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July 13, 2021

A Polo Shirt That Is More James Bond than Sunspel?

The best alternative to Sunspel polo shirts: We have been closely following polo shirt specialist Niccolò P. since they launched in London in the early part of 2018. Intriguing for us was the brand’s proposition of a smarter ‘structured’ polo shirt or, in their words: “a polo smart enough to take you from relaxed meeting to the rooftop bars of the city and from airport lounge to poolside.” So far, so very James Bond. Using the finest natural materials in the world such as Sea Island cotton sourced from Barbados (mentioned in several of Ian Fleming’s works), bespoke-level details are added to each polo shirt including mother-of-pearl buttons sourced from sustainable farms run by indigenous families in Australia, and flat-felled seam stitching usually found only on quality shirting.

Last week, we were able to examine one of their polo shirts for the first time. Called The Weekend and made using Egyptian Mako cotton, it competes style-wise with Sunspel’s Riviera polo shirt albeit sitting at a more affordable price point (£90 v. £105). What struck us immediately was the quality of the fabric used. While Sunspel typically uses high quality cottons in its polos, the finish of the Niccolò P. shirt is on a different level: they use a double jersey knit which – it was explained to us – means there is no slightly rougher side to the fabric as there is in single jersey (which most polo shirts and t-shirts use). The fabric is also mercerised which gives the polo a ‘luxury you can spot across the room’ lustre.

Also helping Niccolò P. stand apart from Sunspel is the use of mother-of-pearl buttons (Sunspel typically uses plastic buttons). The advantage that the newcomer has here is that it doesn’t have a substantial head count, retail estate or wholesale agreements to service. In fact, Niccolò P. describes itself as an ultra-lean direct-to-consumer (DTC) specialist. Now, we have seen plenty of brands emerge in the DTC space in recent years, but they tend to follow a predictable path to a hybrid operating model of mainly online but some offline experiences (and associated fixed costs!). The advantage of staying true to a DTC model is that the product can remain the focus without the kind of penny-pinching which can happen at heritage brands such as Sunspel, John Smedley or Orlebar Brown.

While we have been long-time fans of Sunspel’s spartan approach to polo shirt design, we are not keen on the breast pocket found on most of their polos – to us, this says more ‘office clerk’ than ‘Bond’. Niccolò P. eschews exterior details such as pockets or logos – a relief for those who dislike feeling like an advertising sandwich board.

In terms of colour choice, Sunspel currently has the edge on Niccolò P., but we note the upstart has plans to have 60 colours in stock by mid-2022. With an uncompromising approach to quality, it seems James Bond might have a new favourite polo shirt.

Discover more: Niccolò P. Polo Shirts

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