Thursday 14th June

| BY 10Magazine


It’s not only Englishness that Ralph Lauren has reinvented. He has also reinvented sport. Well, sporting apparel. Think. Think hard. Can you think of any major event requiring physical prowess that has not been Ralph Laurenised? No. If it’s big enough to be broadcast on a worldwide scale it’s important enough to get the Ralph treatment. He has his fingers in many sporting pies. Ten at least.


In 1967 a legend was born. So maybe his start did have more to do with neckties than athletic fashions but, as the name suggests, and as Ralph has said (which we have lifted from his encyclopaedic tome), “I called it Polo because it was a sport that had a sensibility that was sporty and international. It was tweedy and sophisticated. It was stylish. Polo had an imagery that represented the lifestyle of the ties and the clothes.”


We’re going on a hunch here, but could it be that the Polo player was possibly chosen on account of the label’s name? It would make sense, no? And tie everything, including the name and sporty-international-lifestyle reference, together. Admittedly, it first made its debut on the cuffs of ladies shirts, in 1971, but it was only a matter of time before it got a masculine top all of its own. Which leads us to…


It came in 24 – well, still comes in 24 – different colours. It has a polo player embroidered on its left breast in a contrasting shade. It’s the original mesh shirt and is worn with its collar down on the field, turned up on the street. Always buttoned up. It was introduced in 1972 and was christened the Polo shirt. As in the name on the label and the sport. Clever, no?


By the time everyone else had come up with the oh-so-smart idea of using sportsmen in their campaigns to sell their wares, Ralph had been doing it for five or so years. The difference being his choice of sport. Being Ralph he opted for something a little classier. And English. Well, from within the borders of the British Isles. Golf. In 1990 he launched Polo Golf, an ode to the sport in clothing form and his first performance-driven sportswear collection. Professional golfers starred in both the campaign and Ralph’s designs on the green. It was the first time he lent his name to professional athletes. Fast-forward 22 years and his interest in golf hasn’t diminished in the slightest, with him signing up, last year, as the official patron of the Open Championship, a post he will hold until 2016. What we want to know is when will we see Ralph himself on a green hitting a hole in one?


Now, with his toe having firmly taken up residence in the water, Ralph plunges straight in and launches Polo Sport in 1993. Sport and fitness, he predicted, would become the new fashion of the 1990s, which meant people would need something to wear. So he gave it to them. On its launch the line was described as beautiful enough to make an acrophobic take up mountaineering. There was also the added bonus of Tyson Beckford as the face and the body. Someone we can all aspire to… if not be, then at least lust over in the manner of a horny teenager.

6. RLX

If Polo Sport was designed with fashion as the focus, then RLX was created with sport in mind. Professional sport. Professional athletes. People who do actually break into a sweat when training, not people who spin in a gym. There were ads featuring close-ups of fancy trainers, with arrows pointing at various parts and detailing what made them stand apart from other versions, positioned opposite an image of an Olympic athlete doing something very product appropriate, such as run, in the trainer. Which, to us at least, sends the very clear message that if we were to dress in RLX, we, too, would have the body of an Olympian. Sadly that has yet to come true, as it turns out that some physical exertion might be required. But from a distance, if you squint, and if it’s very bright outside, maybe, just maybe, people will mistake you for one. Yes, we are still delusional.


You could put this down to Ralph’s continuing quest to master all aspects of an English lifestyle. After all, tennis is kind of our thing. The modern form of the game did originate in Birmingham in the late 19th century under the guise of “lawn tennis”. Or maybe he’s just trying to have it all, in the sporting sense, and put his stamp on every physical activity going. Either way, in 2005, the United States Tennis Association selected him as the official apparel sponsor for the US Open and, in 2006, he took on Wimbledon, becoming the first designer in its 129-year history to create uniforms for the ball boys and girls and on-court officials. He moved away from the traditional all green to navy with a green and purple stripe. Very smart and clever. Doesn’t look like one big grass stain from having launched yourself too many times across the court to pick up stray balls.


The Olympics are like the golden goose of all sporting events, starring a host of Adonis-like creatures with muscles that ripple like waves on the Atlantic. They should therefore be clad in appropriate god-worthy threads as a celebration of both their beauty and physical prowess. And if you happen to be part of the US team, you will be. Ralph Lauren was the official outfitter of the 2008 US Olympic and Paralympic teams so, unsurprisingly, he has been called on again for this year’s games. The press release came with a group portrait of 13 ridiculously good-looking beings with chiselled features and white teeth against a stars-and-stripes backdrop. All clad in classic polo shirts and shorts or rolled-up khakis in red, white and blue. They look more like they’re off to their Hamptons house rather than about to partake in a gruelling physical challenge. They make you believe that, with the right clothes, you too can be the embodiment of physical perfection. They’re selling a dream and we’re buying into it, no questions asked.


When we first saw this we thought it was a watch and were going to launch into a whole thing about how important it is for polo players to keep time and how clever of Ralph to have come up with such a stylish timepiece especially for them. Then we actually read what was before us and realised the Black Watch was a polo team, taking their name from the elite Scottish military regiment whose history goes back almost three hundred years. It turns out that Ralph is their outfitter of choice and their star player, Nacho Figueras, is the sexy Argentine face that stares out at you from Ralph’s campaigns. Nacho has always admired the mystique that Ralph has created around polo, and we in turn have always admired his handsomeness when clad in Ralph’s designs.


…inspired by the spirit of sportsmanship. And the 1948 London Olympic Games. Think of it as the ultimate homage to Britain. Really, he should have been handed the task of dressing the Olympic officials, saving them the joy of those snazzy purple and grey numbers, but sadly that was not to be. Imagine how smart they would have looked in a Ralph blazer. And all the Olympic teams, too. All dressed in matching polos and chinos in various shades of their national flag. Unfortunately the organisers have neither our vision nor Ralph’s. Otherwise they’d be dressed in these reissued heritage pieces from the 1930s and 1940s in a palette of navy, white and red, which oddly enough, happen to be the colours of the Union Jack. The only adjustment we’d make is the crest. Rather than have it pay homage to the year 1948, the year the US took home more Olympic medals than any other country, it would pay homage to London. A sort of thank you for them being such a gracious host and good sport. After all, it’s not like we didn’t let the US win all those medals. It was the nice thing to do.

by Natalie Dembinska