What To Wear To A Polo Match
~ Often referred to as the 'Sport of Kings' ~
Polo is an exciting time in the English summer season for both players and spectators alike and is often associated with the Royal family. Given this, the dress code for Polo can often be daunting for a first time attendee.
Over the years, the spectators at local, grass roots Polo matches, have adopted a casual and relaxed attire, whilst certain games, which attract larger crowds, sees spectators sporting a more embellished attire, a classically British hybrid of the style seen at Wimbledon and the Races.
What to wear at a Polo match will differ according to the venue and occasion, and so it’s important to check the level of Polo being played and the venue you are attending.
Casual Attire - Local Polo Matches;
To combine the practical, casual & sophisticated can be a challenging feat, but our guide may be the ticket you need to resolve your worries.
At local, grass roots Polo matches, you can never go wrong with trousers such as; white jeans (typical of Polo), culottes, wide leg trousers or perhaps even blue denim, and pairing with either; a fitted shirt, a polo or even perhaps a Breton striped top. If the weather permits, finish with a pair of sandals and some sunglasses and you’re ready to go.
If the typical British weather takes a hold, grab a blazer or knitted jumper and don’t forget your umbrella (!) as not a lot of Polo clubs provide sheltered spectators areas.
For footwear, you’ll want to steer clear of heels as you will undoubtably be walking on grass and stomping on the divots, as is tradition in Polo, and so will be difficult to do in stilettos. Perhaps instead, opt for wedges, ankle boots, or closed toe sandals. Walking boots, wellies or trainers aren’t the typical footwear of crowds attending these matches, but you may want to bring some as a back up, just in case the manicured fields get a bit too muddy!
For the gents, a smart pair of jeans can never go a miss. Pair with a relaxed button down cotton shirt (even linen if the weather permits) or a well fitted polo shirt. To finish the casual attire, a leather belt such as a Gaucho belt (worn and popularised by Polo players in Argentina), or simply a classic brown leather one will tie your look together nicely.
For footwear, opt for a quality brogue or suede boot. As the British weather can turn at any point, in our experience, we would also recommend taking with you a more hardy type of footwear, such as wellies or walking boots. The Polo fields are expertly manicured and so you shouldn’t worry about mucky fields too much, but always best to air on the side of caution.
Another practical preparation for Polo match attire, is bringing a jacket with you. A lightweight jacket such as a wax jacket, or Ventile, is always a good idea. Both stylish, and structured, giving you the ability to play up the style while nailing the practicality.
Dressing The Part - The Big Matches;
High goal Polo is often played with a large crowd in attendance, including Royals, celebrities, influencers and corporate hosts alike and with this brings the opportunity to really dress the part.
At large UK matches, you will typically see an array of styles from timeless classics such as chinos and a shirt, to more daring looks such as bright pops of colour and high-fashion trends. Polo, fantastically, brings with it a mix of the young and the old, the tradition and the modern, and the same can be said with the Polo style. With the bigger matches now becoming more popular and mainstream it's not uncommon to see more of a lean towards fashion trends amongst the younger spectators, but a classic suit / dress would not be out of place.
Our recommendation for these larger events is to mix the bold and bright with the classic and timeless to curate your own unique style.
This year at the big Polo events, such as the Westchester Cup in the USA, and the Gold Cup in the UK saw everything from full skirt suits to relaxed, floaty floral dresses. The level of formality you wish to adapt should be discussed with the company you will be keeping. There are no rules with the limit of formal attire at these tournaments.
Perhaps a key thing to note, however, is that despite it being an Equestrian event, the fascinators and racing hats don’t play a large part in Polo attire - keep those for Ladies Day.
Whatever the weather, one of the favoured garments to wear, because of its effortless style and practicality with the summer weather, is a dress. Dresses are perhaps one of the more preferred options for women at the Polo. Ranging from maxi to cocktail, all kinds of silhouettes can be seen, and paired with sandals or heels and you’ve really nailed it.
If a dress isn’t your thing, a trouser option such as culottes, or wide leg trousers can be a fantastic option. Keeping from the heat in the Summer weather should be a focus when choosing legwear. In addition, to pair with your trousers, prioritise fabrics such as satin or linen, to add an element of luxury to your style.
For footwear, the same attire for the casual matches will suit or if you’re feeling braver, why not dig out your killer heels to really make a statement?
As with many formal events, what you wear will depend on who you are attending with and your purpose being there. If you are hosting for corporate hospitality then you can't go wrong with the good old fashioned 'Suited and Booted' approach.
