Taking risks with style is never a terrible thing, but there are certain combinations that may push the boundaries a little too far. The question is, can you wear a tie with a polo shirt?
In general, a tie should never be worn with a polo shirt as it leads to an awkward and eccentric formality mismatch. In addition, the polo shirt collar lacks the structure necessary to be worn with a necktie.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
Let’s go through the main reasons why this combo is generally never a good idea, as well as a couple of exceptions where you might be able to pull it off.
I’ll round things off by giving you some alternative ways of dressing up a polo shirt that doesn’t involve having to resort to a necktie.
Let’s get to it.
3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Tie With A Polo Shirt
Read this before you reach for them. There’s a good chance you’ll decide against it.
1. It Causes A Formality Mismatch
Wearing a polo shirt with a tie will almost always lead to a formality mismatch.
Let me explain.
A formality mismatch happens when you wear a traditionally “formal” item with a traditionally “casual” item.
The important thing to note here is that there are many combinations where doing this actually works very well.
For example, wearing a blazer (traditionally formal) with a T-shirt (traditionally casual) actually leads to a very nice smart-casual aesthetic.
But there are certain formality mismatches that just look awkward and suggest a lack of awareness.
Wearing a polo with a tie is, unfortunately, one of those formality mismatches.
The polo isn’t quite as casual as a T-shirt, but it’s still a casual item of clothing.
A necktie will always be seen as more “formal” and a conflict with the casual polo would be immediately noticeable.
But unlike the T-shirt and blazer example, the polo and necktie combination will generally look awkward and out of place.
2. It Almost Always Looks Eccentric
Making a statement with your style is something to strive for – to an extent.
You need to strike a balance between making it clear that you care about style while not drawing too much attention to yourself.
Subtlety is the name of the game.
Unfortunately, wearing a polo shirt with a necktie is not subtle.
In fact, it’ll draw a lot of attention for the wrong reasons.
It may just appear as though you have a lack of style awareness. But it could also come across as attention-seeking or eccentric.
If this doesn’t bother you, it’s absolutely fine.
But there’s a good chance this isn’t what you want. That’s why it’s important to consider this before you go for it.
There are more nuanced and subtle ways to make a statement.
3. The Collar Isn’t Designed For A Tie
The collar of a polo shirt is not designed to be worn with a necktie.
It’s usually made from one-ply ribbed cotton and lacks the structure and support you need to wear a necktie.
Sure, polo collars are often button-down, but it’ll still look unnatural with a necktie.
In addition, the buttoned placket neckline would usually show behind a necktie as well – this is never a good look.
In general, stick to the general rule of wearing neckties with dress shirts and OCBD shirts to play it safe.
2 Exceptions Where You Might Get Away With A Tie And Polo
I’ll start off by repeating that it’s almost never a good idea. However, if you happen to fall into the following two (small) categories, it may be just about acceptable.
1. You’re Being Ironic/Comedic
If you’re wearing this combination to be ironic or funny, sure – why not.
At the end of the day, there’s just something about wearing a necktie and polo that does look funny.
It’s just an unusual choice that people rarely wear. When it’s worn, it does come across as a comedic.
That’s why it’s usually not appropriate to wear this combination when you aren’t trying to be funny or ironic.
But if you were, it would definitely do the job.
It’s important to make it obvious that this is what you’re trying to do. One way of doing this would be to wear intentionally loud, bright, and bold colors.
In addition, it’s definitely easier to pull it off if it’s in line with your personality in general.
If you’re known as the funny guy, it would be less unusual to see you wearing funny combinations of clothing.
2. You Want To Make A Statement
If you really are intent on making a statement and drawing attention, wearing a combination as eye-catching and unusual as this would be a good way to achieve it.
Don’t get me wrong – there are much more subtle ways to make a statement and wear something a little different (see the next section for examples).
But if you really wanted to wear something out there and head-turning, a polo and necktie would do the trick.
It’s just important to accept the fact that it’ll most likely appear quite eccentric to those around you – but if that’s what you’re going for, it’s OK.
At the end of the day you don’t need to dress for anyone other than yourself. It’s just important to be fully informed before you make the decision.
What To Wear With Polo Shirts Instead Of A Tie
If you’re thinking of wearing a polo shirt with a tie, you’re probably looking for a way to dress up the polo shirt or at least make it look more interesting.
Here are some alternative ways of achieving this without having to resort to wearing a necktie.
Blazers And Sports Coats
Blazers and sports coats work very well with polo shirts. What’s great about them is that they can make a polo shirt look more formal without causing too much of a formality mismatch.
That’s what makes them so much more effective than neckties in this case.
A polo shirt with a blazer or sports coat is a great smart-casual option for events such as garden parties, dinners, first dates, and so on.
It’s simple, yet elegant. It’s eye-catching but would never come across as attention-seeking.
The polo and chinos look definitely works well.
If the polo shirt and jeans look is a little too casual for you, switching to a pair of chinos/khakis may be the ideal option.
Chinos are a notch more formal than jeans but are versatile enough to wear with casual items such as T-shirts and polo shirts.
They’re a much more appropriate and effective way to dress up a polo shirt than a necktie would be.
A pair of dress pants can be worn with polo shirts, but it’s important to do so in the right way to prevent the same type of formality mismatch you’d get wearing a polo with a tie.
Dress pants can come in a wide variety of fabrics and textures, with some of them looking more formal than others.
While all dress pants should be considered “formal”, ones made from heavier and less shiny fabrics will look less formal.
Dress pants with patterns will also look less formal.
Ultimately, less formal-looking dress pants are a much better option when wearing polo shirts.
As a final tip, never wear suit pants with a polo shirt. Suit pants should be worn with a dress shirt and the matching suit jacket – nothing else.
You now know why it’s generally not a good idea to go for the polo shirt and necktie combination, and that there are a couple of exceptions to be aware of as well.
You’ve got better ways of dressing up a polo shirt – use them to your advantage.