Are Polos Business Casual?

With an abundance of various kinds of dress codes with a multitude of rules and exceptions to each, we’ve seen a lot of people asking us: are polos business casual? Yes, polo shirts are considered business casual! We’ll go over how the collared shirt fits into business casual wear, as well as a brief overview of what qualifies as business casual attire.

On top of this, we will help you figure out what kind of pants to pair with polo shirts and what dress codes polo shirts are not acceptable for.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.

The Polo Shirt in Business Casual Attire

The polo shirt has an interesting position in the business casual dress code – it has a rich history stemming from functional purpose, finding its way into both school and workplace dress codes.

The History of the Polo Shirt

Let’s wind the clock back over 150 years – in the 1850s, India adopted wearing the polo shirt as standard attire for playing the game of…polo!

Players needed a shirt that was breathable and able to be buttoned to keep the collar from flapping around in the wind while riding horses and smacking balls around. Word got around, and by the early 1900s, British polo players began adopting and sporting the polo shirt for games.

As a result, the polo caught fire as a fashionable shirt for men. They were an attractive casual alternative to dress shirts, building in popularity throughout the 1900s. Now, they are a go-to men’s wardrobe staple.

Finding a Home in Business Casual Wear

The polo shirt quickly caught on as acceptable for business casual wear due to its versatility – it can be dressed up or down. The polo works well with jeans, khakis, shorts, dress shoes/loafers, tennis shoes, and just about any degree of casual wear from street wear to business casual.

One thing to keep in mind: when wearing polo shirts for business casual, you want to make sure you select solid colors or subtle patterns. Anything gaudy or loud wouldn’t fit for business casual, but would be great for street wear. 

Unacceptable Dress Codes for Polo Shirts

There are many different dress codes, not all of which polos are acceptable for. Overall, the most commonly utilized dress codes are:

  • Casual
  • Business Casual
  • Smart Casual
  • Business/Informal
  • Semi-Formal
  • Formal

Polo shirts are not acceptable for wear in the following of the above dress codes:

  • Business/Informal
  • Semi-Formal
  • Formal

In the case of business/informal, sem-formal, and formal wear, a polo would be perceived as too casual. The great thing about polo shirts is that they are fantastic for most non-suit wear dress codes!

Some other cases in which polo shirts may not be appropriate, for business casual wear in specific, would be based on context – if others are wearing a button down and chinos, you may want to reflect the level of business casual others are wearing.

Business casual wear is a pretty broad spectrum of clothing, so make sure you adapt to your situation and the social cues of your peers if business casual is expected. In most cases, though, a polo shirt is business casual safe!

Pairing Polos with Pants

You’ve decided to rock a polo shirt! Hopefully it’s comfortable.

Pairing Pants with Polo Shirts

Now, you need to figure out what kinds of pants to wear with your polo shirt! Fortunately, this is a pretty simple process, especially when wearing a polo shirt in a business casual scenario.

For business casual, you can pair polos with pants such as:

  • Chinos
  • Khakis

For anything less formal than business casual, you have many options when pairing polos with pants. Some common options are:

  • Jeans
  • Chinos
  • Khakis
  • Boating Shorts

Just make sure the color of your pants is a complimentary color to your polo, or something neutral.

Are Polos Business Casual? Yes, They Are!

When all is said and done, polos are indeed business casual appropriate. There is a broad spectrum of acceptable clothing for business casual, all of which finds polos or collared shirts acceptable.

Some circumstances of business casual wear may require you to keep a pulse on what others are doing – if everyone at a business casual work dinner is going to be wearing a button down shirt and chinos, you should reflect the expectation of the environment you’ll be in.

Polos have a rich history that brought them to their status as a popular business casual shirt. Enjoy the comfort of a collared shirt next time you don biz casual wear!