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Gym Shorts & Polo Shirts

Earlier this week I wrote about the best polo shirt in 2023. With warm weather approaching it’s almost time for one of my favorite ways to wear a polo shirt. If you read the title I am sure you can guess what that is. I hear your objections, I really do. Just hear me out. The combination of gym shorts and polo shirts may sound odd on its face, but it works.

When do I deploy these outfits? I wear them in the most casual settings. For example, I might throw on a polo shirt with my gym shorts or Patagonia baggies to head down to the farmers market, out to get a cup of coffee, or simply hanging out at the house. I am sure that you have seen people out walking their dog in something similar. That’s probably wear I saw it first and it was not being worn by a millennial or whomever many want to blame athleisure on, but someone just outside of middle age.

While many in the the trad/ivy space eschew athleisure I embrace it. I am not going to go on and on about it (I will do that later). Instead, I will leave you with a few examples and a little guidance. A good rule of thumb is that this combo works when a large portion of the people will be in lounge clothes. If you want to dress it up a bit just add camp mocs, blucher mocs or boat shoes. An OCBD as outerwear is always a good option if you need an additional layer. There you go, have at it.

Polo Shirt & Patagonia Baggies
Polo Shirt & Gym Shorts
White Polo Shirt & Purple Patagonia Baggies

The Best Polo Shirt in 2023

I’d like to tell you that this post is a deep dive into all the potential polo shirts that can be had in 2023, but it’s not. I should probably change the title to, my go to polo shirt in 2023. A even more accurate title might be, my go to polo shirt. Don’t be too disheartened they are great shirts. Now let me tell you a little about them.

What I look for in a polo shirt is pretty straight forward. It needs to be all cotton. It should have more than 1 button, but less than 3. That means 2 buttons is the right number (and don’t button them both). It should also be available in the standard colors, available in general, and not cost an arm and a leg. It sounds simple, but that’s a tall order in 2023.

The Lands’ End mesh polo shirt meets all the criteria above (see here). First and foremost, it’s all cotton which alone is amazing in this day and age. The mesh cotton weave may not be as breathable as tech fabric, but I find it far more comfortable and far better looking. It has the perfect number of buttons which we have established is 2. It comes in all the right colors including the triad of trad (Shout-out to RWK!) which is navy, forest green, & burgundy. Perhaps best of all is that it is available season after season at a reasonable price of $26.95 plus LE always sales.

I’ve been wearing these polos for at least the past 7 years. You can dress them up or treat them like t-shirts. I do both. They work either way. My favorite color is the forest green, followed by white, and then the not as trad purple. The purple feels very Ralph Lauren-ish, in a good way. I find the navy to be too close to black for my taste. I like the burgundy but only in long sleeve format. With that being said, don’t sleep on the long sleeve version of these polos either as they are perfect for cooler weather (see here). It’s nice to see that there are still some affordable options for the basics that don’t require a lot of compromise. My suggestion is to get them while the getting’s good.

My Current Stance

Since I’ve been away for a while I figured that I’d share a few of my current takes on clothes. Like the rest of the world I have relaxed a bit over the last 3 years which is probably just a face saving way to say that I’ve dropped my standards, flip-flopped on opinions, and so on. I’m only half joking, but with WFH, a baby, and the new normal it makes sense that I am more casual in my approach to clothes. In other instances I’ve kept my not so trad looks off the blog. This go around I am going to try a more holistic approach.

  • Untucked shirts: I used to, then I didn’t, and now I do again…but not all the time. Untucked shirts can look good. They can look bad. It’s all about proportion and silhouette. FYI, It’s easier to pull off with shorts than pants.

  • I like short-sleeve madras popovers. I don’t like popover OCBDs on myself. I think they make me look like I’m in old timey pajamas. I don’t love short-sleeve button-front shirts. Something about them feels very boy-ish. See the first sentence.
JPress Madras Popover

  • Camp mocs/Blucher mocs are my new penny loafers. As I have mentioned I am not in an office setting any longer. Penny loafers now feel just a little too formal most days. I still wear them, but day-to-day I wear my blucher mocs when it’s cold and camp mocs when it’s not. When I am indoors in my office it’s moccasins. There are no shoes in the house.
Camp Mocs & Blazer

  • Sneakers are my new camp mocs. The sneakers are either a made in USA grey New Balance 990 series (very trad in my book) or a 80s/90s retro runner. There are a couple reasons why I sneaker more these days. The first is that I walk a lot. I live in a walking neighborhood (I rarely drive) so between between after-dinner walks, stroller walks, trips to the grocery, or meandering down to the park I easily put in 2-5 miles on a weekday and double that on the weekend. The second reason is that I like sneakers. It’s just that simple.

  • It’s ok to wear a t-shirt. Say it with me, it’s ok to wear a t-shirt. You are smart people you can figure it out when they are appropriate. Don’t wear one out to a nice restaurant, but maybe do wear one to the park.

  • Don’t worry, I still like the hardcore trad look.

Back to Guatemala and Down to Fitz Roy

Update: Leather Man Ltd. reached out to me after discovering this post and generously wanted to offer my readers 15% off the blue Guatemalan belt (see here). Use coupon code OCBD at checkout!

New belt alert. I posted about my Guatemalan dogs surcingle belt years ago (see here). It has been a great belt. It’s fun, it adds a pop of color to my uniform along with a touch of personality. At the same time it is still kind of low-key because it’s only a belt. I like this belt so much that when I saw the denim Guatemalan belt being offered at Leather Man LTD it was an automatic purchase.

