The polo shirt under knitwear

Wednesday, November 27th 2019
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I have a particular problem with crewneck sweaters. 

Although I love them, I find my relatively long neck means they don’t look good without a collar underneath. I need a shirt, rather than just a T-shirt. 

It’s the reason I sometimes wear neckerchiefs or bandanas at the neck - and developed some specifically for that purpose, with Begg & Co. 

But I can’t wear them all the time - it is a rather particular look if nothing else. And there are days at the weekend when I don’t want to wear a shirt (or just want to save on the ironing).

That was why I remarked, briefly, in my article on new Swedish brand Rubato, that I liked the way they styled polo shirts underneath knitwear. 

I have tried polo shirts underneath knits before, years ago. 

But the polo always felt a little bulky, as it’s so much thicker than a shirt. And the collar never seemed to sit right. It was too small, or perhaps too rounded, to work well. 

After exhaustively trying polo shirts and knitwear following that Rubato piece (good styling will do that to you - both inspire and obsess) I think I’ve found out why. 

This is nothing revelatory. But basically, the polo shirt underneath has to have a collar that’s more like a shirt, so it stands up well inside the collar of the crewneck. 

And the knitwear has to be thick enough that the addition of a polo underneath it doesn’t feel disproportionate. 

The point about the collar is one that drove The Armoury to develop their range of polo shirts, as it’s the same things that make a polo work under a tailored jacket. 

And of course it was related to the design of our Friday Polos. 

However, the material of the Friday Polo is a bit too thick. Plus, we no longer offer short-sleeved versions, and short sleeves are better with the bulk issue. 

So Armoury polos it is. Of the seven brands I own (Armoury, Permanent Style, Orlebar Brown, Aspesi, Smedley, Fedeli, Testoria Korea), theirs were the best. 

Only Testoria and PS came close - only those three have a collar designed this way. (Though I see Thom Sweeney ones are also good there - I just haven’t tried them.)

It sits up high above the neckline of the sweater, has a sharp fold to it, and sweeps back neatly from the front. 

This is due to some combination of the proper ‘stand’ on the collar, the fineness of the cotton piqué, the structure of both stand and collar, and the spread of the cut.

In the pictures here, I’m wearing a white short-sleeved Armoury polo under a cashmere crewneck from Luca Faloni

The Faloni knit is fairly light, and only just works. 

Anything lighter and the polo would show through at the ends of the short sleeves, and you’d feel like you were stretching something thin over something thick. 

Better is a chunkier cashmere or a shetland sweater (like my cream one from Trunk). 

I find this combination works well, and it does feel more relaxed and casual - more sporty, in an old-fashioned way - than a regular shirt. 

I now regularly wear this with casual trousers such as chinos (Stoffa or Armoury Army chinos) and suede loafers. The coat is a recent commission from Saman Amel, which I'll hopefully cover soon.

As regards colour of polos, by the way, I find this very narrow. 

White is good, cream is OK, and with certain colours of knitwear, pale grey is good as well. 

But that’s about it. It’s like the colours of regular shirts: it’s mostly these and variations on pale blue that look best under knitwear. And unfortunately, it’s very hard to find a good pale blue in piqué. 

Perhaps inevitably, given things I’ve been inspired by recently, there is something Ivy about this way of wearing a polo shirt. 

The pictured outfit is too sleek of course, but with those Armoury chinos it would be bang on. Even white socks. 

Which is also place to mention that I can’t abide the collar of a polo shirt turned up. 

This is highly subjective. It’s entirely based on my culture and age. But for me a popped polo is too reminiscent of posh, idiotic school boys. 

Yet I have no such negative associations with white socks. Unlike my wife, who thinks they’re horribly naff.

These are our prejudices. Upon which, sadly, many ideas of clothing and style are based.  

One final thing: a regular shirt under a knit like this will always be safest, and perhaps always look best. 

I am not suggesting that a polo is a replacement for that, or that it will work for everybody. 

Merely that it is a nice occasional alternative. And I’ve found, works for me in these particular parameters. 

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Anonymous

Interesting. Wouldn’t your lightweight polos address the issue of thickness?

Nicholas

Simon. Beautiful coat. Can I ask the details?

Nicolas Stromback

I get sweaty just looking at these pictures! Which I find is the problem for us warm-blooded people these days. Its just not possible to layer like this when indoors. I find layering knitwear to be a lot warmer than just wearing a suit jacket and a shirt. Im guessing this has to do with the fact that the jacket is more open and the wool isnt as close to the body as knitwear will be. Its such a shame though. I love the look and feel a heavy, cashmere sweater. But Im not sure if it will ever be worth the investment.

