Ivy Trendwatch: Ralph Lauren’s 50th + University Collection

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There’s much brand news to catch up on over the next couple of weeks. We start with Ralph Lauren, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last night with a fashion show in Central Park, complete with threadbare oriental rugs for a catwalk. A scan of the men’s looks on the runway revealed that most were rather outré for our tastes here, which is to be expected at a high-profile fashion show:

You can visit the RL site to watch a video of the event, and this page features the shopable men’s looks.

The runway looks seem to overlap with another collection recently unveiled on the site entitled University, harkening back to the 1990s entry-level brand of the same name (more or less: actually it was called Polo University Club). While the copywriting doesn’t invoke Ivy specifically, it employs “classic collegiate” as well as “university,” so we’ll go ahead and file this post under Ivy Trendwatch. Below are an assortment of images. It’s nice to see the return of the clubby environment, and yes there’s a plethora of logos, as well as excessive stylings and juxtapositions. As always, don’t take the looks too literally, and it will be interesting to see how the collection does with the younger guys and how big the trend gets.

I may stop by the Rhinelander mansion tomorrow and will take snaps for a follow-up. In the meantime, start laying out your Sunday best, and bon week-end. — CC

25 Comments on "Ivy Trendwatch: Ralph Lauren’s 50th + University Collection"

  1. Back in February Robin Givhan wrote “It’s 2018, Ralph Lauren. Why do you think this look is still cool?” Today she’s probably eating her words as the latest RL fashion show demonstrates why Polo is the biggest, baddest, coolest fashion brand in the world. While the Brooks Brothers bicentennial show was a flop, the Polo show combined many elements from Rugby (like crests and emblems) with classic tailoring details like pinned, club collars and watch pockets at the top of trousers. It was timeless, classy, and elegant.

    One thing that I thought was laughable was when Mr. Lauren appeared wearing a double breasted tux with jeans and cowboy boots. It was a little over the top even for a fashion show.

  2. Evan Everhart | September 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm |

    It looks as if sadly, Uncle Ralph, or rather his lesser imps have forgotten how to make trousers with deep enough pleats so that they do not splay out (or a high enough rise to work correctly with those pleats), which is evident on the fellow wearing an untied bowtie with a club collar shirt and sweater.

    As to the rest, while I’ve never been a fan of patchwork, especially not in tweed, nor do I support, wear, or endorse the wearing of gimmicky faux patches or logos or chintzy faux student scrawl on one’s garments, I do think that these clothes appear to be a decided step in the right direction!

    I do have a quibble however. I’ve been in and out of several RL departments and stores recently in search of a mint green polo and not only do they not have them, but they don’t even have any pink ones whatsoever. Only dingey gray and dark green and burgundy which to me feel rather heavy handed as far as polos go.

  3. Evan Everhart | September 8, 2018 at 6:04 pm |

    Perhaps the mint green polos are like cinderella’s ball gown, and they all turn hunter green at midnight on Labor Day?

  4. Boss Tweed, the boss of Tammany Hall | September 8, 2018 at 8:36 pm |

    The star-studded 50th anniversary celebration in Central Park yesterday was absolutely incredible to behold.

    RL is an American treasure.

  5. Never been a fan of the big, fake crests that RL uses so much. Who wears it besides high school kids or BroDudes on their first jobs, signaling that Daddy can afford to buy overpriced crap?

  6. Fashion is temporary and disposable. Style is permanent. Unfortunately, Ralph Lifshitz (his real name) is a purveyor of the former. No one with real style wears the phony pony, just rich and gullible fashionistas who can pay a fortune for Chinese made junk. Lifshitz’s empire is crumbling under the weight of massive debts so it’s truly representative of 21st century American idiocy and decadence.

  7. I think RL has done more to preserve traditional Anglo-American style, by keeping it relevant to fashion, than anyone else. His is a truly great American success story. Here’s an interesting “50 things you didn’t know” about him, including his Army service:


  8. The cardigan in the second to last picture is fantastic. The camouflage tights, not so much.

  9. In general, this line looks like RL is finally swinging back into the timeless Ivy realm, i.e. classic cool with a little insouciance, that made his name, and for that I’m glad to see that Ivy can still look stylish to the younger Millennials/Gen Z set. That said, the oversized varsity patches (see: winged foot P) and ragged fake aging on the rugby shirts still look either played out or cheap, and these variants of GTH pants (scrawling football images and bad camouflage) still skew toward the dreaded bro category. I’ve also seen some of these pieces in the RL stores, and the overall look is as uneven as in the pics. But these gripes aside, it’s good to see that RL can still find a way to refresh what for some (beyond this readership) may seem like clothes that are too fussy/aren’t athleisure (a word I love to loathe). Now, if he would only invest in more solid, unfussy classics…

  10. Agree that RL has promoted and helped keep the Ivy style relevant over the years. But only to the masses that hadn’t grown up with that style being their everyday wear. It’s more ivy-inspired than ivy. Which is ok for me because I’m not going to wear it. I’ll stick to my usual sources until they or I leave this world and confidently know that what I’m wearing is the inspiration for others.

