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The Brand History of Ralph Lauren

Where did Ralph Lauren come from?

For our next instalment of ‘Brand History’ we will be taking a look at how Ralph Lauren was created.

Where did it come from and what does it stand for?

Ralphy, our dear friend. The brand was the creation of the legendary designer Ralph Lauren, however would you believe he was originally born under the name of Ralph Rueben Lifshitz, in the Bronx, NY. He was born in 1939, the son of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants originally from Belarus.

At age 16 his older brother changed both his and Ralph’s surname to Lauren, after many years of being mocked. It’s worth noting that the correct pronunciation is said to be “Lorren” rather than the “Lo-Ren” which most are familiar with. Personally I’ll be sticking to the ‘wrong’ version. Ralph studied business, served in the Army and then took a job at Brooks Brothers, working in sales. It was in 1967 that the Ralph Lauren brand took its first steps. After spending a number of years working with stylish, modern and well-dressed clients, he saw that there was a gap in the market for the menswear which he specialized in; neckties. Working out of a tiny office space in the Empire State Building, he used offcuts of materials to fashion his ties, using the name Polo.

“I don’t design clothes; I design dreams” – Ralph Lauren

Ralph founded Polo Fashions in 1968, using a $50, 000 loan. He had no formal fashion training and was self-taught. His iconic striped ties became increasingly popular, being stocked across many department stores. Next he designed a full menswear line. Ralph Polo Lauren was The iconic polo player logo was introduced as a motif in 1971, and the renowned short-sleeve polo shirt was released in 1972 in 24 colours. His first women’s clothing line was introduced in Beverly Hills. Contrary to popular belief however, Ralph Lauren did not invent the polo shirt. It was the creation of Rene Lacoste in 1926, as a comfortable shirt for use when playing tennis.

Ralph originally chose Polo to represent his brand as he believed the sport itself was representative of the aspired class and style of his clothing. He wanted to appeal to a premium market and exude style with a classic feel. Polo offered the perfect style for the preppy college kids in America, and that style lasts to this today. The brand has however spread worldwide and become equally as appreciated in Europe. In the UK the Ralph Lauren baseball cap has seen particular popularity lately amongst students and young people. The style permeates all modern sub-styles from electronic underground to ambient rock.

From the 1970’s to the 1990’s, Lauren continued the expansion of his brand, launching a variety of boths men’s and women’s styles ranging from sports clothing to fragrances. In that time the brand has created Chaps, developed Vera Wang, sued a horse riding magazine for name copyright, and the man himself even featured in Friends. Rachel was a designer for the company and he appears in an elevator, twice. Ralph Lauren became the first official designer of Wimbledon participant outfits in 2006, and the logo was redesigned for the purpose. The Ralph Lauren polo bear was actually a gift to Lauren, a stuffed animal wearing a western-style knitted jumper. Ralph loved the gift so much it became part of the brand tradition and the first jumper was released in 1991. One last interesting point is that the word ‘polo’ was dropped from the RL name, apparently because of the popularity and commonality of the polo shirt, and to distinguish itself away from the generic menswear style. In 2015, the Ralph Lauren brand was worth around $7.5 billion, and he likes to collect some amazing cars too, including a Bugatti.

We always have a steady flow of Ralph shirts coming in our stock,

and are always be looking out for some rare RL pieces with character.

Take a look at Ralph’s cars below.

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