Inside The Rhinelander Time Machine

Last month we reported on signs of a neo-prep revival at Ralph Lauren. This weekend I visited the Rhinelander flagship and it was like taking a time machine, except that instead of arrival at a particular destination, one found onself floating in a timeless realm. The windows and inside mannequins all had the classic Polo formulas the brand has developed over decades, such as:


Longwings and tassel and penny loafers

Stacks of colorful socks, polo shirts and cashmere sweaters

Contrast club-collar shirts and collar-pinned buttondowns paired with club and rep ties and ribbon belts

Cable-knit tennis v-necks and cardigans

Navy pinstripe suit jackets worn over white trousers (check out this ’30s Riviera look in the Agatha Christie film adaptation “Evil Under The Sun”)

Gray striped suits paired with preppy whimsy

Patch madras, pink and green

Props from the sport of polo


Beats the gray downtown look. Maybe they finally found the right CEO. — CC



45 Comments on "Inside The Rhinelander Time Machine"

  1. SC Terrier | May 14, 2018 at 10:16 am |

    Tears of joy

  2. Staged nonchalance!

  3. They best hurry. Sales and market capitalization are off by half in recent history. With this type of clothing, men dress to make a statement, usually to try to establish dominance over the other men in the crowd, most usually to use that display of dominance to attract their particular desires in high value social partner. Ralph Lauren lost sight of the dominance motivator in the purchase of men’s clothing. Ralph Lauren clothing became ornamentation rather than “pecking order” signals. I asked a salesman in Dunhill on Mad Ave of the difference in cloth and appearance between his $350 MTM shirts and $850 Bespoke shirts. He said same cloth choices, but HE could see the difference on a man walking the other side of the street. “Shirtsleeves to shirtless in three generations”. Ralph Lauren has a grandson in an executive position in the company.

  4. Rene Lebenthal | May 14, 2018 at 11:23 am |

    Well that’s good news as it seems!
    Did they change their cuts too? A little less sportive and athletic?

  5. Old School Tie | May 14, 2018 at 11:31 am |

    I view those pictures as pornography of sorts, except for the ones where you can see CC’s reflection…..

  6. Wonderful pictures, all. This is exciting; I hope the trend in this direction continues.

    Incidentally, I’m wearing a cotton/wool blend navy pinstripe jacket over cream trousers with pink OCBD, a variation of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry bow tie, yellow socks, and dark brown cordovan tassel loafers. Everything is from RL, except the shirt, which is Brooks.

  7. Mitchell S. | May 14, 2018 at 11:50 am |

    This season Ralph Lauren went color crazy. Lots of patch madras and sweaters in a kaleidoscope of color. A prepster’s paradise on acid.

  8. Monsieur Vernon | May 14, 2018 at 11:50 am |

    Those collars look longer than the usual 3″ I have seen in the past at Ralph Lauren. Do you they look more proportionally correct or is it just an illusion of the low angle?

  9. Gray Downtown Look | May 14, 2018 at 11:59 am |

    Interesting, I daresay.

  10. Herringbone Harold | May 14, 2018 at 12:13 pm |

    In recent seasons there have been excellent 3/2 roll, natural should jackets in the Morgan range. The website often has not done them.justice. The styles have been interesting including a great Loden fabric one. They mix it up, so the jackets may have double vents often rather than a single hooked one, but then they aren’t trying to recreate. I have bought a substantial number of these jackets to my own surprise and then gone and found more in the same fit via vintage from them.

    This season’s knitted BD shirts are worth a look and I have bought a number of those too.

    The RL fit seems to be right now with clarity between slim, normal and custom fits to enable the right choice.

    I felt that after Rugby and the shift to denim, the eye came off their core base area for a while. But the last two seasons seem to have built it back up. I hope it continues.

