“Ralph Lauren is NOT my favorite designer.”- me, earlier this week
Ralph Lauren, the company, celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this fall. Every publication that I read is honoring him (rightfully so), and it got me seriously thinking what impact he has had on my love for style.
Ralph Lauren, through the myriad of brands within the company, embodies every corner of the American dream and American style.
As a teenager, the ability to get my hands on a Polo shirt greatly excited me, but truthfully, that was just marketing doing its job. Being young and impressionable, the cool, pretty people on TV and in magazines had them, so sign me up.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties probably that I fell in love. While reading my vast array of fashion magazines, I stumbled across Ralph Lauren Purple Label, the best of the best in the RL empire. I was immediately smitten by the beauty of the label. Not the brand, the actual label that was sewn into the clothes. It was purple, smooth, and gorgeous, and I wanted to know more.
I loved the label, but I hated the price, especially at that age. The pieces were exorbitantly priced, reflecting the quality of the craftsmanship and the lifestyle it was meant to represent. Not one to be deterred, I went on a mission, one which started maybe ten years ago and continues today. The basic jist is this: Ralph Lauren Purple Label items are like art to me, and if can ever find one at value, I strongly consider the investment. Not the purchase, the investment.
As of today, I have six Purple Label pieces: a light purple cashmere sweater, an outrageous “Geezer” golf tie, 2 dress shirts, cashmere gloves, and my most favorite piece in my wardrobe, a cognac colored alligator belt. Each piece is quite spectacular and comes with a spectacular story, but none quite as much as the belt.
Here it is. It stood out to me immediately in the Ralph Lauren outlet store some 10 years ago, looking totally different from all of the other items. It retailed for roughly $1600, I believe, and had been marked down to a fourth of that. It was a quite exquisite piece, one that I knew I wanted in my closet. I told myself that if it ever got under $200, I would buy it. So I visited the store multiple times and watched and watched it for the better part of 3 months, with a scare one month when I couldn’t find it. But it was there, and it finally got below $200, and I purchased this beautiful piece of art which I now wear all the time. (I honestly don’t know if it is a man’s or woman’s belt, but as you should know by now, I do not care.)
The great thing about the brand is that it is so expansive that it introduces you to a zillion different worlds. It’s all a bit of fantasy, but with some exploration, it can absolutely become reality. If you have ever been to a RL store or studied an advertisement, it introduces you to a lifestyle that might be of interest to you: the posh English countryside (not interested), the Hamptons (curious), prepster central (definitely not), street culture (fascinated), formal (not anymore), out West (absolutely).
Speaking of, ever since I personally visited Wyoming, Montana, and Utah, I have been in love. And though I do not own any RRL “western” pieces yet, I am so fascinated with the stereotypical western lifestyle: big cowboy hat, boots, denim, at one with nature, able to see the landscape for days, cold beer in hand. It’s one of the facets of America that I have grown to appreciate so much in my travels. In the same way that each RL sub-brand has its own vibe, every American town/city has its own way of life, culture, and values. As a bit of a wanderer, I get to observe, listen, and take it in. And even if it isn’t for me or I don’t understand, I have grown to appreciate it.
As I wrote this piece, I went through my closet and old “fashion blog” pictures and pinpointed every Ralph Lauren item I own. Damn, there are some good ones. Almost every outfit I wear contains at least one piece: the pinstripe double breasted suit, the American flag jacket, the olive cashmere suit, the red plaid Christmas pants, the vest, the tattered jeans, and even the rain boots.
Suffice it to say that Mr. Lauren, just a normal guy from the Bronx, has surely surpassed his wildest dreams, those dreams that he continues to convey to us normal folks through his brand, lifestyle, and clothes. What’s your dream? What are you doing about it? Oooh, and what are you wearing whilst doing it?
I’ve got a lot of dreams, I’ve been doing a ton of work, and I’m making some good progress. And while I’m doing all of this, I’m apparently always wearing at least one piece of Ralph Lauren.
“Ralph Lauren may be my favorite designer.”-me, corrected
Have a great week.-Benj
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