My new Guatemalan patterned belt has been a hit (see above & below). I like it a lot. Maybe even more so than the dogs. People also like it. I have gotten quite a few compliments on it. One thing that I really like about both of these belts is that they feel trad, but at the same time they break out of the typical nautical and upland hunting box that we often find ourselves in when it comes to motif belts.

I said belt, but that should have been plural. I added a 3rd patterned belt and it’s not a surcingle. I am pushing the bounds of trad with this one, but it’s still well within my own wheelhouse. The new belt’s a Patagonia friction belt with the pattern basically being the Patagonia logo (which is a stylized depiction of Monte Fitz Roy) without the words Patagonia. Typically I am not a logo-centric guy, but this one is fun and I will admit that I do love some Patagonia. I have figured out a few combinations where the belt looks good. For example, I think it looks great with my Carhartt pants and denim shirt (see below) as well as my classic khaki and blue OCBD uniform and of course my most casual pairing of khaki pants/shorts with a grey-t.

I picked up both my Guatemalan belts from Leather Man Ltd. and the other from Patagonia. Leather Man ltd. (see here) is where I get almost all of my surcingle belts. They have a great selection, great pricing, and what seals the deal for me is their belts are 1.25″ wide where as lot of surcingles are 1.5″ wide (aka too wide). I have seen similarly cool belts such as the African beaded belts at Sid Mashburn (see here) or the polo/woven belts from La Matera (see here). Both are great, but they are priced a bit higher ($150-$200) than the Leather Man belts. I am sure that there are even more options out there if you want to do a little poking around yourself.

These belts all understood the assignment. To me, they all communicate a preppy-outdoorsy-traveler type of vibe that reflect my interest in hiking, camping, cycling, and more recently travelling. They also provide a nice break from the more traditional symbols (whales, boats, dogs) found on emblematic belts which is refreshing. At the same time these belts’ little patterns bring a ton of color to my otherwise staid uniform. Doing all the above for under $50 is what I call a lot of bang for your buck.

These belts are what some people call statement pieces. If you are familiar with the cult classic movie Office Space we might call them flair. I know that I don’t have to say this, but I am going to say it anyways. Statement pieces and/or pieces of flair should be limited to no more than 1 item per outfit. Please do not exceed the recommended limit per outfit.

Patagonia Web Tech Belt

Patagonia Web Belt

Denim Post 2023

Jeans and alligator belt

Are jeans trad? I am only joking, of course they are trad or rather can be trad. Either way I am once again attempting to wear jeans. I have tried a few times in the past, but it’s never stuck. I think the last time that I tried was back in 2020. I actually forget why I got rid of the pairs from that endeavor. Whatever the case may have been they are gone now.

You may be asking yourself, why does he want to wear jeans in the first place? That’s a good question. They haven’t really worked out for me in the past and I find them sort of uncomfortable. They are also jarring to the people I know when I do try to wear them (it will wear off over time). Despite all that I still want a pair. I mean, this is America and everyone should have at least 1 pair of jeans, right? Factor in that I am a dad now and it’s a no brainer. I need jeans. For me they will be something to wear on the weekend. At least that’s how it always starts.

I do know what I want in a pair of jeans. I want a lighter faded blue, a decent rise, and leg that is neither too narrow nor too full. Oh, and I want them to be affordable as well which to me is sub-$100 but I would really like them to come in around $50. I don’t care about selvedge. I do care that they are 100% cotton (read, no stretch).

Using the above as my guide I ended up with a pair of Levi 505s. They had the color that I wanted, the fit is pretty good, and they came in around $50. They aren’t perfect. The waist is a touch big, they are a little long, and they could be a bit more narrow below the knee. I am debating having the length hemmed. I don’t love the double roll, but it can be hard to replicate the original hem too so it’s a toss up at this point. All in all these seem to fit the bill.

This is actually the second time that my search for jeans has ended with Levi 505s. I tried Levi 501s but they were too tight in the thigh and loose past the knee for me. I gave the Wrangler Cowboy cut a go which garner a lot of attention due to being 100% cotton, having a high-rise, and being affordable. Plus they have really cool packaging. They were too baggy on me. I also tried the J.Crew Straight Classic-fit jean (see here) which I was excited about based on the way they looked on site. They ended up being comically large in all dimensions. The 505s must be in my cards.

Now that I had my jeans it was time to wear them. I borrowed a few denim looks that I had recently seen. First up, I stole from my internet friend Peter-Rene. I saw his post on IG (see here) which looked great (see below). I thought, I can duplicate that, and I did. Next, I took from Osamu (see here). His drawing looked so cool and again I already owned similar pieces. I think my version of Renee’s fit worked really well. However, the illustration won in the who wore it better contest.

I am going to keep experimenting with jeans. I know a few combinations that work offhand. I know that they work well with a blue OCBD and a Barbour. They look great with a oatmeal colored shetland as well as the navy LL Bean style Norwegian. I also like them paired with a tucked in shirt and a turned engine buckle belt. I know that some find that combination incongruous, but I’ve always liked it. Look out for more denim content in the future. The big question is, will they find a permanent place in my closet?

Renee’s look which you can see that I stole below.

Osamu’s look which I imitated below.
Jeans, Barbour, and Shetland

Rugged Japanese Ivy Style