Ralph Lauren is an iconic American clothing brand that was founded in 1967 and today, is a seven billion dollar company. A lot of people ask us “Well, what do you buy from this brand or what would you suggest we buy?”
Brief History Of The Brand
Ironically, it was founded by Ralph Lifshitz who just decided that that was not so marketable and went with Ralph Lauren. When he founded the company, he was 27 years old and initially, he started with ties because he was working for a tie manufacturer. Through the 60s, slim ties were en vogue and so Ralph Lauren decided to go the opposite way and make very wide ties. What really propelled his brand is when he had an in-store concept at Bloomingdale’s and that was the first brand or person to be able to get that. He also had the first stand-alone single designer store on Rodeo Drive and he was the first to win the Coty fashion award twice.
Following ties, he launched a line of women’s shirts under the Polo brand which became later synonymous with Ralph Lauren. A few years later in 1972, he created the polo mesh shirt and it’s a hallmark staple of the brand to this day. With this roaring success, Ralph Lauren was also asked to design the wardrobes for the Great Gatsby at the time and Annie Hall. They went public in 1997 and today has a bunch of sub-brands. Ralph Lauren is a brand that has begun so popular that it’s often counterfeited. So if you buy used goods, beware that you don’t get a fake.
- Ralph Lauren Collection
- Purple Label
- Black Label
- Double RL
- RL X
- Ralph Lauren Home
- Chaps & Club Monaco
- Ralph Lauren Restaurants
So what’s Ralph Lauren’s style? If I have to break it down, I would say it’s preppy Americana but they do a really good job in using vintage inspired patterns and garments and just tweaking them a little bit and putting them back onto the market. They also do a good job of using different colors, patterns, and fabrics. Apart from that, they are still one of those few lines that offer a full range of men’s clothing and suits that is not just plain gray and navy but they have Prince of Wales checks and nice stripes, they have seersuckers, sometimes even bold paisley, or velvet garments, and just overall, it’s a brand that has the entire spectrum of a classic men’s wardrobe in a ready-to-wear segment.
Before you go out and buy anything, keep in mind that everything they sell has a very high retail price. Often, it’s discounted, especially at department stores, but even on their website. So, if you don’t need it right away and it’s not something that you must have immediately, it probably pays to wait because you’ll get a substantial discount.
Top Ralph Lauren Picks
1. Sweaters & Sweater Vests
First of all, I would say sweaters and sweater vests. Ralph Lauren is one of the few companies that offer really an extremely wide range of knits; whether it’s a cable knit or an Aran sweater, maybe a fair isle, knit vest inspired style, they have cool wools, they have cool styles with shawl collars, cardigans, and really everything under the sun. So if you’re in the market for any kind of cardigan, I suggest you check them out. Also, check out the vintage polo sweaters. They can be really cool things to have at a very low price.
2. Double RL Brand
It’s not usually carried in department stores, they are usually sold at specific stores; there’s a great one in New York, I think it’s their flagship store. It’s mostly vintage Americana inspired work wear so lots of denim, lots of more casual garments with vintage influences but their suits are also very nice, they feature usually a nice belly and have this kind of vintage feel to it but it’s not just distinctly 1930s that like is much slimmer and more modern; so it’s just a cool kind of garment that is hard to be found elsewhere.
Probably my favorite swimwear items are from Ralph Lauren, they are usually in classic patterns such as checks or they have like bold stripes and it’s very hard to find a tasteful classically inspired pair of swim trunks from other brands.
Probably the most iconic piece is the Polo overcoat which works well with their name. It’s kind of a camel hair coat and you’ve probably have seen an ad from them. Ironically, it’s not sold on their website very often anymore so the best chance to find it is vintage on eBay or other places. Be prepared to pay around $1,000 for a polo coat even though it’s used but it’s a very nice garment and if you find other overcoats, chances are they’re made with really cool details out of really unusual fabrics.