If you’re a social spectator, then you can even mix it up by playing around with alternative fabrics such as tweed and linen. However, a classic tailored suit paired with a luxe shirt and tie will never go a miss.
Whatever you wear, be mindful to not forget your sunglasses and brolly!
Polo Itself – How Is It Played?
First time attending the Polo? We’ve written a handy little cheat sheet for you so you can follow the game and immerse yourself in this fast paced sport.
Written by a Polo player (Handicap 1)
Polo is a 4 aside team sport played on horses. The aim of the game simply is to score more goals than the other team making your team the winner.
A team consists of four players numbered 1-4, each player has different role within the team, number one is the most attack minded player and often seen as the striker. Number two is the link up player, whilst being very attacking they provide a link with the midfield. Number three is the playmaker, often the most skilled player on the pitch turning defence to attack. Finally number four also known as back who is the defender and keeps the back door shut.
The most important rule to understand the game of polo is the line of the ball. If a player hits the ball he is creating a line of the ball, this imaginary line can’t be crossed meaning that a defending player has to push the attacking player of the ball to gain possession. This is called a ride off. Alternatively they can hook the opponents stick making him unable to hit the ball.
After a goal is scored teams change ends and attack the opposite direction. This rule was brought in a long time ago due to the low sun in India being a disadvantage to one team, and now it’s part of tradition.
A regular match in the UK is split into four sections called chukkas, each chukka lasting seven and a half minutes. In higher levels of polo they play six, or even eight chukkas per game.
Know your Chukka from your Check and Turn? Fear not, we have all the need-to-know Polo terminology explained here....
appealing - claims by players for a foul, expressed by the raising of mallets above the head
back shot - backhand swing, changing the flow of play by sending the ball in the opposite direction
bump - when a player directs his pony into the side of an opponent's pony
check and turn - to slow the pony and turn safely
chukka - term used for period of play in polo, seven and a half minutes long, there are four chukkas in a regular polo match with more in high goal
goal Judge - an unofficial goal observer appointed to signal by waving a flag over the head if a goal is scored, or under the waist if no goal
field - usually 300 yards long by 160 yards wide and outlined by sideboards
goal - anytime the ball crosses the line between the goal posts, regardless of who (including ponies) knocks it through
handicap - team play is handicapped on the basis of ability. A team's handicap is the total of its players' goal ratings. The team with the lower handicap is awarded the difference in goals at the start of the match
hands - unit of measure for the height of a horse, one hand equals about four inches
hook - catching an opponent's mallet in swing below the shoulder
hit in - after the ball crosses the back line, the defending team knocks the ball back into play from their own back line
leave it - to ride past the ball so that the teammate behind can hit it
line of the ball - the imaginary line produced by the ball when it is hit or deflected
made pony - a polo pony that is well trained for polo and has been played for some time
mallet head - the part of the mallet used to strike the ball, the wide face of the head is used to strike the ball
nearside - the left hand side of the polo pony
neck shot - hitting the ball under the horse's neck
officials - two mounted umpires do most of the officiating, with a referee at midfield having the final say in any dispute between the umpires
offside - the right hand side of the polo pony
pass - to hit the ball any direction to a teammate
penalty - numbered from 1 to 10, a free hit is awarded to the fouled, from a set distance determined by the severity of the foul committed
pony goal - when a polo pony causes the ball to go through the goal posts
positions - there are four players on a team, numbered 1 through 4, each with different responsibilities
ride off - two riders may make contact and attempt to push each other off the line to prevent an opponent from striking the ball
safety - also known as Penalty 6, a defending player hits the ball over his own back line
boards - short boards along the sidelines of the field to help keep the ball in play
stick - the polo mallet
stick and ball - personal practice time
sudden death / extra chukka - overtime play when the score is tied at the end of the last regular chukka, the first team to score wins
swing - hitting at the ball with the mallet using one of four basic shots: forehand, backhand, neck, and tail
tack - all the equipment used on a pony
tail shot - hitting the ball behind and under the horse's rump
third man - the referee sitting at the sidelines, if the two umpires on the field are in disagreement, the third man makes the final decision
line out - when the umpire starts or resumes the match, he rolls the ball down the centre of a lineup of players and horses
turn - to turn the play around the opposite directions whilst being in control of the ball
umpires - two mounted officials, one for each side of the field
HPA - Governing body for polo in the UK
bandages - the protective bandages the polo ponies wear on their legs