Here’s an excerpt:
Ralph Lauren is going through operational struggles during not only a tumultuous period in the retail industry, but also a time that’s seeing a cultural shift away from what the brand stands for. The prep aesthetic has always smacked of privilege, something accessible primarily to white people with trust funds and monogrammed shirtsleeves. Now, the WASP lifestyle that completely captivated Lauren as a young entrepreneur is considered out of touch at best, offensive and oppressive at worst.
Take, for instance, the media’s reaction to the company’s Olympic uniform designs this year. Headlines announcing the kits included: “Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Uniforms Are Straight Out of Prep School Hell”; “USA’s Olympic Uniforms Are WASPy Bullshit”; “Team USA’s Official Olympic Uniforms are Peak Vanilla”; and Racked’s own contribution, “I Need More From Team USA’s Olympic Uniforms”. The Daily Mail rounded up the best tweets from the debacle. The comments on Ralph Lauren’s own Instagram post of the outfits were littered with prep jokes of varying degrees of wit.
“The uniforms couldn’t play more into the world’s most unflattering stereotypes of Americans unless they added cigars dangling out of the athletes’ mouths, Bibles tucked under their arms, and $100 bills falling out of their pockets,” Christina Cauterucci wrote for Slate.
Christian Chensvold, founder of the website Ivy Style and a regular contributor to Ralph Lauren’s RL Magazine, broached the subject in a series of posts last fall that questioned whether the Ivy League look was still politically correct. This included a satirical post that imagined a social justice warrior responding to different aspects of Ivy style (example: “Dinner jacket: Offensive to the underfed”); some readers were not amused.
“I would imagine that some of your readers would certainly find ‘club ties’ exclusive and elitist,” one commenter wrote, referring to a line joking that club ties should be banned for their exclusionary symbolism. Club ties, identified by their repeating motifs, actually did historically denote membership to elite clubs. “I know clothing itself is not elitist; it is the choice behind what we wear that speaks volumes about who were [sic] are.”
Later on, when Chensvold published an April Fools’ post detailing how preppy style had been banned from college campuses due to the classism and racism that it signified, plenty of readers thought it was real news.
Pour a cup of coffee — or a stiff drink — and head over here for the full read. — CC