For over four decades, Ralph Lauren has made an impact on American style and fashion around the globe. Beginnings from a single polo men’s shirt design would later leave an deep imprint in the world of men’s fashion, and help establish both Polo and Ralph Lauren as household names. Ralph Lauren as a house of design and brand is synonymous with classic American.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz in 1939 and grew up in the Bronx borough of New York City. Born to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, his interest in fashion piqued as a teenager, and he worked in sales at Brooks Brothers and other popular retailers in his twenties before following his own design dreams. Young Ralph Lifshitz had a reputation for dressing well and in his own style. Even as a teenager, he followed no one’s style but his own, developing a strong sense of what he believed looked cool. Before pursuing his personal vision of what he believed would define timeless style for the American man, Ralph changed his name with his brother from “Lifshitz” to a more chic sounding “Lauren”.
Ralph Lauren was inspired by the fashionable style and sensibility of the Londoners who frequented the Brooks Brothers where he worked. He was drawn to the debonaire yet masculine look of men like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The look that truly seduced and appealed to Ralph was what he envisioned English style to be. However, after his first visit to England, he was shocked to find all the stores selling Italian clothing, and he was never quite able to find the embodiment of his dream style. Once he realized his beloved look of the British gentlemen did not exist anymore, Ralph Lauren set out to create clothing that would ultimately embody his romantic vision of European style, placed into a modern American setting. Regarding his early start as a designer of well received wide ties and polos, Ralph has said he desired to “bring a European sense of quality and tradition into an American style and spirit.” In 1967, he chose to market his brand under the name “Polo”, inspired by the classy British pastime of the sophisticated, stylish classes. His initial design forays emulated the looks of old Hollywood leading men and pre-war English fashion.
Lauren’s iconic designs across all of his brands are effortlessly cool and range from Wasp to Western in style. Ralph Lauren characteristically plays with textures and layering with impeccable attention to detail. Ralph Lauren has said, “Everything I do, everything I’ve ever done, is about what I love and the taste level I believe in,” and his line of rug designs is a testament to this statement. His home furnishing line, Ralph Lauren Home, also clearly portrays his personal design philosophy and vision of American style.