Polo Shirt Buyer’s Guide

Polo shirt fabric buyers guide

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Types of Polo Shirt Fabrics and How They Perform

Since 1933 the polo shirt (originally “tennis shirt”) has become so popular it is now the largest category of apparel besides t-shirts. And, in the 1990’s it became the standard for informal business attire. As its popularity grew, so did the number of styles. Today there are thousands of polo shirt styles on the market. Consumers can find themselves confused and misinformed as to which style of polo shirt is best for their needs.

Performance Polo Shirts:

Performance polo’s (also known as Dry Blend) are all about comfort and style under extreme conditions. They are popular with golfers, athletes and employees that want to maintain a business casual appearance when active in hot conditions.In other words, they do not show sweat stains as much as most fabrics.

The performance polo shirt category tends to be dominated by higher end brands such as Nike, Adidas and Bobby Jones. As a result you will tend to pay more for these shirts. From a decoration standpoint, performance polo’s are an excellent choice for embroidery but are not suitable for printing. Popular performance polo’s include the Nike 203690 Dri-Fit with UV sun protection rated at SPF 30 and The Adidas A21 Climalite golf shirt with anti-microbial treatment to reduce odor.

Jersey knit
All cotton pique knit

Blended Polo Shirts:

Blended polo shirts are a tradeoff between cost and performance. Blended polo’s make excellent work uniforms due to their reasonable price point, resistance to stains, and their durability. Like performance polo shirts they embroider logos well but are typically not suitable for printing, although it is commonly done with mixed results. A favorite blended polo recommended by our food service customers is the 438M by Jerzees its reasonably priced, looks great, and is stain resistant starting at around $12!

100% Cotton Polo Shirts:

Cotton polo shirts look great and provide the most comfort of all your options. Cotton polo’s do have some disadvantages over blended and performance polo’s. Any shirt that is 100% cotton can and will shrink. Manufacturers will ship them both preshrunk and a bit oversized to accommodate any additional shrinkage, however the shrinkage may not always be predictable. A customer that washes in hot water and/or dries in high heat will likely shrink almost any 100% cotton knot polo shirt. Cotton is also prone to wrinkles and is not very stain resistant.

There are several different types of cotton and a few different fabric styles. Interlock cotton shirts have a soft, smooth texture. Pique knit shirts are the most common and many customers call it “holey” or “bumpy”. Some pique fabrics are heavier and some finer but this is usually determined by the type of cotton. Combed cotton is the most basic and cheapest cotton. Pique polo shirts with combed cotton tend to be heavier. Pima cotton is usually finer as it is a finer thread. Pima cotton tends to have fewer imperfections/impediments so it is a finer softer thread than just combed cotton. Our most popular 100% pima cotton polo style is the D100 by Devon & Jones.

Jersey Knit Polo Shirts (T-Shirts with a collar):

Jersey knit polo shirts are the most cost effective shirt you can buy. From a style standpoint they are a small step up from a t-shirt thus the description “T-Shirt with a collar”. These shirts typically do not hold up well to repeated washing cycles and are not particularly stain resistant. Jersey knit polo can be decorated with embroidery, DTG Printing, or silkscreening with DTG printing or silkscreening providing the best looking result.

Polyester Polos: While they don’t wrinkle or shrink, appear very light and are resistant to staining, they also offer very limited breathability meaning you will sweat a lot, and they look quite cheap. They also cannot usually be printed or embroidered.

Linen Polo Shirts: In recent years, linen has become more popular for all kinds of knitwear and some offer linen for polo shirts. With its crisp look and sophisticated wrinkles, it certainly adds another dimension but it is also much rougher than cotton. As such it is only recommended in blends if you want the crinkly linen look.

Silk Polo Shirts: Light, comfortable and shiny silk seems like a great fiber for polo shirts at first but pure silk is not a good fabric for polo shirts because it loses its color when it gets hot and wet. Sometimes you can find cotton-silk or linen-silk blends that can work for polo shirts but pure silk is not recommended.


Knits vs Fabric:

In terms of breathability, and open pique knit is superior to any Jersey knit. So, what is knitting? Knitting is the process of interloping yarns, and there are many ways to knit but for the purpose of this article, we focus on just two basic knit categories that are the most relevant for polo shirts.

Pique Knit, also known as piquee knit, this is not to be confused with marcella pique fabric which is woven. The reason it is called pique is because of the characteristic, three-dimensional waffle look, also found in the marcella pique weave. Pique knit is not only flexible but also breathable, and, therefore, the most popular polo shirt knit. The scale of the waffle can differ tremendously, and different kinds of knits are in existence. For more breathability, you want bigger holes, and for less weight, you want a smaller knit.

Jersey Knits have a smooth surface that is similar to a t-shirt or fine sweater. Often this knit is used for less expensive polo shirts but it can also be used for higher quality polo shirts. It simply creates a different look, and at the end of the day it all depends on your taste. In terms of breathability, and open pique knit is superior to any Jersey knit.

To order polo shirts, see our print shop under apparel.

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