You’ll have heard of the Polo shirt: a classic combination of the elegant oxford button-up dress shirt, and the far more relaxed T-shirt. But you certainly wouldn’t be alone if you haven’t heard of the Henley.
A Henley shirt is an ever-increasingly popular alternative to the traditional Polo and is widely considered more appropriate for casual wear.
But what are the key differences between the Polo and the Henley? When should you wear each type? And which one is right for you? Keep reading, and we’ll answer these questions, as well as delve into the origins of both shirts.
A Polo shirt is a collared, usually short-sleeved shirt (although long-sleeve variations do exist). It was originally designed for the sport of polo (hence the name) but is now worn as part of casual or dressy outfits.
Additionally, also known as a tennis or a golf shirt, the Polo is the attire of choice for both tennis and golf, with the dress code of most golf and tennis clubs requiring that their members wear Polo shirts.
Polos are available in a wide range of colours and are available in both short-sleeve and long-sleeve. Polo shirts are almost exclusively made from knitted cotton – usually incorporating a pique knit.
When should I wear a Polo Shirt?
Polo shirts are an exceptionally versatile addition to anyone’s wardrobe and can be pulled off in a range of styles and situations.
Firstly, Polo shirts make excellent casual wear. You can simply pair them with jeans and trainers for a more casual outfit – you could even pair them with shorts or sweat pants for a super casual look that’s perfect for running errands around town.
If smart casual is more your thing, simply swap out the jeans and trainers for chinos and dress shoes and voila – you’ve got yourself a stylish smart casual fit.
For a more formal look, simply pair your Polo with some smart trousers and a blazer. You’ll get a look that is perfect for weddings, functions, and even business dinners – and it doesn’t feel as preppy as outfits based on traditional dress shirts.
Polo shirts are also great for layering, which makes them an ideal choice in colder weather when you need something to keep you warm while still maintaining a stylish look. They're also very comfortable and easy to wear.
A Henley shirt is a type of collarless pullover shirt and is widely identified by its round neckline and pronounced placket (the bit of the shirt with the buttons near the neckline) containing the buttons.
In essence, it’s a Polo shirt without the collar – although there are a number of subtle differences that further distinguish the two shirt types.
Henley shirts trace their origin back to the English town of Henley-on-Thames, where they were the traditional uniform of rowers local to the area, Henley shirts are widely considered casual attire.
They can be made from any type of fabric—from cotton to silk to wool. Similar to Polo shirts, Henley shirts are available in both long and short sleeves. Short sleeve Henleys are super casual, and you’ll dress them just as you would a T-shirt.
Long sleeve Henleys are great for layering and are often fabricated using thermal materials – making them a great option for colder weather or climates.
When should I wear a Henley?
You might not realise it, but like the Polo shirt, the Henley is one of the most versatile pieces you can have in your closet. Whether you're looking for a long-sleeve or short-sleeve Henley, there are plenty of styles to choose from that match a variety of outfits and are appropriate for a number of different situations.
Long-sleeved Henleys are perfect for layering under jackets or gilets in cold weather – giving you a comfortable fit that is both smart and functional.
Short-sleeved Henleys can be paired with almost anything you’d pair a standard T-shirt with – adding depth to your wardrobe and helping to ease that over-reliance on the same couple of T-shirts.
By pairing your Henley with jeans and trainers, you’ll get a great fit that is perfect for casual occasions such as going to dinner with friends or taking your dog for a walk.
By matching your Henley with a blazer, smart trousers, and dress shoes, you’ll be flirting with a more formal look – although it’s worth mentioning that Henleys aren’t necessarily appropriate for all formal settings due to their casual and comfort-orientated appearance. If you’re putting an outfit together for a business function or a wedding, you might be best sticking with the trusty Polo shirt.
What Makes a Shirt a Henley?
So, what actually makes a shirt a Henley? As already touched on, Henleys are characterised primarily by their collarless, pullover design, in addition to their round neckline and 3-5 inch placket.
Unlike Polo shirts which are almost exclusively constructed using knitted cotton, Henleys are made using a wide range of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and special thermal blends. When compared to Polos they also tend to be comfier and offer a slightly more relaxed, loose fit.
Is a Henley shirt considered a collared shirt?
A Henley is not considered a collared shirt - this lack of a collar is the key distinguishing feature between a Henley and a Polo – giving the Henley a unique look with the formal feeling buttoned placket, but also the cosy and comfortable lack of a collar.
What is the difference between a Polo shirt and a Henley?
As already alluded to, there are a number of both obvious and subtle differences that help distinguish a Henley shirt from a Polo shirt – with the most obvious being the lack of a collar on a Henley.
But you’ll also notice Henleys come in a wide range of materials depending on their desired use case – from cotton for dressier Henleys to specialised thermal fabric blends for Henleys designed for use as a base layer in colder weather.
Additionally, Polo shirts are more formal than Henleys, but not by much—you can wear a Polo to work and you’ll look great, but if you want to dress down your outfit for happy hour at the bar, then go for your Henley instead.
Polo shirts tend to have straight fits, while Henleys come in fitted or looser cuts depending on what style you prefer. It’s also worth mentioning that whilst both are available in long-sleeves as well as short-sleeves, Polos are more typically short-sleeved, and Henleys, especially the traditional designs (think Henley rowers) are more typically long-sleeved.
Get a tailored fit with TAPERED menswear.
Now you know the differences between these two classic shirts, hopefully, you have some idea as to which one is right for you.
TAPERED has a range of both Polo shirts and Henley shirts, that are designed to be physique enhancing, and provide you with a tailored fit – without the hassle.
If you’re tired of having to find a compromise between comfort and style, then it’s time to start buying clothes that have been crafted by experienced tailors and industry insiders – people who actually understand the proportions of an athletic physique and don’t just settle for designing clothes that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
TAPERED Polos and Henleys feature a tapered fit at the waist, a 4-way stretch for comfort, and considered fittings at the biceps and shoulders – so you and your athletic physique can finally enjoy the comfort and style of a correctly fitting Polo or Henley shirt