  11. Cuastic Man | May 14, 2018 at 12:17 pm |

    I wear my clothes to dominate every man I see while walking to the sandwich shop at the corner of the road. Follow me and you’ll see a trail of whimpering men of all ages fallen to their knees in recognition of my khakis, loafers, and Baracutta jacket. Naturally this is just the thing to attract upper class women whose fortunes I may then dispose as I wish.

  12. @HerringboneHarold I’ve also become a great fan of the Morgan line, and the 3/2 roll is becoming a more common feature among them. Sadly, I don’t think the website does the jackets justice: because the models are so often wearing low-cut jeans pulled down to their hip bones, it makes the jackets appear matador-level short. Most are a nice length between classic and modern.

  13. Roger Sack | May 14, 2018 at 12:42 pm |

    Hope they are successful. A welcome antidote to the
    tiny suit plague that continues to rage. Now, if they would
    re-open some of their shops that have closed in the
    Bay Area.

  14. Charlottesville | May 14, 2018 at 1:35 pm |

    A lot of great looks. I may not actually want to wear everything as shown, but that is not really the point. I second the cheers for what looks like a return to RL’s roots, and hope that the fit is closer to normal than some of the sort, skin-tight offerings of recent memory. Hope that this and the new J. Press line are hugely successful. I am absolutely sick of hoodies and clothes sized for a Ken doll, so hopefully this is the start of a long trend.

  15. Vern Trotter | May 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm |

    I stop into this flagship store quite often as it is next door to my home AA meeting in St. James’ Episcopal Church. (Some call it the Ralph Lauren meeting.) There is always both an eclectic and effete but refreshing feel when entering. The first items one notices is a spindle of four inch neckties. A display of shirts with collar pins also is exciting. And one cannot miss the glorious crocodile luggage and shoes. Bring your credit card.

    I shall be there there this evening and will pass on everyone’s best regards.

  16. Johnny Bravo | May 14, 2018 at 2:27 pm |

    Have any of you ever seen a person walking around NYC, Boston or any other cosmopolitant city sporting what one sees in the windows of the Rhinelander Mansion? The combination of elements placed on the mannequins, are kind of a static version of what one might see during a runway show and are rather over baked in their execution. The individual elements seen are some of the pillars of trad/Ivy style, I get it, but a Halloween like execution is not practical nor is it instructive to aspiring Trad youngsters.

  17. Cuastic Man | May 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm |

    Johnny Bravo,

    As I understand it that’s actually a tried and true tactic in the world of fashion. You combine and arrange the clothes not as an example of how a consumer would wear them but rather as a way to make customers think of the possibilities. You won’t emulate the displays because you aren’t meant to. You are meant envision ways they could be combined. That’s why you see Haute Couture runway shows with insane gowns that no one would actually wear. Admittedly the world of Couture takes it to an extreme, but it’s the same idea.

  18. @JohnnyBravo — I must admit I’ve been wearing my white Michael Spencer OCBD with chino pants and a blue blazer from RL around Boston all day, but I’m also alone in that camp and have been eliciting perplexed looks all day.

  19. Charlottesville | May 14, 2018 at 3:31 pm |

    Eric — Sounds like a great look. However, I doubt that you saw many pinstripe suits worn with a teddy bear sweater vest. To spot that look, I think (at least I hope) one must go window shopping on Madison Avenue.

  20. Mitchell S. | May 14, 2018 at 3:36 pm |

    @Johnny Bravo: Boston may be a cosmopolitan city but it is GQ’s worst-dressed city in America. Sadly, most young guys (and older guys too) in the rest of the country also dress like they don’t give a $@&!.

    Most men dress like who they look up to and respect and in the past it was Hollywood stars, but today it is rappers and sports stars.

  21. Left out a crucial word in an earlier comment—I’ve been wearing my skull chino pants with that ensemble.

  22. Johnny Bravo | May 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm |


    I understand that the underpinnings of Haute Couture are both theoretical and practical, I am just not convinced that they are applicable to this sphere of the fashion world. To me, the elements of trad clothing are well defined and not as easily subject to artistic interpretation or stylistic whimsy, hence the term trad. The underpinnings of Trad Couture are derivative of historical, ecumenical, academic, political, societal, etc. influences and conformities, thus artistic interpretation is more difficult to achieve.

