Ralph Lauren... A History Of
'Money, Hoes and Clothes'. Sounds like a dodgy mash-up of 'Boats n Hoes' right (no?! I thought so). Anyway that first one, however ridiculous it may sound, is the motto of Ralph Lauren clad New York Gang the 'Lo-Life's' and they are well hard (so hopefully none of them end up reading this, because chances are they don't take lightly to people slagging off their slogan)!!!
The 'Laurenification' of America started in the country clubs and private retreats and wound up on the streets with a brand that hyped wealth and ambition as their main attributes being boosted (that's stolen if you haven't been practicing your street slang recently) by fifty deep gangs of the poorest kids on the bloc.
What could a mob of skint, rapping, criminals (let's face it, that's basically what they are) have wanted/still want anything to do with Ralph Lauren - a brand that champions everything they're not - I hear you ask?!! Well, the answer to that is fairly straight forward.
This gang were/are/always have been literally obsessed with Ralph Lauren since they were old enough to fire a blank (sounds like a dodgy analogy but one google of the Lo Life's and you'll see what I mean - these cats are NOT messing around)!! Loads of Lo Life's carted photos of Ralph around in their wallets and some used to fly to different countries just so they could nick the stuff!
Ralph Lifshitz founded the company in '67 (that's Lif-Shitz, for some reason he changed his surname - God knows why!) running off a few ties and by the early 70s he was winning coty awards and dressing Jay Gatsby! The company's success sky rocketed and the whole rags to riches fairy tale type garb of a Jewish immigrant making it big was something the kids on street could relate to. Ralphie from the Bronx broke away from his poor background and transformed himself into a Eurocentric Butterfly like THAT and apparently that was aspirational enough to form a gang and start racking a load of Polo.
Ralphies Kids and the USA (United Shoplifters Association) were two separate groups who both adopted Ralph Lauren's Polo line and combined to form one super gang. Then they basically went around terrorising the hood whilst they were swapping polo shirts like one big happy family. Polo was unlike anything anyone else in the hood was wearing and the associations with the brand earned them respect. How wearing a jumper with a knitted teddy skiing across your chest earned respect in the hood is anyone's guess (probably had something to do with all the shoplifting and bumping off they were doing)!!
The designs the Lo Life's favoured were (not surprisingly) ones of classic American heritage; marine flags, riding equipment, tartan prints and native American imagery featured heavily and symbolised exactly what their whole lives centred around; money!!
This all seems a looongg way from the image we typically associate Ralph Lauren with right?! (The mind wanders to that old black and white ad with Ralph riding bareback… across the beach… in slo-mo… Enough said, really)! Well that's because it is. I don't think Ralph was planning on marketing to the shoplifting demographic when he started shipping out his Horsey-riding-Polo-player emblazon shirts at hundreds of dollars a pop, do you?! (And somehow I don't think in between shoplifting sprees the Lo's were nattering about their annual Skiing and Polo trips or deciding whose yacht they were going to take out for an airing!!)
Despite all that, whilst the front row were kissing the ground Ralph walked on with his classic and timeless American tailoring earning them status among the elite, the gangsters were idolising him for a wholly different reason; Polo's unique and iconic branding earned them status in the hood. (Three guesses why the rare and collectible Ski '92 Polo jacket was notoriously dubbed the 'Suicide Jacket'). Polo wasn't fashion for the Lo's; it was religion and for the loyalists that was a matter of life and death.
Nowadays the Lo's seem less preoccupied with stabbing each other for their tee's and more interested in holding national meets in Times Square where they just show off their collections. As Ralph steps down as CEO, the haves continue to splash the cash, the have nots compare racked vintage gems and the empire lives to see another day. To get your mitts on a piece of the legacy we have a stack of Ralph Lauren in-stores and online NOW (but you can knock a few zeros off the prices)!!