Brand History - Polo Ralph Lauren

Brand History - Polo Ralph Lauren

Whether the legendary horse logo or the iconic teddy bear, Polo Ralph Lauren has created a high recognition value for itself with its logo and mascot. For 55 years now, Polo Ralph Lauren has been a part of the fashion world and has been able to significantly influence and change it. The brand established itself as the flagship for a chic, modern, American style and is worn then as now by young and old.

The story began in 1967, when Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz) launched a tie collection, which he named "Polo". Just one year later, in 1968, he presented his first men's collection and then in 1970 the first Polo by Ralph Lauren store was opened in the legendary Bloomingdale's department store in New York City. The store was the first in Bloomingdale's dedicated to one designer alone.

A young Ralph Lauren at the beginning of his career

The next successes and milestones were not long in coming. In 1971, the first independent store was opened on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and in the same year the legendary Polo horse logo celebrated its debut on a shirt blouse. A year later, the time had come and Polo Ralph Lauren brought out the garment with which the brand is probably most often associated - the polo shirt! Although the first polo shirt was invented by René Lacoste (read here), Ralph Lauren managed to redevelop the garment for himself. Thus, Ralph Lauren's polo shirt was not made of cotton pique but of interlock. Together with the iconic logo on the chest, the new version of the polo shirt had quickly established itself and embodied what Polo Ralph Lauren stood for at its core - sporty yet elegant.

The 1980s were to be a pivotal decade for the brand. With the rise of the preppy & collegiate look in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Polo Ralph Lauren became an integral part of many outfits - both on and off campus. And while the brand established itself in the elite circles of young adults from more affluent families, the so-called Lo Lifes took the brand's identity and made it their own. The Lo Lifes were a Brooklyn-based subculture that revolved around Polo Ralph Lauren. So the "Lo" came from "Polo." The movement was especially active in the 80s and 90s and had a wide reach. At the core of the Lo Lifes was the way to dress, namely Polo Ralph Lauren from head to toe. What made Polo Ralph Lauren central was how the brand was especially associated with the elite college kids from the Ivy Leagues around the country. Since many members of the various Lo Life groups tended to come from lower social backgrounds, many of the Polo pieces were stolen rather than bought, especially in the beginning, so the increased attention had a bitter aftertaste for the brand. Nevertheless, the Lo Lifes represent an important part of the brand's history. They showed how Polo Ralph Lauren could be styled in a different way and virtually created a brand image all its own.

Most importantly: Ralph Lauren from head to toe

In 1991 the time had come - Polo Ralph Lauren introduced its "mascot" - the Polo Teddy Bear! Jerry Lauren, brother of Ralph Lauren and enthusiastic collector of Steiff bears, gets a Steiff bear as a gift from his colleagues, which was dressed like himself. At the same time, Ralph Lauren also received a bear as a gift, dressed in a Western look. So not only was a new tradition born, Ralph Lauren was so inspired by the Steiff bears that he incorporated them into his designs in two different ways. The first was a limited edition teddy bear produced in collaboration with Steiff. The second was the bear design that found its new home on sweatshirts, t-shirts or denim jackets, for example. Along with the horse logo, the polo bear became the brand's figurehead. Even today, especially sweatshirts with the preppy bear have a large fan base!

Kanye West in a Polo Ralph Lauren Bear Sweater (2004)


Emily Ratajkowski in a Polo Sport Sweater (2019)

Also in the TV series of the 90s, the fashion brand was represented by their clothes again and again. But one series directly addressed Polo Ralph Lauren - namely Friends. So there were not only minor allusions to the brand, because Rachel, one of the main characters, even worked at Polo Ralph Lauren. And what's more, Ralph Lauren himself made a guest appearance in the series. In 2019, Polo Ralph Lauren even launched a Friends collection.

Ralph Lauren's appearance in Friends (1999)

But even in the more recent past, Polo Ralph Lauren has managed to create unique and standout concepts and campaigns. Among them, for example, the outfitting of Team USA for the 2008 Olympics or the collaboration with the skate store Palace in 2018.

The USA Olympic Basketball Team (2008)

Polo Ralph Lauren x Palace Campaign (2018)

We have also collected a few pictures of vintage Polo Ralph Lauren ads from the 70s, 80s and 90s for you, you can find them below. Also, check out all of our vintage Polo Ralph Lauren pieces here!


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