Choosing the Best Polo Shirts for Embroidery: 8 Expert Tips

Choosing the Best Polo Shirts for Embroidery: 8 Expert Tips

When it comes to custom apparel, there are no end of clothing options -- hats, t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, beanies, sweatshirts, and just about everything else you can think of (and several things you might not think of).

Each one of these items has its uses. Custom t-shirts and hats, for example, are great for giveaways. Custom beanies are an awesome item to sell during a fundraiser. And, when it comes to uniforms, you can't go wrong with custom polos.

A group of long-term employees (both men and women) wear embroidered polo shirts outside their company

Why pick a custom polo?   

Polo shirts offer a great mix of professionalism, convenience, and comfort. They're less formal than traditional button-down shirts yet aren't so casual as to feel completely out of place in an office or other professional setting. Perhaps that's why custom embroidered polo shirts are a mainstay in call centers, used by many sales reps, and often chosen for school uniforms.

 What you need to know about customizing polos   

If you've ever designed a custom tee, you might've felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of options before eventually appreciating the variety. Unfortunately, a lot of the things that look great on a tee don't work as well with a polo shirt.

Given the nature of polos -- as well as what looks professional -- your options are a bit more constrained. And you'll need to keep these limitations in mind when designing the perfect custom polo shirts for your organization.

 Design placement matters   

Unlike t-shirts, there are only a few places on a a custom polo where a design looks natural.

When you create custom apparel, you want to stick to a few areas... and polos have fewer areas than most apparel

The generally-essential design placement on a custom polo shirt is the left chest. This is where you'd want your logo or text. However, as illustrated in the shirt example above, there are a few other places where a supporting design makes sense.

A sleeve design is a popular secondary branding opportunity. If your custom embroidered polo shirts are being used as uniforms, this placement will make your workers easier to identify. However, unless you have a very small or simple company logo, you might be better off with just your company's name.

Similar to the sleeve, a nape placement makes employees easier to spot. The nape of the neck is probably a bit more effective than the sleeve since the design should be easier to see at a distance.

Keep your custom design simple  

Shirt designs tend to go wrong when people try to do too much. While this is more often an issue with custom tees (where companies try to put their entire business history and information on their shirt), polo designs don't seem to be immune, either.

Desert Springs Tile & Carpet's company logo looks amazing on gray embroidered polo shirts

What should you use in a design? Your logo and/or company name. That's it.

Can you put a phone number there? Sure, but it's often not practical and you may need to forego another design element for space. (For example, you'd use your company logo and phone number, but leave off the company name. Of course, if your company's name is already in the logo, that's not an issue.)

Can you put a website? Again, sure, but it's not practical. Anybody who can read your company name probably has a phone and knows how to use Google -- they can find your company's website without you.

Can you mention what services you offer? Maybe if your heart was absolutely set on it, but that'd probably be a terrible idea.

However, if you have multiple placements, you can include that information in another placement. For example, your left-chest design could be your company logo and/or name. Then you could put your website on either the sleeve or nape. (Although you'd still want to avoid listing your services.)

Remember: You want your custom polo shirts to look professional. Jamming too much information into your design will take away from that look.

"Does it have to be embroidery? Can't you screen print polo shirts?"  

Although embroidery is generally preferred when it comes to polos, screen printing is also an option.

A printed company logo next to an embroidered company logo

Seen above are a printed logo on a custom tee (left) and an embroidered logo on a polo shirt (right). Is the difference between the two immediately apparent?

An embroidered logo makes the polo shirt look a lot fancier and more professional. If you're running a business, it's usually the better option. However, a print design has its benefits, too.

For starters, the fine detail seen in the print design on the left would be difficult to replicate with embroidery. Either the design would run together or the material would tear.

And depending on the polo's fabric type and thickness, printing can work better.

 Great reasons to order great custom embroidered polo shirts   

Embroidered polos have a wide array of functions. Here are a few of the most common uses.

Casual-professional uniforms

Both women and men look presentable in an embroidered polo because it's a great work outfit

Not all business settings are serious enough to require a button-down shirt. Sometimes you want to foster a more casual environment -- particularly when your employees are interacting with the public.

Whether or not your team interacts with customers face-to-face, uniforms have their benefits. Custom polo shirts can be used to create a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, reminding your workers that they're all in this together. And that sense of community can greatly increase morale.

School uniforms  

Students wear some good quality polos

Schools looking to promote a cohesive image will often have a dress code either mandating or encouraging uniforms. Usually these outfits consist of either a button-up shirt or polo with a pair of slacks (or a dress for girls).

Although once exclusively the domain of private schools, uniforms began to be adopted by American public schools in the 1990s. Today, 20% of American public schools have uniform policies.

The benefits associated with school uniforms are numerous. For starters, they remove a lot of clothing-related anxiety and have been shown to reduce bullying, violence, and other misconduct. However, there's also a sense of school spirit provided by uniforms.

Branded apparel for country clubs and resorts

Custom polo shirts can help people look at home on a golf course

Certain service-oriented businesses require a slightly more formal dress code. If the work is mostly done outdoors, it often makes sense to have employees wear a 50/50 polyblend polo shirt as a work uniform. The mixed performance will provide moisture wicking to keep them dry while having the comfort of cotton.

Polos are a popular choice for country club and resort staff. In addition, these recreational businesses could also sell polos with their branding (although not always in the same color as your employees' uniforms). For resorts that already have a gift shop, selling polos is a great way to bring in some additional revenue -- and those embroidered polo shirts will help get the business's name out there.

