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Although I’m a Lacoste fanatic, I’m still interested in other brands of Polo Shirts. In particular, I’ve always had a weakness for Ralph Lauren polo shirts. In my mind, they are the only real rival to original Lacoste polo shirts. So, I’ve written this post on the history of Ralph Lauren polo shirts. If you are interested in whether a Ralph Lauren polo shirt is fake see this post on detecting counterfeit Ralph Lauren polo shirts.
As the Ralph Lauren web site puts it:
An American style standard since 1972, the Polo shirt has been imitated but never matched. Over the decades, Ralph Lauren has reimagined his signature style in a wide array of colors and fits, yet all retain the quality and attention to detail of the iconic original.
The then twenty-eight year old, Ralph Lauren founded his fashion line in 1967. Reportedly, he named the brand “Polo Ralph Lauren” because it sounded more English. In 1969, the brand had its first major success when Bloomingdale’s gave Polo Ralph Lauren its own shop within the store. This was the first designer shop within a Bloomingdales. Three years later, in 1972, Ralph Lauren launched the iconic polo shirt in twenty-four colors.
Although it is available in synthetic fabrics now, at the time of the polo shirt’s launch, Ralph Lauren was reportedly adamant about the superiority of cotton polo shirts and “open about his love for the patina of a well-loved garment, something that polyester couldn’t really offer.” This focus was reiterated in the Polo Ralph Lauren’s launch tagline “it gets better with age.”(1)
By the 1980s the brand was going head-to-head with Lacoste. As one observer put it, “The 1980’s became the decade of the polo-shirt as Lacoste and Ralph Lauren battled for the cash of Americans coast to coast.”(2). By the middle of the decade, in the United States, the Ralph Lauren polo shirt had equal status with Lacoste, although it had much less success in Europe.
Since then, Ralph Lauren has continued to battle Lacoste even invading Lacoste’s tennis turf by creating the uniforms for Wimbledon’s ballboys and girls.
Emblazoned with the iconic polo-player embroidered motif, the polo shirt has remained Polo Ralph Lauren’s most popular product for nearly fifty years. It’s truly a worthy competitor to Lacoste’s original polo shirt.