Resources > The Parts of a Polo Shirt

The Parts of a Polo Shirt

Make a great impression - choose the right polo shirt! Have questions about the universally worn casual work shirt known as the polo? Are you wondering about the parts of a polo shirt such as "what is a placket" or "what are the differences between a 100% cotton and a 50/50 shirt"? Read on to learn about the types of polo shirts available for embroidery so you can pick the perfect style to advertise your business!

What Makes Up an Embroidered Polo Shirt?The parts of a polo shirt

The polo shirt, also know as a "golf", "sport", "tennis", "company" or "staff" shirt is one of the most popular shirt styles. What distinguishes a polo shirt from other styles such as the T-shirt?

  • It has a casual but nice appearance that's comfortable and appropriate to wear in a variety of settings ranging from the corporate office to the factory.
  • Wearing a polo shirt embroidered with your custom logo will allow you to inexpensively advertise your business or group wherever you go.

Anatomy of a Polo

The Placket - The placket is the opening between the sides of the collar where the buttons are located. The placket is basically the same on most men's polo shirts. It usually has two to three buttons and can be worn buttoned or unbuttoned. Plackets on ladies golf shirts can vary greatly, ranging from a reversed version of the standard men's style or an elongated version with smaller buttons to a combination V-neck button polo. Some polo shirts have trim detail on the placket. Placket accents can include grosgrain ribbon, an angled bottom seam, piping or a contrasting fabric color. Buttons can also add a distinct look to a shirt. Buttons can range from white pearlized and dyed-to-match buttons to specialty buttons. Snaps can be used instead on buttons to create a more fashion-forward look.

The Collar - Most polos have a separate piece of fabric that forms the collar. Often this fabric is a ribbed knit. Some styles have a "self fabric" collar which means that the fabric is the same as the fabric that forms the body of the shirt.

The Body - Most polo shirts have a relaxed fit that isn't too contoured or tight. Most styles are seamed with side seams although some less expensive shirts don't have side seams. These styles are said to have a "tubular" construction. Some styles have side vents which means they are split approximately two inches up from the bottom hem. This allows the shirt to be tucked in more easily. Other styles have an extended tail in the back to make it easier to remain tucked in. Some newer polo styles have a "slim" cut which is especially appealing to younger men who don't want to wear a "baggy" shirt. Other polo styles have a small amount of spandex, often 5%, added to the fabric to help maintain the shape of the shirt while allowing for freedom of movement.

The Sleeves - Most sleeves are the standard, "set-in" style but some styles have a raglan or triangular shape at the top. This triangular seaming can allow for easier arm movement so this type of cut is often seen in shirts designed for sports teams. The bottom of the sleeve is finished with either a rib knit fabric or is hemmed. Men with larger arms often prefer hemmed (open end) sleeves because rib knit sleeves can feel tight.

The Fabric - Polo shirt fabrics range from basic cotton, ring spun, and pima cotton to cotton polyester blends and 100% moisture-wicking polyester. Generally speaking, cotton polo shirts are cooler than blend fabrics but are more likely to shrink. Cotton/poly blend shirts will be more fade, wrinkle and shrink-resistant. Performance fabric polos offer special benefits such as moisture-wicking and wrinkle-resistant features and are great for athletic use and wearing in hot weather and arid conditions. UV protection shirts are good for protecting against the sun's harmful rays.  Spot resistant shirts are treated with a fabric protector to help resist stains. These styles are perfect for restaurant workers.

Polos made from materials such as recycled fabric, plastic bottles, bamboo or organic fabric are especially popular among environmental-friendly groups. C-free polos are now available. These shirts have had their carbon footprint offset by carbon emission reduction programs so they are considered to be carbon neutral.

Textured fabrics are fashionable. A subtle stripe or jacquard pattern can add a nice touch to the look of your shirt. Heathered fabrics are especially popular. Heathers soften the look of many colors and provide a nice alternative to traditional shades. Some fabrics receive special treatments such as pigment dye and garment wash to give the material a well-worn look. Screen printed polos treated with posicharge are more likely to maintain their logo's colors. Polo fabrics with IL50 certification are treated so they can withstand 50 industrial washings and are a good choice for workers who get very dirty or might be "tough" on their clothes.

The Fit - Not all custom polo shirts have the same fit although most shirts are "classically sized" and run true to size. Size measurements, including chest, hem and sleeve lengths, are available for most garments. It can be helpful to view online diagrams that show the cut of the shirt when trying to determine how a style fits. Polo shirts modeled on teens and young adults will have a closer, trimmer fit. Golf shirts containing spandex may cling to the body but will allow more freedom of movement. When choosing sizes remember that a shirt containing more cotton such as a 100% cotton polo will shrink more than a polo made from a cotton/polyester blend. Want more information on how a polo shirt should fit? Check out Gentleman's Gazette's How a Men's Polo Shirt Should Fit.

