second-guess the wearability of the long-sleeve polo. Although less common than traditional short-sleeve varieties, the long-sleeve option shown here delivers more coverage on breezy nights, making it a nice transitional piece in certain seasons. The long-sleeve polo as a style itself is a sign of “quiet luxury” these days – a sharp alternative to a button up shirt, with a touch more formality than other long-sleeve options. Finely crafted merino makes all the difference here, and the Olive Green color also makes this polo a worthy fall and winter style move. 

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