Nicolas Stromback

Would you say there is a difference is the knitwear is a cash/silk mix? I havent tried that but thinking of it, especially the new Saman Amel line.

Nicolas Stromback

Yes, the Finest Knitwear has been on my list of things I’d like to try. Its only sizing that has left me wondering, as I have a somewhat heavy frame and most RTW knitwear tend to be too tight around the waist and shoulders when the length is right. Would you say its possible to change the length in this sense and go for a bigger size?

Nicolas Stromback

Oh, thats alright. For next year then 🙂

Robin

A good time to ask the following…

With a crew neck wearing a shirt …. collar out or in?
Likewise , with a v neck collar out or in?
And finally , which is better (more appropriate) with a shirt collar …. a crew neck or v neck ?

Thanks

Anonymous

Interesting. In terms of chunkier knitwear (crewneck), do you prefer cashmere or shetland/lambswool?

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I used to frequently wear broadfall point and spear point and even OCBDs with the collar points unfastened, beneath V-neck sweaters with either the top button fastened, or with a necktie, and the collar points laid atop the sweater. I hardly do it anymore, but it is rather stylish, I think. I started to do this after I saw one of my Grandfather’s old photographs from the 1930s where he and some of his friends were wearing their shirts and sweaters together like this. It appealed to me. They were doing the same things after the war as well, from the photographs.

Evan Everhart

The tie was under the sweater, the collar points, were not.

Ben

Very interesting discussion here Simon. How about your lightweight long sleeves Friday Polo with Rubato crewneck?

Would it work as well as yours shown here?

Rob

Hi Simon,

Thank you for this very informative article. When wearing shirts with crew necks, do you favour a particular type of shirt collar and fabric? And would you also recommend keeping the crewneck slightly heavier when wearing with shirt?

Thanks Rob

shoddy

Really interesting piece, Simon.
Were you consciously channeling Tintin?
https://s14-eu5.startpage.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=https%3A%2F%2Fencrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com%2Fimages%3Fq%3Dtbn%3AANd9GcTQBcQId6zZHMSGBNCQ2hAN2osU8R5HIctouHZbv7TEJmcnkRzj%26s&sp=9e7d1dd383ec8ee4dabb8cbf99834e02&anticache=502502
I’m quite serious though. I have the same issue with my neck and crew-necks. The best option with shirts seems to be buttondown collars which stand up the right way. But what about having the shirt points outside the collar? – a la Tintin; or possibly Prince George. It’s definitely a look, although one perhaps better suited to the young. It doesn’t work with that cut-away style of collar, but IMHO can look nice with an ordinary style of polo collar not the fancy Italian shirt-style sort. Not sure whether it’s unfashionable or high-fashion.

shoddy

I guess it’s a matter of taste comment image?crop=1xw:1xh;center,top&resize=980:*
btw I completely forgot to ask – have you tried the luca falone polo shirts and if so what do you think.

Martin

What do you think about polo shirts with a button down collar?

E L

You say that there are some days you don’t want to wear a shirt, but I am not exactly sure why you feel this way. I know you mention ironing, but with a button-down collar you don’t need to iron if you are wearing the sweater under a crewneck: that’s a third the fun of wearing a sweater. Also, I get the feeling that many people don’t like to wear shirts all the time, because most shirts are too tight an thus less comfortable, and also because many shirts are too structured.

Luca

Hi Simon,
Very interesting!
Any experience with Sunspel Riviera polo?
Thanks!

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

Love this article! I too am a fan of polo shirts under knitwear, however I typically wear Shetland or alpaca knitwear, so it can be a bit scratchy, I also don’t like to wear short sleeves under long sleeves, so I typically opt for the PRL polo shirts with the spread dress shirt collar as yrs has, but which also have long sleeves and buttoned cuffs. He used to offer a model called the “Featherweight” which really solved a lot of the issues which yr describing, as well as his standard pique knit fabric made up in the self same shirt. I think he still does offer them, occasionally, but you have to keep yr eyes open to catch them before they’re gone.

I like to wear mine with Summer Tweeds instead of my usual Oxford and pinpoint Oxford cloth shirts, namely because it’s becoming harder and harder to find good end-on-end or actual Madras that is woven by hand and hence, breaths!

I typically wear a crimson polo under some of my more neutral sweaters, or as a stand alone with sport coats or blazers in the heat for casual activities, or a navy blue or white or cream one the rest of the time. The navy looks handsome under a natural colored Shetland sweater, as does a rust one which I used to have……

I am also a fan of mint or sea-foam green polos or mustard colored ones to pair with my extensive collection of Shetlands and alpacas in both saddle shouldered crew neck model, and in cardigans.

Thanks for this! Great Look!

