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No brand is more iconic to America and the sport of polo as Ralph Lauren, originally known as Polo Ralph Lauren. With the goal of selling the American Dream, Ralph Lauren was the incarnation of the universal aspiration himself. For the young entrepreneur, polo symbolized a particular connection to people, horses, fashion, and most importantly, status. He compiled the four pillars into a chic clothing brand that would bring polo style and comfort to everyday life at an elevated level.

When it comes to American menswear fashion, Ralph Lauren paved the road for designers to come. Ralph Lauren is a brand that represents preppy luxury and a turn back to the collegiate years universally. The Ralph Lauren polo shirts became so popular that the brand had to drop “polo” from its name. It then distinguished itself not only as a polo shirt-making company, but a proper fashion house. The brand continues to carry the Polo Ralph Lauren capsules. It now also carries added value from the Polo Bar in New York City, Ralph’s coffee shop, and its restaurants.

Polo Collection
Image Courtesy: High Snobiety

What are the Ralph Lauren lines?

Ralph Lauren: a luxury fashion brand

Polo Ralph Lauren: the original men’s line of sportswear and tailored clothing with a women’s line added in 2014

Polo Sport: the active and sportswear line launched in 1992

Polo Ralph Lauren Children: kidswear Ralph Lauren line featuring miniaturized PRL staple garments

Pink Pony: a charity line percentage of sales from which benefit the Pink Pony Fund and other cancer charities around the world. The line is symbolized with a pink polo player.

A look at the old Polo Ralph Lauren logo

How did Polo Ralph Lauren actually start?

Even though Polo Ralph Lauren was only developed in 1968, a mere sixty years ago, the brand seems to have always been a fashion staple. The horse rider-and-mallet emblem on the polo shirts is timeless.

Ralph Lauren had already been in the fashion industry when in 1967, then 28-years old, he persuaded the president of tie manufacturer Beau Brummell to let him start his own line. He took out a $50,000 loan and added “polo” to his own name because it sounded more English. It is by adding “Polo” before “Ralph Lauren” that he immediately put his brand a few steps above the rest.

He worked out of a single drawer in the Empire State Building and even made the deliveries by himself. By 1969, Manhattan’s department store Bloomingdale’s opted for exclusive access to the men’s line. They even gave Ralph Lauren his own shop. This was the first time Bloomingdale’s opened shop for a designer within their own store.  Two years later, Lauren would launch a women’s line of tailored shirts. This was the birth of the iconic polo shirt. Another year would go by and Lauren launched the shirt in 24-colorways.

Ralph Lauren lifestyle

What Ralph Lauren did was not necessarily groundbreaking, but the way he did it was entirely new. The genius marketing would spoon feed the patrons they wanted to attract. The clothing had a mix of Ivy League and country club wear, married to everyday apparel. The result was a simplistic sophistication that every American at the turn of the century aspired to. He represented a true Americana personage and drew out the path for future designers to come. Everyone from Maine to the Greenwich Polo Club and Long Island would share one common desire– they absolutely needed a Ralph Lauren polo shirt. And having a Ralph Lauren Harrington jacket was the ultimate “cool.”

The cool escalated quickly when Ralph Lauren dressed the entire male cast of The Great Gatsby in 1974. He particularly outfitted Jay Gatsby in his iconic pink suit.

Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby wearing Polo Ralph Lauren

What else did Ralph Lauren pioneer?  

From clothes, Ralph Lauren diverged into an entire lifestyle. In 1978, the brand was the first to launch a men’s and women’s fragrance at the same time. Not only could one dress in full polo-club attire, one could also smell like the brand.

Image Courtesy: High Snobiety

The Polo brand became increasingly popular in the United Kingdom in the ’80s when a pastel-collared Oxford shirt was a must to get into clubs.

Ralph Lauren for US Open

Did Ralph Lauren focus only on Polo?

What Ralph Lauren did best was adapt to changing tastes and cultural obsessions. Stateside, skateboarding and punk culture were growing. The 90’s Polo Sport and Polo Silver collections targeted just that audience playing along with their vibes and spunk. The brand never truly reinvented itself with changing styles, but it rebranded to match the desires of their customers. In a cheeky way, Ralph Lauren always kept the elevated polo style in just about any scene. From polo players to cowboys, rappers (including Kanye West,) New England country club members, Ivy League students, skateboarders and everyone in between, it was a brand to be enjoyed by all men.

Ralph Lauren is now bringing back the original ‘90s Polo Sport and Polo Silver collections this summer with a few revamped styles and updated silhouettes while maintaining the brand colorways. Novel in the ‘90s, the street style from these capsules was the first time for a luxury fashion house to add an entire sports line. What was then-scandalous is now commonplace from the streets of New York to Tokyo. Ralph Lauren was indeed ahead of its time. Perhaps with the popular trend of polo throwbacks, the sport will now experience a resurgence in popular culture as well?

From there, Ralph Lauren added the Polo Bear– a gift he once received. The Polo Bear is depicted in many different occupations often sporting a mallet. The badge would become an icon for the brand. The entire brand has now become a true lifestyle brand, and all others are trailing in its path.

A look at Ralph Lauren now

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