The polo shirt: a staple of modern smart-casual style and one of menswear’s true hero pieces. It’s your go-to garment anytime a button-up shirt is too much, but a T-shirt too little, elevating your casual looks while lending dressier outfits an air of considered nonchalance.
It’s hard to imagine how this wonder garment could possibly get any better. But it can, and knitted polo shirts are the irrefutable proof.
This upscale take on the classic polo shirt is smarter than its pique counterpart but still casual enough to retain all of its laid-back benefits. It’s the sort of thing you can wear with tailoring but also jeans and trainers, making each look that little bit more stylish and purposeful.
But not all knitted polo shirts were created equal. That’s why we wanted to arm you with a list of the best knitted polo shirt brands out there. From historic British knitwear names to the finest in Italian cashmere opulence; here you’ll find our pick of the places to invest in one of your own, along with some key information to aid you in your quest for the perfect polo.
Knitted Polo Shirts vs. Traditional Polo Shirts
So, why choose a knitted polo shirt over a more traditional pique version? After all, pique is classic – the go-to polo shirt material since day dot.
Pique is great, there’s no denying that. But it can look a little out of sorts when worn with anything smarter than a pair of chinos. A knitted polo, on the other hand, can happily mingle with blazers and dress pants, but won’t turn its nose up at jeans and trainers either. Put simply, it’s sartorial reach is greater, and the little touch of luxury it brings to any outfit is just an added bonus.
Like pique cotton, knitwear has texture on its side. This is great as it allows a simple garment to stand out. It can create a subtle point of focus within an otherwise understated ensemble, enabling you to create eye-catching outfits without straying into ‘statement’ territory.
Knitted Polo Shirt Buying Considerations
Before parting with your cash, there are a few things you’ll need to consider. Knitted polo shirts can be fairly pricey, particularly when you start looking at cashmere options, so you’ll want to make sure you’re making the most of your purchase. Here’s what to look out for when browsing.
Generally speaking, fabric is the biggest detail that will determine the price of your knitted polo. At the bottom of the ladder, a cotton knit is wallet friendly but lacks that super-fine texture and softness that allow knitted polos to hang so nicely.
That’s why merino wool is usually the best bet. It’s light, soft, warm, breathable, regulates temperature and drapes beautifully. You’ll find that this is the most common material when it comes to knitted polos and it’s perfectly possible to find great options without bankrupting yourself.
At the top end, you have cashmere and blends thereof. This luxurious fabric famed for its softness is perfect for knitted polos but it comes with a significant price penalty. High-end cashmere polos can easily fetch into the hundreds, with some Italian brands’ offerings even creeping into the thousands. Whether that trademark warmth and softness is worth it is entirely up to you.
Long Sleeve vs. Short Sleeve
The next big question is what sleeve length to opt for. Thankfully, this is an easy one. It all comes down to when you’re planning to wear your knitted polo – short-sleeve shirts being better in the warmer months and long-sleeve versions being better suited to cooler weather and wearing with smarter pieces like suits, dress pants and sports coats.
Fit is extremely important when it comes to selecting the right knitted polo shirt. Because of the ribbed hem and fine but relatively weighty fabric, knitted polos tend to fit more like fine-gauge jumpers than traditional polo shirts. However, you’ll probably be wearing yours next to your skin, so the sizing should account for the fact that there’ll be no layers underneath.
Therefore, the fit should be trim but not tight, allowing the fabric to drape nicely without clinging to the body. Length-wise, aim for somewhere around your best-fitting T-shirt, and make sure the arm seams sit neatly on the shoulders.
The Best Knitted Polo Shirt Brands
Using only finest pure cashmere and silk-cashmere blends from Cariaggi – a company with almost 60 years of experience and three generations of successful product research and innovation – Luca Faloni’s knitted polos are the epitome of understated luxury.
Available as a long-sleeved option that is perfect for slotting into smart-causal looks, try wearing one on its own with chinos at the weekend or layering it underneath a sports coat for weekday events.
East London’s Percival is a great place to pick up understated menswear pieces with a distinctly British flavour. The brand offers quite an extensive range of knitted polos, all with a subtle hint of 1970s style and available in either short- or long-sleeved options. Expect muted and autumnal shades, subtle stripe detailing and the occasional eye-catching print.
Swedish direct-to-consumer menswear brand ASKET makes high-quality wardrobe staples that boast a premium feel for a reasonable price. The knitted polo is one of only a handful of garments the label has deemed to be an ‘essential’ and therefore features in its permanent range. Expect soft merino fabric, impeccable attention to detail and precisions fits as standard.
Closed’s background may be in denim, but since the late 1970s, this German label has been producing a full range of men’s and women’s clothing, including a fantastic knitwear selection. The knitted polos are made from a fine-gauge pure cotton fabric and feature mother-of-pearl buttons. The colour palette consists of a range of versatile, muted tones, with one or two more vibrant options thrown in for those looking to add a pop of colour to their outfits as well as a touch of texture.
If you’re in search of an affordable option, high-street mainstay Uniqlo is hard to beat. From Oxford shirts to raw-denim jeans, many of the Japanese brand’s basics are known for their unparalleled value for money. We’d like to make a case for Uniqlo’s knitted polo shirts too. Offering phenomenal bang for your buck, they are crafted from 100% merino wool at prices that won’t break the bank.
A Day’s March
Another Scandi direct-to-consumer brand we love is A Day’s March. It was the immaculately-cut overshirts that first drew us in but it soon became apparent there was more to this label than just top-quality shackets. Take the knitted polo shirts for example, which are crafted from 100% merino wool and available in a muted colour palette that ensures they slot seamlessly into any winter wardrobe with ease.
Premium menswear retailer Reiss has a reputation for producing contemporary classics, and their selection of knitted polos proves why. Available in quality merino wool or knitted cotton, they feature a wealth of modern details including zipped and open collars, tipped sleeves and ribbed waist and cuffs, giving them a thoroughly sporty, of-the-moment feel.
If it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us. British label John Smedley is famed for its luxurious knitwear, of which polos are a large part. The brand is one of the world’s most respected names in fine-gauge knitted goods and has been leading the way since 1784.
British label Sunspel is the best in the business when it comes to premium basics. The brand’s garments are all made right here in England and the T-shirts and underwear in particular have a long-earned reputation for being the best a man can get. But don’t overlook the knitted polos. Sunspel has a wide range of them – woven from sea-island cotton, merino and more – with both short-sleeve and long-sleeve versions available.
Mr Porter’s in-house label is known for bringing its own unique brand of understated luxury to some of menswear’s all-time classic silhouettes. Of course, knitted polo shirts are no exception, with plenty of typically tasteful options available, ranging from honeycomb-knit short sleeves perfect for summer, to merino long sleeves to tackle winter in style.
At almost a century old, Loro Piana has established itself as the world’s foremost name in luxury cashmere. The knitted polo shirts on offer here are some of the finest you’ll find, but expect to see some pretty eye-watering price tags to match. Still, if you have the money for it, this authentic Italian brand is hard to beat. The quality of fabric on offer is second to none.
Brunello Cucinelli is another Italian name that earned its reputation through the production of high-end cashmere garments. The label now carries a full ready-to-wear collection that features everything from tailoring to trainers, but fine cashmere is at the core of it all. Again, the knitted polos available here are definitely at the upper end of the pricing spectrum, but the industry-leading quality means they are worth every penny.