Oh! -And regarding the white socks! Try the Wigwam natural white or super white rag wool socks! They’re very comfy and the original, well as close as, now that Adler’s is no more. I believe that L.L. Bean also offer them, but I couldn’t swear to it.

Strangely, I found none at Mes Chaussettes Rouges, but perhaps its more of an Americanism as it does derive from Ivy League Style and general American Casual/Traditional.

Love these Articles! Thanks Simon! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Evan Everhart

Thanks, Simon! It is always a pleasure to read yr exceptionally well thought out articles and to see things from yr perspective! I agree on the propensity of the Japanese to take something, run with it, and make something entirely charming and unexpected out of it. I still get my Wigwam socks, though I honestly wish that someone made natural unbleached “white” or more closely Winter white over the calf woolen socks, or rag woolen socks. The Wigwam ones are quite warm, but don’t stay up to well except in the women’s models which are never dense enough. I did have a cream colored cable knit cashmere pair for many years, that I only wore for certain occasions (Cricket Matches while watching, and Tennis Matches, also while watching), but as with most cashmere hosiery, they eventually wore out….I remember a saying, one is none, two is one, and 3 is a spare. I think that there is something to that, at least with delicate items that can receive moderate to heavy wear and are not something which can be merely re-ordered from one’s tailor. Anyhow, as always, thank you for sharing!

Kenny

I wear a crewneck jumper on most days during the autumn. Underneath, my choice is an Oxford cotton or flannel shirt. A polo shirt, even with a high collar, just doesn’t look right on me and it’s a just a bit too casual.

A silk scarf or cravat adds some extra colour, warmth and protection from the rain. They are a practical and smart, but still casual, alternative to neckties. Mine are made of paisley madder silk. What’s your opinion on cravats?

Your wife is right about white socks. They are horribly naff and are only suitable for sport.

Kenny

I love cashmere scarves too but it’s not quite cold enough in London for them at the moment.

Evan Everhart

Simon,

Have you tried the Hindi prayer shawls in loose weave cotton? I have 2 that I regularly wear, one in bright canary with rust block printing, and one in dark curry, also with rust block printing. They are quirky, but because of the weave, despite it’s delicacy, it actually does wonderfully keeping yr neck warm! The dark curry one is rather short, so I typically tie it in a square knot, and wear it as a cravat, the other one is much longer, so I fold it in half and draw the open end through the loop of the fold, or wear it as a neck and chest warming shawl beneath coats when I’m wearing tweeds or sportier clothes and need to keep my neck warm. They are quite handsome, available in a wide array of colors, and quite functional and the traditional motifs which look as if they could have come from the bronze or early iron age have a certain eccentric appeal.

Nick

I have a nice pale, pinkish-purple polo from Tommorrowland in Japan, which I often wear with a crew neck. It also has a good, high collar. I particularly like it under a pale-grey Loopwheeler sweatshirt, although that is more casual than discussed here.

Although I never really thought about it, I generally wear smarter shirts with the collar over the sweater and the polo or a OCBD with the collar beneath the sweater. That might just be due to slight differences in the shape of the collars but I have never really considered over-the-sweater to be a ‘look.’ Perhaps over-the-sweater might be considered a little more formal?

James

Excellent article as usual. What’s your opinion on knitted polo shirts over button-down collar oxford shirts? Drake’s use this combination in their look books and i’ve seen it elsewhere (Anglo-Italian i think) but i’ve never been convinced by the two collars. Any thoughts appreciated.

Orestis

Check out Cordone polos, long sleeved though. More broad collar and height.

Anonymous

On style: a popped collar has a particular sporting use for those who wear them (polo, yachting, tennis etc.) in that it protects against the sun and is part of the sportif phrasing of dress in that domain. When worn casually, in hot, sunny weather, it seems a reasonable adaptation.
https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/fashion/02nacho.html
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/556687203915143985/
Regrettably the mode for white socks, as your wife indicates, doesn’t travel well outside of the US as they are taken as gym socks and therefore unsuitable with any street, casual or tailoring wear. With tailoring IMHO they particularly lack style.

VSF

Best to listen to your wife concerning the white socks Simon. They’re fine for school boys, but on grown men should be relegated to their proper role of being worn during athletic and/or outdoor activities only.

James

This just looks like a white shirt under a sweater which I think defeats the purpose of the polo under knitwear look. I think what makes the Rubato styling successful is the shorter, rounded polo collar that they flip up over the sweater to give it an effortless, nonchalant feeling.

Anonymous

I understand that the illustrations serve the purpose of the article but as the article features a particular product, across six images, we only see the collar. As another commenter said re. the Vestrucci suit where is a clear image of the trousers? Were it not for the text I would have thought that it was the coat being featured. PS images, though well taken, are often static, similar (4&5) and lack variety of illustration: combined they sometimes undermine the ability of the reader to fully appreciate the garments or points featured.