Custom athletic wear

A polo-wearing golf player on a golf course, probably playing golf

Although most people probably associate polo shirts with either golf or tennis, it's also great for other sports and athletic activities. In fact, the style of shirt gets its name from the game polo (which is played on horseback and involves hitting a ball with a mallet).

Other uses:  

  • Clubs
  • Churches
  • Spiritual retreats
  • Business conferences


 Things to consider when picking a custom polo shirt   

When choosing a custom polo shirt, you're going to want to see how its features meet your needs. Depending on the traits you're looking for, a shirt could be either perfect or terrible.

#1 - Polo fabric types  

Polo shirt fabrics have a direct impact on a polo's utility. Cotton, for example, provides warmth (and is less expensive than many other fabrics), while polyester offers performance features (such as moisture wicking).

If your polos are going to be worn in an air-conditioned environment, going with a 50/50 cotton/polyester blend makes a lot of sense. However, if the polos are going to be used outdoors or for something athletic, you might consider a 100% polyester polo.

The Adidas A240 is a 100% polyester polo with excellent moisture-wicking properties

The Adidas A230-E (the embroidered version, available in 10 colors -- which also has a print version) is a moisture-wicking polo with UPF 30 protection, making it great for outdoor activities. However, these features also make it expensive.

Gildan is among the top brands for corporate events

By contrast, the Gildan 8800-E (available in 10 colors) is a 50/50 cotton/polyester blend. This gives it some of the benefits of the both materials -- specifically the comfort of cotton and the performance elements of polyester (moisture-wicking, temperature regulation, easier care instructions, etc) -- and, perhaps most importantly, it's a lot more affordable. (However, if you're using polos as business uniforms, it can make sense to spring for something nicer.)

#2 - Shirt fabric texture  

As previously mentioned, a polo's fabric texture can determine whether to go with a printed or embroidered design.

Beyond that, it can also impact things like the feel and comfort level.

The ST640 is an absurdly popular Sport-Tek offering. The ST640 is the print version and the ST640-E is the embroidered version

The massively popular Sport-Tek ST640-E (available in 18 colors -- which also has a custom print version) is a 100% polyester polo shirt with a traditional athletic feel.

Jerzees is a brand with a neat style, as seen with the 437MSR-E

On the other hand, the Jerzees 437MSR-E (available in 14 colors) is a 50/50 blend with more of a jersey-type feel (ie, meaning it feels like a t-shirt).

#3 - Button color (and how it interacts with your custom polo design)  

Have you put much thought into button color? Depending on the color, a polo's buttons can either blend in or stand out.

Wood tone buttons convey a certain style.

Wood tone and pearlized buttons are generally viewed as lower-end options, with wood toned buttons looking a bit more casual than pearlized buttons.

Buttons will affect clothes styles. Whether you go for a blend or contrast, it's an important style choice

Other buttons are dyed to match the fabric -- giving the overall appearance a cleaner look.

And, on the more expensive side, there are metal buttons. However, you're less likely to see those with custom polos.

#4 - The number of buttons on your customized polo  

As a general rule, the more buttons a polo has, the fancier it looks.

Two buttons is often seen as a budget option, three is considered average, and four is on the higher end.

While having more buttons increases the ways a polo can be worn, realistically a lot of people will keep it fully-bottoned or use everything except the top button so it doesn't always have much of an impact.

#5 - The button placket  

A polo's placket is an often-overlooked feature... partly because many people are unfamiliar with the term.

The placket is the box at a polo's center chest and connects to a piece behind it (referred to as the bucket) for the buttons.

Even if it's not something people necessarily think about, the placket is something they notice.

#6 - Pocket(s) on your personalized polo?  

Do you want a pocket on your custom polos?An embroidered logo has to sit above the pocket

Shirt pockets are an occasionally divisive subject -- some people love them, others hate them. However, if somebody is used to having a shirt pocket (and regularly makes use of that pocket), they'll probably dislike pocket-less styles.

Keep in mind your design placement will be impacted by a pocket. Although you can print on the pocket itself, you need to embroider above it or you'll risk sewing the pocket shut.

(Seen above is the Port Authority K500P, available in 8 colors.)

#7 - Custom short sleeve or custom long sleeve polo?

While most people opt for short-sleeve polos, a long-sleeve version might work better for your needs.

The 437MLR-E partly gets its style from the fabric

If you're in a colder area -- or want a different uniform during winter -- long sleeves are definitely an option. (And, by the way, they can also help hide employees' embarrassing tattoos!)

Pictured above is Jerzees 437MLR-E (available in 6 colors), which uses a 50/50 cotton/polyester jersey (meaning you have the option of custom embroidery or printing).

#8 - Polo brands  

The final consideration is whether to go with a specific brand. Each brand has its own advantages -- some are more stylish, others carry name recognition, certain features, and so on.

Nike is a brand universally known for quality apparel.

Great brands include Nike, Port Authority, Adidas, Gildan, Sport-Tek, and Cornerstone. Each has a number of styles and different benefits. (And some styles have added functions, like side vents.)


 Don't get stuck playing Marco Polo while looking for great custom shirt deals   

Bolt Printing prides itself on offering low prices and delivering lightning-fast turnaround times. We don't play with games with prices -- when you buy from us, you won't have to worry about setup fees or hidden fees.While Bolt can't claim to have the largest selection of clip art, our gallery is still HUGE!

Our Online design studio makes creating polo shirts easy. You can choose from our extensive clip art collection or upload your own image. And, Once you order from us, you'll be able to use your account to easily reorder shirts