Collar Shirt vs. Polo Shirt: What's the Difference?

When it comes to classic, versatile fashion staples, collar shirts and polo shirts are two wardrobe essentials that stand the test of time. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are distinct differences between these two styles that set them apart in terms of design, materials, and occasion suitability. In this blog post, we'll explore the contrasting features of collar shirts and polo shirts, helping you make informed choices when it comes to your outfits.

Design Differences: Collar Shirts and Polo Shirts

Collar shirts, also known as dress shirts, feature a button-down collar and a front placket with buttons. This design gives them a more formal and sophisticated appearance. On the other hand, polo shirts have a collar with a placket and buttons, typically accompanied by a few inches of knitted fabric. The collar on a polo shirt adds a sporty and relaxed touch to the overall look.

The placket on a button-down shirt is a distinct design feature. Running the full length of the shirt, it carries a series of buttons that are often the same color as the fabric, for a uniform and neat appearance. In contrast, the placket on a polo shirt is much shorter, typically extending only a few inches down from the collar. It usually houses two to three buttons, adding to the casual, sporty vibe of the polo. Notably, the polo's placket may feature contrasting colors or additional detailing, introducing a touch of personality to the overall look.

History of Collar Shirts and Polo Shirts

The collar shirt, also known as the dress shirt, traces its origins back to the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution brought about mass production and standardization of men's dress shirts which were traditionally white, long-sleeved, and featured stiff, high-standing collars. Over time, the design has evolved, incorporating colors, patterns, and a more comfortable fit, while retaining its refined, elegant appeal.

The polo shirt has a more recent history, with its design attributed to tennis player René Lacoste in the 1920s. Lacoste wanted a comfortable, practical shirt to wear on the tennis court, hence the creation of a short-sleeved, loosely-knit cotton shirt with a collar. It quickly gained popularity not just in the sports world but in casual fashion as well, symbolizing a relaxed yet stylish look. Today, the polo shirt is a staple in both sportswear and casual wardrobes, maintaining its reputation as a versatile, comfortable garment.

Material Differences: Collar Shirts and Polo Shirts

Collar shirts are typically crafted from dress shirt fabrics such as cotton, linen, or a blend of materials. These fabrics lend an elegant and crisp feel to collar shirts, making them suitable for formal or semi-formal occasions. Polo shirts, on the other hand, are often made of knitted cotton or synthetic materials. These materials give polo shirts a comfortable and breathable feel, perfect for casual or sporty events.

Occasion Suitability: Collar Shirts and Polo Shirts

Collar shirts are a go-to choice for occasions that require a more polished and refined look. They are well-suited for formal events, business meetings, or casual events when you want to make an impression. On the other hand, polo shirts are an option for far more casual outings, weekend getaways, or sporting activities.


In summary, collar shirts and polo shirts each have their distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different occasions and style preferences. Collar shirts are the epitome of sophistication and formality, while polo shirts offer a more relaxed and casual vibe. By understanding the differences in design, materials, and occasion suitability, you can confidently choose the right shirt for every event in your calendar. So, whether you opt for a collar shirt for a formal affair or a polo shirt for a laid-back outing, you'll always exude timeless style and confidence in your choice.