Fantasy Island: A Gallery Of Polo RL Marketing Images


Here’s an idea for the new CEO at Ralph Lauren. How about more of the magical photo shoots that whisk you away to an island of the imagination? Back in the ’80s, Polo would take out 20 pages in GQ or Architectural Digest and run epic narrative ad spreads shot by Bruce Weber. These marketing images have always been a core component of the brand; as Mr. Lauren himself likes to say, he makes and sells dreams.

Here’s a gallery of some spring and summer images over the years, with plenty of wooden tennis racquets. — CC


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23 Comments on "Fantasy Island: A Gallery Of Polo RL Marketing Images"

  1. Trad on steroids, blown out to heroic pattern mixture, epic homo-erotic fantasy, a sense of “Brideshead Revisited” by someone who’s never read it, and so much hair you wonder if there’s any left for the rest of us.

  2. I got more of a Woodhouse vibe: Drones Club members trying to define “job”, and making jolly hard weather of it , too, wot? Enough hair gel to lube my car..

  3. @CC
    Do you know where these fabled 20 page RL advertisements can be found? I have only heard of them and I have never seen a full collection. I tried searching google images but it only shows a few images here and there.

  4. This is where they’ve gone wrong. I would guess that none of these ads are from the 80’s. They need to channel Tom Moore.

  5. @GS

    I did some searches but couldn’t find an entire set in order. If you search terms like vintage ralph lauren ads bruce weber and so forth you’ll see examples but not a full set. Most were black and white.

    Pinterest seems to have a lot, and various pages devoted to vintage RL ads.

  6. Only the tennis image near the top is ’80s. Most of the ’80s stuff was fall/winter and more English/Hollywood than preppy on steriods.

  7. A.E.W. Mason | June 8, 2016 at 2:13 pm |

    @NC Jack & Nick Wilson

    Very good points. Although, I think by comparison the boys pictured above make the Drones Club members look like Navy SEALs.

  8. Charlottesville | June 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm |

    I agree with most of the comments above. The locations, wooden rackets and cars are fine, but the clothes are from the recent mismatched, shrunken silhouette era. It may be the haze of my aging memory, but I recall the multipage 80s ads (probably in M or my wife’s Vogue) as showing clothes I would actually wear, and in fact did wear and still do. I have half a dozen or so Polo suits and a sport coat dating from roughly 1986 through the early 2000s, and all remain quite wearable (even though they may not pass muster for absolute Ivy purists). Nowadays, while I may see some suit or sport coat fabrics I like at the Madison Avenue store, often the cut is exaggerated and I tend to stick with an occasional tie purchase. And then only during the sales. I doubt my diminished custom has contributed much to the company’s financial decline, but I think that the clothes tend to be less suited to day-to-day living for most of us over 25, and that could be a factor.

  9. @CC

    Thank you, Christian that’s what I had been doing to see the old ads of which you speak. I have begun to compile a collection of my favorites, and I have noticed that some are from the same collection. While these recent Polo ads are nice I definitely prefer the 80’s ads with Tom Moore and the other classic models.

  10. Yes, you and Charlottesville are right in that many of these images are more fashion-driven than the ones in the ’80s, which were appealing more to aspiring yuppies. The cuts and styling was more timeless and less trendy.

  11. Charlottesville | June 8, 2016 at 3:59 pm |

    Christian –“[A]spiring yuppies”? Please. Aspiring gentleman, perhaps, but I fear must protest that I was an actual yuppie in the good old 80s. Hopefully not too insufferable an example of the breed, but young, urban and professional I cannot deny. I wouldn’t mind having the young part back, but I am contentedly rural these days. As for my continued professionalism, I had best leave that to others to debate.

  12. OK, perhaps I worded that poorly. But the ’80s was the decade of the yuppie, and ads are meant to draw customers. The styles in the ’80s were more establishment, as yuppies wanted conventional status symbols.

    Times have changed and things are much more fashion-driven now. Purple Label is probably the one brand (and maybe the watches) that portrays an established sense of what it means to look successful. And even it has become very fashionable and jet-set looking, as opposed to the Savile Row look it originally had.

  13. Bags' Groove | June 8, 2016 at 4:47 pm |

    I say, there’s a chap who’s matched his whistle and flute with his jamjar, which if I’m not mistaken is a pre-1953 Moggie. Well I never.

  14. Charlottesville | June 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm |

    Dear Christian, I was entirely joking, and no offense was taken. While not going all out Bright Lights Big City, or Bonfire of the Vanities, I fully admit to being a recovering yuppie twit, who enjoyed the 80s immensely, and branching out from Brooks to Polo from time to time was part of the fun. As for Purple Label, other than a shirt and tie here and there, I have not ventured beyond admiring the English look and fabrics and trying some things on in the store. For the price, I thought that I might as well choose some nice tweed from one of the sample books and have my tailor do the honors. As I recall a Purple Label suit in the 90s or early 2000s ran from around $3500 up to $5000 or more. My tailor at the time did excellent work, and could come in well under that price.

  15. I must’ve been doing too many things at once and thought you had actually disagreed with me. I should’ve known that would never happen.

    Except maybe on the topics of facial hair and marriage.

  16. @CC it’s very upsetting that Brooks and Polo have both become more trendy (Polo trying a little too hard to be trendy) than reliable. I guess brands these days would rather cater to the masses to make a quick profit. Hopefully some day traditional will triumph over trendy, for awhile Polo came close.

  17. The GQ spreads were during their annual fashion issue; the print of 200+ advertising pages. Weber seems to have fallen out of favor ever since his A&F days. He certainly brought a, je ne sais quoi, gallimaufry of sentiments through his photos. While you wouldn’t pass for anything other than a fop if you mirrored those RL images, they do make for an orgiastic ocular smorgasbord.

  18. Some of the good stuff from the 80’s (and early 90’s) can be found at

    Let’s hope my fellow Swede can – if not turn back time – at least turn things around.

  19. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | June 9, 2016 at 9:32 am |

    @Joel Skog,

    Wow dude… thanks for that. Great site!

    “Purple Label is probably the one brand (and maybe the watches) that portrays an established sense of what it means to look successful.”

    Portrays… I agree somewhat. The only odd thing I found about the portrayal of Purple Label ads were… the models, quite frankly. Honestly, who would look/dress like an 18yr old Ollie Edwards? I mean, even the fictional character Jay Gatsby was in his mid-30s. That always distracts me. But the RLPL ads look great nonetheless.

    Like the very first comment by @Nick Wilson, all of these ads are borderline fantastical. Nothing wrong with that though.

  20. @Joel Skog

    Does it get much better than Brooke Shields in RL from this period? Woof!

  21. Charlottesville | June 9, 2016 at 10:42 am |

    Christian – We do indeed agree on many things, from pinned club collars to the sometimes humorous nature of obsessive political correctness in academia. However, you are correct that I would not want to marry a woman with facial hair.

  22. What brand of car is in the picture with the guy with the polo sticks? Has to be post 1968, when the side marker lights became mandatory.

    Unfortunately,in my home town, those models would have been beat up by the guys I went to high school with.

  23. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | June 9, 2016 at 5:05 pm |


    That my friend is a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Roadster.

    It comes with a metallic roof.

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