We tend to do things a bit more casually in Hawaii than folks on the mainland, especially when it comes to our clothes. If it can be worn to watch a big-wave surf competition in the morning and to a wedding that afternoon, it’s a winner. The answer to mastering the island dress code is usually a good polo shirt (or five), and though I’ve lived here for 12 years, I’ve spent about as long trying to find the perfect polo that fits my daily life, including the tropical heat.
Traditional cotton polo shirts, while relatively breathable, tend to be thicker and heavier than I like. Golf-style polos, often made of rayon, feel synthetic to the touch and stick to my skin when I’m sweaty. Most polyester-blend polo shirts simply don’t breathe at all, a non-starter when the average temperature is in the 70s or 80s. I’ve also found that cheaper cotton and polyester polos tend to stretch or shrink with a few wears and washes — though which way it’ll swing is always unpredictable, leaving the wearer (me) looking more like a giant amoeba than a functioning human.
A few months ago, I had a vision of vintage-inspired knit polo — something classic, with the look of what James Bond might wear to woo ladies at a beach bar. I settled on this knit polo I found on Amazon after searching “banded bottom knit shirts men,” a style that has generally worked for me in the past, and this nonsensically named Syktkmx polo popped up. Although it seemed relatively basic at first glance, the product listing showed the vintage-style stitching near the shoulders that fit my vision.
When I opened the package, I was struck by the soft material. Made of 90 percent viscone, the fabric of this polo is similar to cotton but feels richer and smoother to the touch — unlike the textured, almost popcorn texture of a standard polo. The stitching details on the edges of the sleeves make it look far more expensive than the $30 it cost. (The price seems to fluctuate, but the highest I’ve seen it is $35.)
A few days later we were headed to a friend’s backyard barbecue, and I figured it was the perfect occasion to take my crisp red polo for a test drive with white shorts and tennis shoes. My wife was immediately impressed with the look and fit, offering one of her world-class backhanded compliments: “Stepping your fashion game up, I see.” It was easily the most expensive-looking shirt in the backyard. I was asked multiple times, “Have you lost weight?” I definitely had not. It was all the incredibly flattering cut of the shirt.
I’ve since worn these polos to almost every imaginable destination, from an afternoon at the botanical garden to a flight across six time zones. I’ve found they’re soft and breathable on the skin, and in hot weather, they allow a breeze to pass through the weave of the textile, actually keeping my skin drier than other polos. They look as good when I take them off as they do when I put them on — and stay that way. Other polos I’ve owned ended up getting stretched out after a few wash-and-wear cycles, but after four months of wear, this solid-color banded-bottom polo hasn’t suffered the same fate. While black- and navy-colored polo shirts typically fade after a few washes, my navy and black Syktmx shirts remain bold and free of a hazy tint.
All told, I currently have six of the available colors, which is only half of them. And they’re all available in six different sizes, meaning there’s one to fit almost everyone — even the biggest of kahunas.
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