16 Ripley-Inspired Knitted Polo Shirts to Shop this Summer

·5-min read
Photo credit: .
Photo credit: .

Beloved for its uniquely luxurious-but-relaxed aesthetic, and immortalised in many a cult film, the knitted polo shirt has become a bonafide summer staple.

Which makes it all the stranger that, until recently, they were near-impossible to find. Unless you were prepared to scour eBay for some second-hand gems (and contend with some seriously itchy synthetics), you’d be hard pressed to bag a decent design in either high street or designer stores.

Anyone who's embarked on this search will know that this piece is tricky to get right at the best of times. Knitted too densely and it's drapey rather than breezy, cut too slim and it’s more Ordinary Boys-indie-sleaze than retro, while anything too longline will lose that all-important blouson silhouette.

Back in 2016, Miuccia Prada debuted an ultra boxy, ultra cropped camp collar shirt and soon we were in full retro resortwear renaissance. Naturally, this got people thinking once more about Jude Law’s iconic wardrobe in the 1999 film The Talented Mr Ripley. Fast forward six years and we’re still not over it; in fact, summer 2022’s collections are awash with button-through bowling shirts and resort polos made from knitted cotton, linen and the adjacent but no less relevant terry cloth.

If you’re already sick of the sight of high street reproductions, scroll to the bottom of this edit for 2022’s take on the knitted shirt. It’s deliciously, directionally Seventies and altogether more flamboyant. Macho mid-century connotations and the heteronormative conventions of menswear have typically kept things strait-laced; but, thanks to an incoming Seventies menswear redux and designers like Wales Bonner, things are changing. If you want to branch out from Riviera vibes, opt for cream, orange and brown colour palettes, and go harder with the ’knitted’ part – think chunky crochet, semi-sheer pointelle or anything with a bold rib.

From retro bowling-inspired styles and Riviera resortwear to bold Seventies takes on the trend, here are 16 of the best knitted polo shirts a man can buy in 2022. Keep scrolling to pick your camp.

The Retro Knitted Polo Shirt

Most menswear heads will have Dickie Greenleaf pinned somewhere in their mental moodboard. But the knitted shirt's place in the contemporary film canon was first secured by Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990) a whole decade prior.

That's right. Before Law burst onto the scene with his breezy blue ensembles and rich-boy-gone-rogue tan, the late Ray Liotta was rocking a harsher, brasher version of the knitted shirt as Henry Hill. The Mafiosa version is more retro rockabilly: with strong stripes, primary palettes and a hefty dose of synthetic yarns. The styling was wildly different too. In Goodfellas Hill underpins tailoring with his knit shirts, letting the wide camp collar rest on his lapels, or wears one open over a wife-beater, his crucifix necklace nestling in a bed of curly chest hair.

The mobster knit has become integral to Mafia films and TV ever since. The sportier 1990s take on the knitted polo was on constant rotation through The Sopranos' eight-year run (save from when forever-Fifties Paulie was in the scene). And when its prequel film The Many Saints of Newark (2020) was in production, costume designer Amy Wescott hired a New Jersey knitter to re-create vintage styles she’d found especially for character Dickie Moltisanti. And of course Joe Pesci and Al Pacino donned a few for Scorsese's newest gangster movie The Irishman (2019).

The Italian Knitted Polo Shirt

We're going to get granular on you here. If the retro looks above are more Italian-American, then 'Italian knitted shirts' are the easy-breezy Riviera vibe immortalised by Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Yes, him again. The 1990 film is forever etched in our heads for its impeccable wardrobe, made sexier still by Law's effortless styling and salty Ischia curls. These iconic knitted shirts were breezy and louche, with the same lightweight finish as a silk tie. Sadly, no one has quite been able to reimagine this since – although the London-based designer Scott Fraser has certainly come close with his made-to-order items. If you're desperately trying to re-create this look ahead of a holiday, though, stick to light palettes of white, cream, ecru and blue, and natural fibres in looser, textured knits.

The Terry Cloth Polo Shirt

Speaking of holidays: we couldn't not mention the terry-cloth polo shirt in this edit. While not immediately associated with knitwear, French terry fabric is indeed knitted – to create a stretchy, loop-back jersey with a plush-but-practical pile.

This item was once only available in resortwear boutiques like Orlebar Brown or on vintage sites, but it’s become much more accessible in recent years. Fret not, high street shoppers: so long as you're going for 100% cotton, affordable numbers will pass for something spennier with the right styling. Still, we'd rather cough up and bag an impeccably-cut Resort Co. co-ord made from the fluffy stuff – it's the closest we will ever get to that iconic towelling romper worn by Sean Connery in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.

The Seventies Knitted Polo Shirt

If you're over menswear's obsession with all things mid-century boxy, it's time to move on to Seventies cuts. The good news is anyone reluctant to embrace the decade's Cuban heel and flared tailoring can dip a toe in with knitted shirts. These trans-seasonal pieces have a totally different colour palette, gauge and cut to resortwear styles – we’re talking wider point collars, cropped hemlines, skintight ribbing and semi-sheer crochet and pointelle knits.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

If you need some authentic inspiration, there were knitted polos aplenty in Steve McQueen's 2020 Small Axe series on the BBC. And the young Tony Soprano donned a few in The Many Saints of Newark. For a modern take on the trend, though, look to Wales Bonner every time. The London-based designer has continuously nailed this look since she cut through the streetwear noise with the first of many Seventies-inspired mens' collections back in 2016.

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