The following provides alternative examples.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/326933254195241523/
https://www.thesartorialist.com/at-al-bazar/
I don’t suggest the generic style as follows:
https://www.mrporter.com/en-gb/mens/product/sid_mashburn/pima-cotton-pique-polo-shirt/1180450

JB

Funny how similar yet different one can view things. I quite like the friday polos under my cashmere crew necks. The thickness doesn’t bother me since my sweaters aren’t the super fine/thin kinds anyway. But I much prefer a a long sleeve to a short sleeve. I like having a bit of cuff showing even if it’s a polo, and I also feel it improves longivety of the sweater, as sharp elbows tends to wear out knitwear sooner or later. Whether that has any scientific relevance, I don’t know.
My main issue with layering knitwear and polos however is simply that the pique fabric and the wool get stuck on each other, so it’s a pain to put off and on. Not a huge issue in the beginning and end of the day, but a bit more so when taking the sweater off and on during the day in the office etc.

Campanari

I wear crewnecks most days nine months of the chilly year in the northern US, and under them, typically, rollnecks/turtlenecks: merino, silk, Pima cotton, silk-and-cashmere, etc. Most of the problems with shirts and polos are mooted—thickness, colour, warmth, strange lumps mid-arm where short sleeves end, fabric texture, collar placement, protection for the front of the neck—and I can take off the crewneck if I like without looking like a refugee from a resort. Since you, Simon, have recently written in praise of rollnecks, why don’t you turn to them here?

Axel

I wonder if there is a chance to combine a linnen shirt with knitwear?
Would this work?

Chris

Hi Simon,

Interesting – thank you. Love this look.

I have a three Luca Faloni cashmere jumpers in the various styles they do. I’ve been trying to pair them with the Luca Faloni polo shirts (long and short sleeve) with their cashmere jumpers for the last couple of years, and I physically cannot wear them together. The two materials stick together like velcro, and it makes it unwearable, it’s bizarre. The LF polos also stick, although not so severely, against merino too.

Which sadly limits the use of the LF polos to the summer daytime or only with a jacket. A shame as the brand’s style perfectly suits a summers evening, where you would want to throw on a knit at dinner or like you have in these pics.

I had, therefore, thought it was a general polo/jumper issue – but sounds like the problem is with the material used in the Luca Faloni polos.

Have you or any readers find this problem too. Equally any ideas why the two materials stick together?

Regards,
A puzzled Chris!

Bobby Reed

That coat is yummy

Anonymous

You should definitely try Otero menswear. I found them to be the best fitting polo anywhere. It’s off the rack but looks and fits as if custom made. Looks beautiful under my sweaters and definitely not bulky or hot

Will

Slightly off topic, Simon – I can’t tell if it’s the tonality of the photos or something else but, also having a beard of similar form, I noticed yours is looking particularly luscious and I wondered if you use any type of balm or something else that assists in that.

And, if I might be so bold, might I suggest you do a piece on facial hair grooming as I’ve noticed this evening too that your moustache is possibly tweaked to shape (but it might just naturally be that shape), but, either way, kudos as it looks the part.

Greg Coleman

Good morning Simon,
I’ve just seen this very useful post. Now that I work from home on a regular basis, my default clothing tends to be a polo shirt under a pullover or a (smart) sweat shirt.
The Armoury polo looks very smart – although they’re rather pricey. It would be good to look at them before actually buying, but it seems the only Armoury stores are in HK and NY. Are you aware of any other shops that stock their products in the UK? Alternatively, these might be a popular product at a future PS pop up?
You mention Orlebar Brown polos (among others). While I really like the style and cut of their Sebastian polos, I’ve found their quality to be very poor, given the price. I must have bought nearly a dozen over the years, but holes quickly appear under the sleeves – where the material meets the sleeve band. This seems to happen within months, even though they’re being worn in rotation and apart from this are as good as new. Orlebar Brown customer service have been extremely dismissive when I’ve raised this with them. I’d be interested to know whether other readers have had similar problems, or whether I have toxic armpits?!
Best regards, Greg

Tristan Rayson-Hill

Hi Simon,
I notice that you have been wearing a raglan sleeved overcoat quite a lot recently. Would it be something you would ever order bespoke?
Kind regards,
Tristan

Rups

What is the coat you are wearing in these photos Simon? & Material looks very interesting too) Rups

H

Would you recommend for Testoria ones mentioned above? I’m looking at the Armoury ones too – but Testoria has some really nice colours (Ivory and Khaki) that the Armoury don’t.