Spring has arrived in Nashville after a long winter that seemed like it didn’t want to end.  We have seen those wonderful days that start to call for a short sleeved shirt.  My regular attire for the rest of the summer will include some sort of Polo shirt so I thought I would give you my thoughts on Tactical Polos that are available today.  We requested shirts from 5.11, Woolrich Elite, Blackhawk! and Eotac.  We received shirts from everyone except Eotac.

It may appear at first glance that all Tactical Polos are generally the same.  This is true in a sense, but there are some subtle differences.  When requested a shirt from 5.11 they were in the process of changing there tactical line, so they asked us to review there Professional Polo.  Woolrich and Blackhawk! both sent tactical Polos. The shirts were tested over the last 3 months in several climates.  They were worn casually, at the range and during instructor classes.  They were all washed and dried repeatedly.

Since the 5.11 shirt is a little different it gets to go first.  I have used 5.11 stuff as a citizen and as a LEO.  In fact my introduction to tactical gear came through 5.11.  Their gear is solid and they have more selections than you could possibly wear in a lifetime.  The Professional Polo is a softer look than their Tactical Polo.  It still has the pen pockets on the sleeve, but the mic loop on the front of the shirt is missing.  It feels softer, but that is based only on perception because they don’t list the weight of the fabric on their website.  I will say it is the softest wearing shirt that we reviewed.

The test shirt came to us in black.  This is always a tricky thing for manufacturers because most of the time the shirts end up looking washed out very quickly.  There is nothing like wearing a faded shirt!  However, 5.11 says the shirts won’t fade or shrink, and our experience confirmed that.  After about 10 cycles the shirt still looks just as good as it did when we received it.

One final feature that 5.11 incorporates are flexible collar stays.  If you haven’t worn a suit to church or work lately, it is likely that you haven’t thought about collar stays lately.  Most shirts don’t have them, and I have never seen them in a Polo.  Their purpose is to keep the collar pointing down instead of rolling up. The 5.11 collar was actually my favorite of all the test shirts.

Who should buy this shirt? Anyone who works in an environment where a Polo is acceptable.  They look great and feel great.  I would also recommend this shirt as a lighter duty shirt.  If you are looking for a shirt for some of the guys who don’t work the street everyday, this shirt is fantastic.  I have no reason to think it wouldn’t hold up to extreme duty except that 5.11 offers a true Tactical Polo that is better suited for this purpose.

Many of our regular readers know that we have been reviewing some products for Woolrich over the last year.  We tested their Tactical Polo in the long and short sleeved versions. We received navy blue shirts that have done great through hard wear at the range and in casual situations alike.  Woolrich has the standard pen pockets that all of the shirts have on the sleeve, but they also have included a pocket with a zipper for the left sleeve.  This pocket can hold lots of things that you might want to keep handy like i.d., a small cell phone, or even an MP-3 player or I-pod.  Obviously you may not want your guys listening to I-pods in their shirts, but they can.

The Woolrich shirts have not faded over the last three months which is remarkable.  If you purchased a regular polo from a department store, it would wash out too quickly.  These shirts are made from a 8.5 oz material which is extremely durable.  They represent a great value for the longevity of the shirt.

Who should buy this? Anyone who will need a Polo for outdoor work, even if it is not directly related to Law Enforcement or tactical situations.  This shirt would be great for people who want a classic look in a durable work shirt.

The Blackhawk! shirt we received was our first experience with any of their apparel line, and I have to say that I was impressed.  The Blackhawk! shirt is not a blended shirt.  It is 100% cotton pique shirt that is advertised as a great class B uniform shirt.

This shirt came in gray so I can’t speak about fading as much as the others, but it held up great through the last 10 washings it received.  The shirt has a very interesting collar that is ribbed, with some type of insert to help it maintain its shape.  Of all the collars, this one is the biggest, and probably my least favorite of the three.

One feature that is missing from the other shirts are hidden buttons.  The Blackhawk! shirt has a hidden button placket.  This gives the shirt a very clean appearance.

Like the Woolrich shirt, this shirt also has a pocket on the left arm that they describe as a media pocket.  It also functions as the pen pocket.  Where as the Woolrich shirt has a zipper, this shirt uses a hidden button to keep valuables from falling out.  The shirt also features a button hole for routing a cord underneath the collar of the shirt.

Who should buy this shirt? Anyone looking for a tough shirt that can serve outside in conditions that will tear a part a regular polo.  It would make a great LEO shirt for class B uniforms.  Blackhawk! doesn’t list the weight of the shirt, but it feels like the heaviest of the ones we tried.  It is definitely a thick shirt.

All of these shirts sell for around $35-$40 so there isn’t a real price advantage for any brand.  The main thing to remember is that they are offering a quality Polo that holds up.  Don’t waste your time on a cheap mail order shirt.  All of these Polos can take the abuse of an outside environment, and they will look great after many washes.

**Special thanks to Blackhawk!, 5.11, and Woolrich Elite for providing shirts for this article.