  23. Charlottesville | May 14, 2018 at 4:20 pm |

    Eric – The skulls indeed put a different spin on it. Not sure I’d wear it to work as a lawyer, but it sounds like a good look for someone in the creative fields. I’m planning a trip to Charleston, SC in a couple of weeks and am debating whether it’s worth the extra baggage to throw in some GTH gear. Patch madras pants to pair with a navy blazer, perhaps.

  24. Regrettably, it’s already 92 degrees here in St. Louis, so many of the above looks are out of the question. I think the very first photo under the article headline is the best by far, although it could use a little splash of color behind the trophy full of polo balls. I am very happy to see window-dressing and floor space dedicated to these looks even though I can no longer pull them off. I just don’t find too many designers with lines dedicated to the “Beer Barrel” fit–IPA or otherwise. Cheers!

  25. @Charlottesville I can’t say I saw skulls (though I did spy a fair amount of red and green chinos) in Charleston last October, but of all the cities I’ve visited in the United States, Charleston felt like the place where traditional clothing was still being worn across generations. I loved visiting Ben Silver and Grady Ervin. Though not specifically trad, the Oobe shop on King Street is the brainchild of a former RRL guy and feels like it. Well worth the look.

  26. Caustic man | May 14, 2018 at 6:13 pm |

    Johnny bravo,

    But RL doesn’t make clothes for the rule obsessed, curmudgeonly, Trad person. He makes clothes for everyone who buys into something called the American dream. Ralph Lauren is not a Trad company in the sense that I think you mean.

  27. john carlos | May 14, 2018 at 7:33 pm |

    @Charlottesville -I like the pairing of GTH madras pants with a navy blazer. I picked up a couple of pair from O’Connell’s new/old stock several years ago. I wear them with a navy blazer and OCBD every chance I get. Like you, I’m a lawyer so I can’t wear them to the office. I live in San Antonio where its pretty much madras weather six months out of the year.

  28. At last! This makes the heart sing!

  29. Got that last photo DB suit in 1989 at Ralph Lauren’s store in Palo Alto. I loved that suit. Set me apart from all of my peers. They never spoke to me again. I moved up, they faded away. Hey, no apologies..

  30. Let me oh so kindly change the word “dominance” in the context of men’s clothing of a certain price and ambiance to “status symbol” to smooth down any potentially ruffled feathers. I started my career writing advertising, so we might sometimes use words among ourselves we might not use among consumers.

  31. Michael Brady | May 14, 2018 at 11:15 pm |

    Reminds me of the heady days of POLO in the mid-80’s. It looks a bit foreign now because so few men dress well in any style. Back in the day, Ralph offered an alternative that took tradition and turned it up to “eleven”. Some of the swagger that impelled men to dress well has been lost to a whole generation. Maybe the whimsy displayed above will catch on with a generation that knows shopping only as a series of key-strokes.

    Am I the only one who found the collar pin and unbuttoned BD collar am over-reach?

  32. Roger Sack | May 15, 2018 at 12:05 am |

    Michael Brady | May 14, 2018 at 11:15 pm |
    Reminds me of the heady days of POLO in the mid-80’s. It looks a bit foreign now because so few men dress well in any style. Back in the day, Ralph offered an alternative that took tradition and turned it up to “eleven”. Some of the swagger that impelled men to dress well has been lost to a whole generation. Maybe the whimsy displayed above will catch on with a generation that knows shopping only as a series of key-strokes.

    Am I the only one who found the collar pin and unbuttoned BD collar am over-reach?

    You are correct on both points, especially the first.

