houston polo club Ralph Lauren THREE PURVEYORS OF EXECUTIVE STYLE
The chairman of the board wore a work shirt, old jeans with holes in them and scuffed up cowboy boots as he talked about what today’s American business executive should be wearing. ”Poetic license,” explained Ralph Lauren, who heads the international Polo/ Ralph Lauren fashion empire.
How the chairman of the board gets holes in his jeans sitting in an office on West 55th Street is anybody’s guess, but when Ralph Lauren is wearing old clothes with holes in them around town, and even in some of his advertisements, it shouldn’t be long before tailors offer ”Holes in Your Clothes While U Wait” and shoe repair shops advertise ”X Pert Boot Scuffing Ask About Our New Horse Manure Applications.” Then: ”Just Holes” stores.
Such is Lauren’s power of suggestion. Once, Ralph Lauren was a boy from the Bronx a boy named Ralph Lifschitz, until his family changed the name when he was 16 years old and then he was a tie designer, and now, of course, Ralph Lauren is a way of life.
As Lauren strolled through Sotheby’s auction house on a recent day, a young man wearing not one but two Polo shirts the knit shirt beneath the pink button down as well as Polo horn rimmed eyeglass frames and what one must assume were Polo trousers, Polo socks and Polo loafers, stood transfixed at the sight of Lauren, as if he had glimpsed his creator.
He will open what amounts to the world’s first Polo/Ralph Lauren department store at Madison Avenue and 72d Street next spring. More new stores are planned in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Greece, Canada and Mexico, among others. Global Laurenism.
When Lauren was once asked what made his sheets different, he answered, ”The difference is, you will want to buy them.” His customers seem to be buying a measure of confidence and security, with the little polo pony symbol or the Lauren label being their assurance of an image of quality. They are also buying what Lauren has described as an ”old money look.” On the visit to Sotheby’s, he asked a representative of the auction house why the paintings of horses, hounds and hunters in red coats and high hats were so popular. ”Because of the interest in a return to tradition,” the representative explained, ”and an interest in the aristocratic look.” Lauren replied in his soft voice, ”I can appreciate that.”
He describes his styles as ”anti fashion,” from the western wear to his traditional lines. He is described as the ”most American” of designers, and he seems to understand better than many that, although American men may want a touch of style, they fear looking like dandies, and indeed tend to regard fashion as just another horse manure application.
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”American executives,” he said, ”want casual, quiet elegance and sophistication. They want a bit more style than just the office uniform, but they don’t want distracting clothes that indicate they are too much into themselves.”
”I am not complimented,” he added, ”when someone says, ‘I like your shoes,’ or ‘I like your tie.’ ”
Lauren swears that he sheds his western apparel for meetings with bankers and such. ”I like something like a fitted navy blue suit with a white shirt and a solid color tie.”
His advertisements look for all the world like propaganda posters for the nuclear family and the American Way of Life. They often depict rugged individualists handsome and aristocratic standing ready in their simple $260 sweaters to defend home, family and country club.
When Lauren discusses his clothing, he speaks of ”honesty,” ”integrity” and ”realness,” and he says things like, ”My ties represent all that I stand for.” He talks of ”standing by” his ties when Bloomingdale’s said they were just too wide. He stuck by his instincts until Bloomingdale’s and the rest of the world came around.
The 45 year old Lauren, who has been married for 20 years and has three children, not only espouses Laurenism but lives it. One of his ”life style groupings” of products for the home is called Jamaica, and he has a house there. His Montauk house is said to sport much of his New England and Mariner collections, and the Thoroughbred grouping should do nicely when he builds on his Pound Ridge estate.