5. Vintage Polo Items
Today, Polo Ralph Lauren is much more commercialized. It’s mostly made in Asia, however, in the 80s, things were made in the US or in Italy or in England and oftentimes, to a higher standard; the yarns and the fabrics are better so they’ve stood the test of time. So if you find something from the 80s or 90s that you like and it goes with your style, don’t be afraid of buying it, it’s good stuff. Good items in this area are corduroys or sweaters, ties, suits, or even seersucker.
Men’s shorts or Bermuda shorts are really great. But just in general, often they are vintage-inspired, they offer bolder colors than other men’s brands, and they have little details such as coin pockets or just a pattern like a real Indian cotton madras.
7. Dress Shoes
In the past, they were often manufactured in Italy. Today, their Purple Label shoe line is usually made by Crockett & Jones, Edward Green or Graziano & Girling which are all high-end British makers. They have a very good styling, they add the purple sole, and while the retail price is quite high, if you find a markdown in store, at outlets, or on eBay, they’re a very good buy.
8. Purple Label Suits & Jackets
Back in the day, they were made in England by Chester Barrie and crew. It’s really nice, it has a very 30s inspired style with wide lapels, it’s tailored very softly so it’s extremely comfortable just like a sweater and even though today, most of Purple Label’s items are made in Italy and things have changed quite a bit, they’re still at a high-quality level and I recommend them. Usually, those garments retail anywhere from $4,000-$6,000 or more. Now, I don’t believe it’s worth the retail price but sometimes, you can score bargains on eBay or on outlets. They also offer a great range of dinner jackets in unusual patterns and colors, as well as cuts.
9. Ralph Lauren Home Goods
They have anything from bed sheets to glasses to decorative items and while generally, their stuff is not of the utmost quality, it is good quality and it is a superb style, however, again, in a very high price point. So if you can find it used somewhere or in a dead-stock, that’s the time to buy, unless, of course, you really like it, it works with your room then just splurge on it and enjoy it.
Especially, Polo has a range of corduroys for the winter that is unusual, many different colors, they also have great chinos in shades like Nantucket red, baby blue, or just regular sand or khaki and so any type of somewhat casual pants or medium formal pair of slacks, Ralph Lauren is a great option for you.
What Not To Buy From Ralph Lauren
1. Polo Shirts
I am not a big fan of their polo shirts anymore, I think they’re priced quite high, they have bigger and bigger logos in their chests that are very contrasting which I don’t like, and their collars are flimsy.
2. Dress Shirts
In my experience, the fit is often awkward, they also have like oxford shirts but they have all the Polo pony which is something I don’t like on a shirt, and on top of that, they’re rather pricey so you’re better off going made-to-measure somewhere else where you get exactly the fabric you want in a color you want and in a fit that works for you.
3. Anything With Obnoxious Logos
Also, stay clear of anything that’s obnoxious with logos. There’s a tendency to have a super-huge ponies on your clothing or the American flag or the polar bear and all of these make you more look like a brand whore rather than a well-dressed person. Yes, you can be patriotic but when have you ever seen an American president wearing a sweater with the American flag? Never, right? Well, there’s a good reason, it’s just obnoxious.
4. Ralph Lauren Activewear
Also, in my experience, stay clear of Ralph Lauren activewear with windproof stuff. I used to have a jacket way back in the day and it performed very poorly especially compared to other brands that focus specifically on outdoor stuff so I just stay clear of that altogether.
They’re simply overpriced and no one needs a little pony on their t-shirt. I also think a lot of accessories that Ralph Lauren offers, such as their leather goods, are simply not really super high quality, they just have a high price tag. Overall, I think all of the accessories just rely too heavily on branding. For example, look at the polar bear quartz watch for $2,000. I mean, really?
So in summary, Ralph Lauren has a great range of products that you could buy from them when things are on sale or if they’re vintage, they’re exceptionally good buys, otherwise, stay clear of some of the accessories. Overall, I think Ralph Lauren is a fantastic brand. They did an exceptional job in bringing kind of a classic English inspired Americana style to the average man and for that, I truly thank Ralph Lauren.