  33. Vern Trotter | May 15, 2018 at 12:32 am |

    I stopped in the Rhinelander Mansion store this evening. It seemed to me the windows were done better than the showroom. It used to seem when you were inside, you were in a giant window. This time there seemed to be a dearth of merchandise inside. I hope this is not the case.

    Was always the best decorated of our type stores. Maybe Cable Car Clothiers in SF. The Brooks 346 Madison is still the best building in the country and I’ve been in most of ’em.

  34. Pastiche. Always has been. And that’s OK for some.
    Find a good tailor and leave all this dross behind!

  35. Richard Meyer | May 15, 2018 at 5:46 am |

    The last time I stepped into the (now shuttered) RL shop in Chevy Chase, very little tailored clothing was on display. The windows above look much better, but price counts as well as quality, and one of the pin stripe suits I saw at that last visit retailed for $5,000-and was not all that special, IMO. Still, I wish them well.

  36. It was only a matter of time before InCels found their way to this website.

  37. “pin stripe suits I saw at that last visit retailed for $5,000-and was not all that special, IMO. Still, I wish them well”.

    This is crazy!
    5000 Dollars are 4.179,59 Euros or 3.683,35 Pounds!
    For the same amount you can have a first rate bespoke suit from one of the best tailors (at least in UK or Italy)!

  38. Charlottesville | May 15, 2018 at 11:14 am |

    Eric — I feel the same way about Charleston. It strikes me as one of the last spots with a fair number of traditionally dressed men and women. I am looking forward to browsing at Ben Silver and Grady Irvin, and thanks for the suggestion about Oobe, which is new to me. Charleston also boasts some really great food, and my wife and I plan to enjoy as much of it as possible over 4 days. We’re also making an overnight visit to Beaufort a bit further down the coast, so it should be a fun trip. As for Nantucket reds and the similar green chinos, I suppose it says something about how far I have sunk that I don’t really even consider them GTH anymore; I confess to wearing reds and a blazer, OCBD and tie to the office on occasion and even, speaking of confessions, to church. So far, no white bucks at work, so I do draw the line somewhere.

    John Carlos – Thanks for the vote in favor of madras and blazer. I agree that it’s a good look, although I have a friend who refers to them as my “clown pants” and I fear my wife tends to the same view. San Antonio is a really nice city. I particularly recall the Little Rhein Steak House, in a 150+ year old stone building overlooking the Riverwalk, with a beautiful, terraced garden filled with candlelit tables. Very romantic, but unfortunately I was alone on a business trip and so had to make do with steak and martinis for one. I keep thinking that I should return with my wife, and some day hope to do that.

    Richard — I agree regarding the prices at RL, especially for Purple Label. As Carmelo says, one can get high quality custom clothing for much less, but looking at beautiful things is enjoyable, and I get ideas from my visits to the shop. I have a few Polo Blue Label suits in my closet, and I think I bought each of them at end of the season sales for roughly half price (full price then being around $1500), and I don’t have any complaints about quality. I think the same is true of Ben Silver to a lesser extent. To me, the prices seem high for most of their merchandise, although the quality is also high. Yet I enjoyed looking at their new catalog which arrived last week, and will enjoy visiting the shop. Most of my stuff came from Brooks Brothers back when they still specialized in 3/2 sacks, as well as J. Press in the years since BB tumbled to its present state. However, I get ideas about colors and combinations from Ralph and Ben, and find that they work well with items I already have. I plan to take a 25-year-old Brooks Brothers POW plaid sport coat in a linen/silk/wool blend to Charleston, and I saw what looks like its brother in the new Ben Silver catalog. With the caveat that I have never had the chance to visit O’Connell’s in Buffalo, I think J. Press is probably the best place for good-looking, traditional clothes at fair prices, and I expect to take a seersucker suit to Charleston along with a tropical weight wool blazer, both purchased from J. Press in Washington 12 or more years ago. I think these and the Brooks sport coat mentioned above should fit in seamlessly with what is available from Ralph and Ben, at a much lower price. I may be a cheapskate, but that leaves more money for oysters, crab and shrimp!

