Black History Month: A Gallery Of Polo’s African-American Models


His brand image draws largely on WASP iconography, and he himself, of course, is a Jew. But that didn’t stop Ralph Lauren from being a fashion-industry trailblazer in the early ’90s when he hired African-American model Tyson Beckford as the new face of Polo.

Since then black models have been a commonplace is the brand’s marketing imagery. And you’ll soon be seeing Beckford again, who recently told Esquire he’s making a return to representing the brand.

Ivy Style continues its proud tradition of being the only WASPy/preppy blog to celebrate Black History Month (we like to think of it as “tradition with a twist”), and herein presents a gallery tribute to the black models of Polo, who wear the clothes as well as anybody, and maybe even a little better. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

This post originally ran on February 19, 2014





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38 Comments on "Black History Month: A Gallery Of Polo’s African-American Models"

  1. Thank you!

    There are some great shots here.The madras jacket with the black kni tie is my favorite – a classic style all the way. Being in New York City, I still catch older men of African decent sporting imaculate Ivy style clothes.

  2. Yes, Ralph was very smart in showing different faces in his marketing. Tommy Hilfiger, who was always copying Ralph, tried to branch his brand fully in the hip hop trend that was going on then. I do not think that worked very well for Hilfiger, but who knows.

  3. Does anyone know the year that
    Polo used these photos?

  4. Thank you, Christian, for this post. As an African American male, I rarely run into images that represent my culture within trad, ivy, or preppy blogs. This is very refreshing to see. Even as an ivy alumnus I feel disconnected at times. This helps to bridge the gap that may appear, from time to time.

  5. That madras was epic.

  6. The polo coat looks like buttah. All shots very well done. No surprise, it’s RL.

  7. I love Preppy Menswear. To see it on a series of gorgeous black men (are they all African American?) is a special treat. Thank you.

    (Hint: It doesn’t have to be Black History Month for you to show minorities. They’re always welcome to this reader.)

  8. Ralph just did the whole “hoodie under a jacket” thing again…

  9. Tyson Beckford never dresses this way in the real world, just in the world of fashion advertising.

  10. Orgastic Future | February 19, 2014 at 11:18 pm |

    Great post CC!

  11. Komil,

    That’s not always a bad thing.

  12. @ TC ’12:

    You may enjoy this streetetiquette post.


    Thank you for posting this. I may not be a believer of Black History Month, but it is very nice to see people doing exactly what the month was started for, and that is to create more awareness towards African-Americans.

    I very much enjoyed this post.

  13. Thank you for this wonderful post. I am an African American woman and I love all things preppy, especially Ralph Lauren. All of his models look good in his clothes. Thank you for highlighting.

  14. Thank you Ivy Style. You put a smile on the face of every African American preppy aficianodo out there. But this is not the first time an African American was featured on your site. You have always included African American preps from the world of jazz and other arts. Keep up the good work.

  15. I am Caucasian and live in Washington, DC and appreciate seeing diversity represented on your informative and interesting blog. I particularly enjoy your postings that include style and jazz or when you play us a tune on the piano.

    Thank you.


  16. What is the name of the polo African American model in the butter colored jacket who also models the polo big and tall clothing?

  17. These shots look great.

    It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is when it comes to style, (and certain races can handle some fabric colours better than others anyway) these guys are making the preppy RL collection look good – so who cares that in “real life” they maybe didn’t go to a Harvard prep! (Or maybe they did)

    They also certainly capture the classy attitude that is integral to this aesthetic, so well done RL and Ivy Style for showcasing these shots.

  18. I have been to numerous Wynton Marsalis concerts over the years. He and his band always wear suits (Brooks Brothers), dress shirts and ties. In addition to his world-class jazz, Mr. Marsalis is saying to his audience: “We care about you and respect our art by dressing accordingly.” Three cheers for these classy and gifted jazz musicians during Black History Month.

  19. Bags' Groove | February 12, 2016 at 5:52 pm |

    If they’re playing fantastic jazz I really don’t care what they wear.
    As I said in a previous post, when I saw Miles play I think the band were wearing suits, but I couldn’t be sure. I was too mesmerised by his playing to pay any attention.
    That’s the difference, man.

  20. I’ve seen Marsalis and band a couple times at the annual Brooks Christmas party. The cats look sharp and cheers to them for being preservationists of jazz and the dignity of the suit.

    However, you often here guys who are clotheshorses saying they dress up to show respect for the venue or occasion. I always feel they’re being disingenuous and are really dressing out of personal pride, which is perhaps an even loftier motivation.

  21. Black History Month is an important event.
    Ivy/Trad/Preppy style is our style of choice.
    However, implying that Ivy/Trad/Preppy style plays a role in Black History is incomprehensible to this African American Ivy clotheshorse.