The Sizing - One of the recent developments in the garment industry is the addition of more sizes. Many custom embroidered polo shirts are now available up to size 6X for men, 4X for women, men's tall, young women's junior and young men's slim fit. Some shirts also have a youth companion style.

Trim Details - Many polo shirts have a trim accent color on the collar, sleeves or placket. Although too much color detailing can distract from your logo, a contrasting color on the collar that repeats a color in your logo can emphasize your logo. Although not all trim colors will work with every logo, wearing golf shirts with an accent color can give your design a unique look and make your logo pop!

Style Options

Ladies Companion Styles - In addition to the traditional reversed placket and V-neck button sport shirts, many women's companion shirts have V-neck and johnny collars. Ladies polos are designed for women with shorter hem and sleeve lengths, slimmer plackets and contoured body measurements. Many women's polo shirts are available in more feminine shades such as pistachio and pale pink. New collar styles for ladies allow women to coordinate with male counterparts without feeling like they are wearing a man's shirt. Many women love the new options but some groups find it easier to use a standard placket so they order more smaller sizes for the women.

Style Types

In addition to the traditional short sleeve polo, polos are available in long sleeves, with pockets and long sleeves with pockets. Most pocket and long sleeve styles have a companion short sleeve, pocket-less style.

Coordinating Similar Polo Styles - Some polos come with coordinating pocket, long sleeve and long sleeve pocket styles so everyone maintain a uniform look through the year.

Coordinating Button Down Shirts - If you need polo shirts that coordinate with button down shirts then you can choose a coordinating polo that has the same color options.

The Logo

Logo Placement - Most polo shirts are embroidered with a left chest logo but a logo can be placed on the right side. Right side placement is often used when there is a pocket on the left side although the logo can be embroidered above the pocket. Individual names can be located on the right side or underneath a logo if there is room. Additional logos can be placed on either sleeve or below the collar on the back with the most common placement being on the right side to balance a left chest logo.

Logo Sizing - Most left chest logos (heart sized) range from 2.5"- 3.75" wide depending on the amount of detail in the logo. Logos that are tall and wide are sized a bit smaller so they don't look too big on smaller sized shirts. Single line logos can be 4" wide but not much longer. Sleeve logos are generally smaller than left chest logos. Logos embroidered behind the collar shouldn't be too big or "stitch intensive" because polo shirts aren't heavy enough to support a lot of stitches. Large "full back" designs should be embroidered on heavier garments where the thicker material is more able to support a large number of stitches.

Designer Labels - These sport shirts often have their own designer logo embroidered on the garment. Usually this logo is subtle but not always so check before ordering to be certain your logo won't compete with the designer's logo.

Polo Shirt Care - Custom embroidered polo shirts will stay looking their best if they are turned inside out before washing, washed in cold water and not over-dried in a hot dryer. If you need a polo shirt that can be washed and dried easily then a 100% moisture-wicking shirt many be your best option.

Polo Pricing

Polo shirts tend to fall into three different pricing categories: basic, medium-priced and high end.

Basic Shirts - Lower end or "budget-priced" styles are good for giveaways, seasonal staff, particularly dirty applications and situations where the shirts won't be worn too many times. These styles usually don't have women's sizes although there are some exceptions. When ordering a unisex style for women its often best to order down a size. At the higher end of the basic priced shirts you'll find some popular shirts in both men's and women's styles that look good, last well and are great for outfitting a group.

Mid-Priced Shirts - Medium priced shirts contain more style options and details such as contrast trim details and moisture-wicking properties and are made from more specialty fabrics. These shirts tend to have more construction details such as double-needle stitching, open hemmed sleeves and taped seams.

High-End Shirts - High end shirts include designer labels such as Nike Golf, Ogio and Adidas. These styles are often constructed from specialty fabrics such as Nike's Dry-fit performance fabric and contain custom details such as snaps instead of buttons and elongated plackets for ladies shirts.

How Do You Narrow Your Search For the Perfect Polo?

Decide what features are most important to you then narrow the style possibilities. If you need a special feature you'll pay more for that detail but its worth investing in the perfect shirt that helps advertise your business wherever you go!


  • Wondering about the history of the polo shirt? Read Wikipedia's article on the Polo Shirt to learn how this shirt style first developed.