  39. I ran the Bourbon Chase last year in Kentucky and saw a fellow riding a tractor on the street in horse country near the Wild Turkey distillery wearing what appeared to be a BB white OCBD, khakis with cuffs and loafers with no socks. The ladies who were in my team van couldn’t wait to bring this fellow to my attention when I reached the finish line of that leg of the race. There were more than a few blue blazered people at the finish line in Lexington downtown as well. Quite a few ladies in pretty sundresses as well.

    The year before, my team ran the Palmetto relay from Columbia to Charleston and my recollection of Charleston was that it was a place that I felt completely at ease. Great closes and architecture. A lot of sundresses there too.

    @Joel-I had to look up InCels. Haven’t you been posting for at least a year on this site? Just kidding. Love you, brother.


  40. Richard Meyer | May 15, 2018 at 1:42 pm |

    @ Charlottesville: Totally agree. Almost all my suits and sport coats are bespoke, and I never paid half as much for any of them. And they are from superb tailors, including Chipp. The looks in the windows are nice, and I do like colorful clothing when appropriate.

  41. Pardon, clothes.


  42. @Charlottesville I work at a boarding school and often wear white bucks to the office with all sorts of outfits: grey flannels and tweed jackets, khakis and navy blazer, and even with reds and a blazer in the summers when school’s not in session. It’s funny to me how we’re all in the same style camp together, and yet each of us has our own ideas of propriety and occasion. And all the better for it.

  43. Charlottesville | May 15, 2018 at 4:04 pm |

    RWK – I used to have a small outpost office in town, and wore white bucks regularly, but feel the need not to appear too much of a dandy among the folks with whom I currently work on a daily basis. A friend of mine, on the other hand, wears white bucks to the office and even to court in the summer, so what do I know. You are certainly correct that there many versions of trad/Ivy/prep/TNSIL within a fairly narrow set of boundaries. But I still love white bucks and wear them frequently.

    Richard — I have a few suits and coats that I had made by a tailor in Washington, and I have some custom stuff from Brooks, but most of my clothing came straight off the rack. But for those so inclined, true custom and less expensive made-to-measure offer things that OTR cannot. Locally, Eljo’s can measure one for a custom made, thoroughly Ivy classic (natural shoulder, undarted, hook vent, swelled edges, 3/2 roll, triple patch pockets and all) for perhaps $200 more than a traditional Southwick off the rack. Going custom gives one a huge choice of fabrics, a perfect fit, and can accommodate things like extra pockets, vests, 2 pairs of pants, ticket pockets, double vents or whatever other tweaks one may wish. Jay at J. Press can do the same. In my case, the OTR stuff from pre-del Vecchio Brooks and J. Press fit me well, the fabric selection generally pleased me, and their in-house tailors could give me any tweaks I wanted, such as an additional interior pocket or working buttons. At this point, I am more likely to be thinning out my wardrobe, or replacing staples but every once in a while there is that special piece that catches the eye, and then I am hooked. Oh well, as hobbies go, clothing isn’t even the most expensive.

  44. Jefferson | May 16, 2018 at 4:30 am |

    From my very humble point of view I find that expensive ready to wear clothing is a bit of a false economy. Maybe this could be because I just don’t earn enough? Or that “labels” have always seemed to me to be like a bit of a con trick?
    I am content to visit my tailor and shirt maker as required and not have to bother my head with all the rest. I get what I want and it lasts.
    I like to see all the ready to wear options out there but I increasingly laugh at the prices demanded for items that I can have made to actually fit me in the fabric of my choice and with all the details I specify for a comparable price.
    I wish RL well, but I’d rather design my own clothes than buy the works of a big label designer.

  45. Some asked if the RL collars are longer.
    I purchased two PRL pinpoint dress shirts this Christmas season. The collars are as long as my Brooks Bros pinpoints and have a subtle roll as well.

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