Style Essentials: The Polo Alternative

If you’re searching for a slightly dressier alternative to a polo, the good news is, there are several places you can turn. The key with making the jump up from a polo is to not overdo it, and to pick the right time and place. Wearing a blue Oxford cloth button-down is absolutely a great step up from a polo; the texture is a bit more visually interesting, and if you like, it can be dressed up a bit more. The potential for the blue OCBD is practically limitless as far as pairing with other neutral, well-fitting items in your wardrobe.

A classic blue OCBD from Old Navy.
A classic blue OCBD from Old Navy.

Namely, the OCBD as a style staple has been worn in just about every way imaginable. It’s become standard business-casual dress for a lot of workers across the country, but there’s a difference between wearing one for the sake of wearing it, and wearing it the right way. The right blue OCBD fits trim through the body, has decently high armholes, and trim sleeves. Make sure it fits across the shoulders (doesn’t pull or tug when you move) is the first step, because a good tailor can always dial in the rest of the body. Once you’ve tracked down one at the right price, it can function in many of the same ways as the polo. To stray away from a  standard business casual look, avoid pairing it with khaki chinos. Shoot instead for a pant with a more dusty or visually appealing color.

Try and keep the fit slim, as well — a Levi’s 514 is a standard fit for many who have more leg muscle, but a 513 or a 511 (which you might already have in your closet), will keep the outfit on-point and trim. And when it comes to the belt, have fun with texture — a braided belt grounds the look more casually, as well. If you’d rather not wear brighter chinos or pants, dark denim is absolutely the way to go.

This might be repetitive to some, but the key with so many of these Style Essentials isn’t that they’re ground breaking or incredibly fashion-forward; the biggest key is that they work time and again in nearly any situation, helping you save money and fall into a trap of ‘too-fast’ fashion. As long as the basics fit well, other areas, like accessories, socks and watch straps, are ways to inject some personality into an outfit.

Dark denim paired with another shade of blue, the OCBD.
Dark denim paired with another shade of blue, the OCBD.

Now, back to the pants — slim, dark denim actually works very nicely with different shades of blue. Putting multiple shades together doesn’t inherently create a jarring clash, as Joe from Dappered notes here. In fact, the contrast between those shades is a good thing!

For other outfit ideas, throw on a navy blazer with that blue OCBD — once again, those shades of blue actually play well with each other. Additionally, v-neck sweaters can be a great layering piece once it gets cold. A rotation of different colors (like black, tan, or heather gray) could keep you in outfits for days, if not weeks.

If shorts are more your thing, look for a pair in a khaki or tan-colored shade, which plays off the blue nicely. And feel free to tuck that OCBD into the polo — it’s a way of polishing off the outfit. Again, that braided belt adds some nice visual interest, too.

It’s worth noting that the blue OCBD is only one alternative to a polo. Other solid-colored sport shirts, like a white OCBD, can be rotated in and out of each of these looks for something sporty or slightly more business casual. Start out by reaching for one of these shirts, and you’ll soon start to develop a rotation of solid “mini-uniforms” you can go to time and again.

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