If you have heard of the Polo shirt, it is most likely the name Ralph Lauren is also familiar to you.
While the polo is older than Ralph Lauren, it was Ralph Lauren who made the polo shirt what it is today. The polo shirt’s beginnings may have started as early as the mid-1800s. Sporting teams were wearing long sleeved jerseys made from the same knitted material as the polo is today. Rene Lacoste added some flare to the shirt in 1926 producing it in white with short sleeves and with an un-starched, flat protruding collar. It also had a buttoned placket, and a longer shirttail in back than in front for tennis players. As a tennis player, he first wore the shirt at the 1926 U.S. Open championship.
Later on, clothing retailer Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lischitz, was getting his own name brand off the ground. This was in the late 1960s. By 1971, Polo Ralph Lauren launched its first women’s collection and his first standalone store in Beverly Hills, California. Ten years later, in 1981, the brand went global with its first international store on London’s New Bond Street. The Polo Sport line was introduced in 1993.
Ralph Lauren’s brand now produces clothing, accessories, fragrances, furniture, operates the restaurant RL in Chicago. The flagship store is located in the former Rhinelander Mansion on Madison Avenue in New York City. Ralph Lauren is one of the largest retailers in the United States with revenues reaching $4.2 billion in 2007.
Some of Ralph Lauren’s classics are of course his Polo. One of the most famous pieces in the Polo line is the classic polo short-sleeved knit shirt featuring the now-iconic Polo player on the left breast of the shirt. This shirt in particular became a fashion must-have in the 1980s with the preppy set. Other Polo classics include the cashmere cableknit sweater, chinos and the oxford cloth button-down shirt.
Since Ralph Lauren’s first brand, Polo, was launched in 1967, the company has expanded to include a variety of luxury brands. They include:
* Purple Label: Launched in 1994, this is Ralph Lauren’s signature, and highest end, men’s line, with classic, traditionally British styling. It includes ready-to-wear suits and sportcoats (made by St. Andrews and Cantarelli), dress shirts, sportswear, accessories, and footwear, as well as a collection of made-to-order suits, sportcoats, shoes (made by British company Edward Green), dress shirts, exotic skin luggage, small leather goods, and jewelry. Purple Label is only available in Ralph Lauren stores, the company’s online store and high-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
* Black Label: Black Label for men and women. The men’s clothing tends to have a more modern, Italian cut to its suits, sport coats (made by Raffaele Caruso), dress shirts, and sportswear, with higher armholes and a slimmer silhouette. Black Label for women demonstrated more modern, high-end casual and semi-formal women’s wear.
* Polo Ralph Lauren: His first brand for men, and also the most widely available. This ‘blue label’ line spans from tailored clothing (ready-to-wear and made to measure), sportswear, accessories (including luggage) to small leather goods. Available at many department and specialty stores as well as Ralph Lauren stores and the company’s online store.
* Polo Golf: A sporty collection catering to golfers since 1987 and often featuring celebrity golfers as advertising models (see Sports sponsorship below).
* Polo Jeans Co.: Denim inspired line. Now discontinued in the US.
* Polo Denim: A 2007 relaunch of the Polo Jeans Co. line of 1996. Denim basics available online and in department stores.
* Lauren Ralph Lauren: Basics and suiting. Divided into Green and Silver (slightly slimmer cuts) Label. Available primarily through department and outlet stores, and not at RL stores or ralphlauren.com.
* Ralph by Ralph Lauren: Men’s clothing exclusively available at Dillard’s stores, this label offers suits, sport coats, dress trousers and suit vests.
* Collection: The highest end clothing line for women (also carries a purple tag), as seen in his runway shows. Includes classic eveningwear, tailored blazers, outerwear, sportswear, handbags, and accessories.
* RLX: A technical sports apparel line, focusing on clothing and outerwear built for outdoor sports such as tennis, golf, skiing, sailing, and hiking, launched in 1998. Primarily distributed through RalphLauren.com
* Polo Sport: A discontinued line of casual sports clothing that was introduced for men in 1993 and women in 1996. It was retired in 2005 and ultimately replaced by RLX as well as the Golf and Tennis lines. The Polo Sport fragrance lines continue to exist as remnants of this label.
* RRL (pronounced “Double-R L”): A denim and sportswear line that takes its influence from the American West. Available in Ralph Lauren stores as well as several smaller signature Double RL stores.
* Rugby Ralph Lauren: A brand launched in 2004 focusing on collegiate apparel with a similar look to the pricier Polo and Blue Label brands. Sold at signature Rugby stores.
* Tennis: Sports clothing for tennis players. Special collections for the US Open tournaments.
* Pink Pony: A charity line of sportswear and accessories all carrying a pink Polo pony. A portion of the proceeds benefit cancer research. Predominantly for women, the line also includes polo shirts for men.
Yes, the polo shirt spurred on the growth of a number of other types of clothing but it is still the preferred style of shirt for outdoor enthusiasts and for business casual. It is still comfortable and colorful, even after all these years.