  22. Bags' Groove | February 13, 2016 at 3:51 am |

    Naturally enough, Christian, you’re all about the clothes, but when it comes to the creative arts I think they become peripheral.
    Again, as I mentioned previously, I saw the brilliant Miroslav Vitous in London recently, who sauntered out onto the stage in what looked like his favourite fireside cardigan. But as soon as he laid hand on that bass, nothing else mattered.
    And let’s not forget the other greats. Keith Jarrett, for example, probably the biggest name in jazz. I’ve never seen him play in anything but a shirt or T shirt. Same with Chick Corea. Oh, correction. At one fantastic concert in 84, coincidentally enough with Miroslav Vitous, and Roy Haynes, they all swanned out on stage in white all-in-one outfits. But who cared, the music transcended all.

  23. But Bags, now you’re talking about something else. That’s the casualization of society post 1967 at all levels. Artists are simply reflecting that. In the first half of the 20th century, Thomas Mann said an author ought to dress like a banker out of dignity for the profession. Not many writers today would feel the same way.

  24. ” … the black models of Polo, who wear the clothes as well as anybody, and maybe even a little better.” You can say that again. Great post and also nice to see people of African American background commenting here.

  25. Okay, fair enough CC, society casualised post 67.
    But does a suit say a jazz musician cares about his audience, and does it say he respects his art?

  26. Great pictures. The first is circa ’03-’05, best I recall. The crewneck shetland was made in Scotland of (actual) Shetland wool. Seamless. They sold out fast.

  27. Dressing for respect of venue and audience or personal pride is a difference without a distinction. And it goes without saying that a suit will not compensate for a mediocre artist. However, if I’m going to a concert hall to hear jazz, paying serious money for tickets I don’t want to see musicians come out on stage in jeans and tee shirts.

  28. Drew Richard | February 13, 2016 at 9:13 pm |

    I went into the RL Rugby store that was near NYU once and almost all the employees and some customers were African American males dressed in head to toe RL

  29. Bags' Groove | February 14, 2016 at 6:43 am |

    Well Robert, you just carry on going to see your hero…and his suit. Meantime I’ll carry on going to see my jazz greats without the faintest idea of what they’re going to be wearing. Call me antediluvian, or maybe even wild and crazy, but I’ve always gone to jazz concerts to listen to the jazz.

  30. Ward Wickers | February 14, 2016 at 8:30 am |


    You are one wild and crazy guy!

    Wynton Marsalis dresses up because he is the Lincoln Center jazz band. Most every musician wears more formal clothing when playing Alice Tully Hall. If I elected to listen to musicians based on what they wear, I wouldn’t hear half the jazz I get to hear. And, forget about the blues. It’s fun to see 1960s Miles in trad clothing, but in today’s world, both the musicians and the venues will be extremely limited if a trad dress code is imposed.

  31. Great article with some nice pics.
    Look good for yourself and the hell what anyone else says and/or does, in any situation!!!

  32. If I show my respect for musicians by dressing properly when I attend their concerts, I expect them to dress properly as well.

  33. Clarence Anthony Jr. | February 14, 2016 at 3:32 pm |

    I’ve never really have been sure about how I feel regarding the idea of tucking in ties, as illustrated picture 3. Thoughts?

  34. I’ll do that on occasion. I don’t think it’s anything that requires a strong stance on.

  35. Bags' Groove | February 14, 2016 at 4:25 pm |

    Ward, I still have his first two LPs to prove i gave “the next Miles” a chance. But he never fulfilled his promise as far as this jazz maniac is concerned, be he in suit and tie or top hat and tails.
    Talking of Miles’s pursuers, I recently reacquainted myself with the work of Freddie Hubbard…deciding that he was truly one of the greats.
    Okay, showing all due respects to those who don’t like jazz, and to Black History Month, end of Jazz Corner for the present.
    So who gets the award for best outfit above? Has to be the cord suit (with the coolest looking guy). Another of my lifelong devotions has been to the cord jacket, but I’ve never ever owned a cord suit. You can’t have everything.

  36. Tie tucked into pants is RL’s nod to prep school and college dining clubs.

    Also a big Hubbard fan. The brio and bravura of his LP Backlash marked the end of an era. Coincidentally released in the same year that Ivy died. Backlash’s defiant wails and pulsating stacattos sounded the traditionalist’s last dying gasps as their miscreant flower children commenced with their desultory acts of cultural defenestration.

  37. Bags' Groove | February 14, 2016 at 5:36 pm |

    WFBjr, they need you over at the New Yorker. Call a chap called Remnick.
    I’m afraid we closed Jazz Corner for today, but off the record Hubbard “made” Maiden Voyage.
    Incidentally, it’s the sweater tucked into trousers, sorry pants, that I’ve always had a problem with. Takes me back to junior school, scabby knees and runny noses.

  38. Myron B Cook | February 21, 2016 at 1:10 am |

    A product of ‘Da House” class of 68. Partial to the Dark suit with the light blue sweater. Still doing Button downs blues too and club collars when I can find them. By the way Son’s middle name is Miles but I include Hubbard and Lee Morgan in my mix. Keep the pics flowing and shoes shinning.

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