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When the weather warms up, there are few wardrobe staples more classic or versatile than the polo. But be warned — not all polos are created equal.
In this post I’ll outline what elements you should look for in a well-made and well-fitting polo, why I think Banana Republic’s Luxe Touch Polo delivers the best bang for your buck and how to snag one at a great price.
What to Look for in a Polo
(And What to Avoid)
When I was growing up, my parents worked at a car dealership where the salesmen would all wear ridiculously baggy polo shirts – or “golf shirts,” as we called them. I was brought up believing that a polo should fit loosely and, like a regular button down shirt, be long enough to tuck into my pants.
Oh, how wrong I was.
As I got a bit older I started to realize something: all of the style icons I admired looked very different in a polo than the car salesmen I grew up with. The main difference? The guys I admired wore polos that hugged their bodies, not draped over them like the male version of a sun dress.
How a Polo Should Fit
You want a polo that’s cut to fit closely to your body and sits just below your belt line, not just below your ass. Not only should you never tuck it in, you shouldn’t even be able to (at least not comfortably).
The sleeves should have an elastic band that either touches all parts of your arm or comes very close. Even if you haven’t started on a fitness plan and don’t feel like you’re offering two tickets to the gun show just yet, tighter sleeves on your polo will be much more flattering to your arms than a huge, billowing sleeve.
Sleeve length is a matter of personal preference, but generally speaking you want it to come down just slightly less than halfway to your elbow.
Want a quick visual reference of how your polo should fit? In this (as in so many things) James Bond sets the standard. Your goal should be to find a polo that re-creates, or at least approximates, Daniel Craig’s look here. In fact, follower Daniel Craig’s lead is a good rule of thumb not just for polos, but for pretty much every other piece of menswear.
In his multiple turns as Bond, Craig has mastered the modern classic look by evoking men’s style icons of yore, particularly Steve McQueen, who’s something of a legend in the world of menswear. (Check out my post about Steve McQueen, Style Icon to find out what made him such a paragon of personal style.)
Why The BR Luxe Touch Stands Out
Bond on a Budget
In my experience, the BR Luxe Touch polo does this damn near perfectly. I don’t think I’ve ever found a better option to complement my frame (I’m 5’9”, about 170 pounds): the cut, length and sleeves are all perfectly in proportion, which is the primary reason that these polos have become my go-to warm weather shirts over the past couple of years.
In his recent roundup of affordable polos, Joe over at Dappered named the Luxe Touch “Best in Show,” and for good reason.
I’m not going to tell you how many I own, but I’ll confess that it’s a number that would not make you go, “Well yes, that’s a normal number of polos to have.”
Part of my enthusiasm for the Luxe Touch line can be found right in its name: luxury touch, indeed. These things have a smooth, almost silky feel, making them both look and feel like they cost much more than they do (more on price below).
While BR’s website lists these things as being “100% Cotton,” the difference between these shirts and the similarly fitting pique polo from BR’s sister brand The Gap is noticeable to both the eye and the skin.
The BR Luxe Touch manages to look and feel classy without veering into that cheap, “shiny” look you sometimes find on lower-end shirts and polos from stores like H&M.
Another big plus for the Luxe Touch is the fact that you can throw it in the washing machine. As mentioned, I’ve owned a few of these for years and I find that as long as I wash them on the “delicate” setting and let them air dry, they’ll last a good long time, without losing much of their color. (Bonus tip: I also recommend getting a mesh laundry bag and turning them inside out, just to be safe.)
That’s important, because if you’re like me, spring and summer means sweat. Sometimes a lot of sweat. Sometimes an embarrassing amount of sweat. (Though in my defence, Toronto is right on a lake and gets very humid – at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
Having a well-crafted and perfectly fitting polo that you can easily wash and re-wear for years to come is definitely an asset, and another big reason why I favor these so strongly.
Whether or not you agree with my assessment of the Luxe Touch or decide to go for another brand, please – PLEASE – promise me you’ll choose one with no label.
You’re a human, not a billboard. If a brand wants to splash their logo all over your body, then they should be paying you – not the other way around.
If the Luxe Touch polo falls just short of perfection, this is why. While the collar is more than adequate, you may find that it suffers from the dreaded “curling” phenomenon that sees it go from stiff to rounded at the edges. I’ve found that this sometimes happens after taking the shirt out of the washing machine.
Some won’t mind the look (although it does instantly make you look less polished), but for those who do there are a couple possible solutions.
One is to try and counter the curls by leaving the collar pressed between two heavy books for a few hours before your next wear. The other more permanent solution is to use Wurkin Stiffs collar stays to keep them from curling in the first place.
Either way, the collar issue is fairly minor, and while it keeps the Luxe Touch from reaching the height of perfection, the fact that there are multiple ways to deal with it means that it’s more of a minor nuisance than a major issue.
And then there’s the price. The sticker price might at first seem a little high; they’re listed at $44.50 regular price. Fortunately, you almost never have to pay regular price.
Banana Republic, like all stores in the Gap empire, run sales literally every weekend. From Thursday to Sunday you’ll see a ton of merchandise on sale for anywhere from 25% to 40% off, and they’ll occasionally even dip to 50% off on special occasions. Holiday weekends tend to have the best deals, so if you know there’s a long weekend coming up, keep your eyes peeled.
And if you can’t wait for the weekend, there’s a hack that will get you 30% off right away: just sign up for their newsletter. You’ll immediately get 30% off one regular priced item, then it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue getting their emails to stay abreast of deals, or unsubscribe. Warning: they tend to email almost everyday, so if you’re not a fan of inbox clutter, you might want to unsub after you get the deal.
Where to Buy It
The Obvious Choice:
Of course. There’s a Banana Republic store in most malls, but their website is also quite good and offers free shipping on orders of $50 or more. So even if there’s a sale on, you should be able to buy two different colors and get them shipped free. (Or, you know, you could just buy one polo at a time like a normal person. Either way.)
The Less Obvious (and Cheaper?) Choice:
You can also try your luck buying a BR Luxe Touch polo on eBay. The downside here is that options like color, size and availability will vary. But the upshot is that you can often find great deals on brand-new shirts that still have the tags. (At post time I see multiple options for sub-$30.)
If you’re itching to get one ordered and Banana Republic doesn’t happen to be running a sale on the style you want, I’d definitely keep an eye on eBay to see if one pops up.
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