  11. Old School Tie | September 9, 2018 at 12:37 pm |

    @Ken – I shall think of your words as I pop on my RL sportscoat, made in Italy by Corneliani. Actually, the Chinese have made some of the most covetable (and expensive) objects on the planet, read any antiques auction report and you will see what I mean. Much malingned, the poor old Chinese. A byword for low quality, as if they are incapable of achieving the same standards as say, the Germans (ask VW what it takes to get those sorts of results). Apart from that, any manufacturer will have some offerings that are desirable and those which are less so. You have to pick and choose. I see an awful lot to pick and choose from at RL right now, you just have to be discerning…

  12. Pleats are back…no surprise…time to rotate out of skinny. Crests and logos must go!! Good God!

  13. That tennis sweater is great. Removing the logos and emblems would make the others great too.

    However, I’m not a club collar guy. They’re just too fussy for me. Of course, I don’t like bow ties either, so I realize I might be in violation of Ivy rules.

    I also continue to be amused by the incorporation of camo into fashion. Do RL et al realize it was designed for killing enemies and animals?

  14. Vern Trotter | September 9, 2018 at 1:45 pm |

    Take away the fake crests, logos and athletic letters and all this would not be bad at all. No camouflage pants though.

  15. University Stripe | September 9, 2018 at 2:52 pm |

    I for one am happy to see Ivy inspired pieces on the runway.

    Well done, Uncle Ralph.

  16. BDUs? Seriously? If you’re going to make clothing based off the designs of the military, you could at least choose something classier than BDU’s. Heck, uniforms from the War of 1812 would be better suited for this line of clothing. This proves that military styled clothing should be left to Barbour and Orvis.

  17. I’d agree that there’s a lot to like, and there’d be much more if not to the overzealous application of crests and emblems (that green/black/yellow/red striped sweater is otherwise great).

    I am happy to see that the models wearing the grey and brown herringbone sportcoats are finally wearing pants at a normal waist level. I’ve long thought that the Morgan line of RL sportcoats are some of the best (and once deep sale occurs, affordable) natural shoulder sportcoats out there, but the typical styling with low-rise pants make them appear much shorter than they are in real life.

  18. Beverly Carlton | September 10, 2018 at 9:57 am |

    Ken, can we agree that dragging out the “Ralph Lifshitz” conceit is a tired and unflattering (for you) trope? Yes, his surname sounds vaguely ridiculous, and yes, he is Jewish, but how is this germane exactly? How we choose to clothe ourselves is all about self-invention and tribal identity. I don’t see RL as an outlier in this industry, and I agree with other commenters that he has done more to keep the aesthetic that we find pleasing alive than most of his brethren, including the Brethren.

  19. No surprise that we agree about the (obnoxious) logos and crests. Still yet, PoloRL prevails. Later this year they may offer wool made-in-England wool challis ties and made-in-Scotland shetland sweaters, and their RRL line is, even if overpriced, always worthy of a glance. Did Boyer guess that PoloRL did more than anybody else to keep the Harris Tweed industry alive in a post Ivy Heyday world? PoloRL is an easy target, but they’re on track.

    And let’s be honest, in a post-Ivy Heyday age, Millennials and Generation Zers are likely to affiliate the style in question with PoloRL. If you dressed head-to-toe in vintage Chipp, J. Press, Andover Shop, and old Brooks and showed up at a gathering, a Millennial’s assessment would probably go something like this: “Guy’s sure wearing a lot of Polo.”

    The small polo pony/player logo is tasteful, and, with the affiliations with the 70s and 80s, now deemed vintage.

  20. …and since the generation that’s now dying off (clumsy phrase, but, well…) is the last that will remember the distinctiveness of Classic (Heyday) Ivy (and actually care about it)…PoloRL’s anglicanization of the American classics (or Americanization of English classics?) will stand the test of time. The 0.5% (if that) of the population who give a damn about darts and hook vents will soon vanish, and, 50 years from now, when nobody gives a damn about such J. Pressy idiosyncrasies, the tweedy, tartan-covered Anglo-American vibe will persevere (among a minority, but still) because Ralph Lauren decided to innovate. It’s a safe guess this comment section attracts more than a few purists, but the fact that many conservative old-timers wear PoloRL speaks volumes.

  21. Henry Contestwinner | September 10, 2018 at 3:45 pm |


    If I’m not mistaken, the sweater you like has navy blue, not black (at least that’s how it reads on my screen), which would make it a sweater in the classic Argyll & Sutherland Highlander pattern.

    Incidentally, I have a PRL sweater in that pattern from a few years ago. It is not shaggy/fuzzy, as the one in the photo is, and, best of all, has no visible logo.

  22. Every time I see a piece/show about RL Polo, I am reminded of one of Mark Twain’s quotes: “The music of Wagner is better than it sounds!” Maybe this is better than it looks.

  23. Ralph Lauren is still alive?

  24. This my friends is the pre-1980 RL look I’ve always mentioned. Regimental striped sweaters, deep pleat pants with watch pockets, etc, etc.. Granted the rises are too short and the patches didn’t get hot till after 1980 when the “preppy” crap happened.

  25. I worked at his store at 867 for almost five years (1989-94) and even though my job consisted of standing around and smiling and folding khakis and straightening jackets, I treasure those times because we were a part of an excellent, caring, distinguished, innovative but classic company which strived to create excellence in both product and customer experience.

    I still have a bag of silk neckties I bought from back then, and even though many are close to thirty years old, they still are wearable and would not look ridiculous today.

    I was ready to write RL off, especially after reading that snarky UK article about his irrelevance, but the 50th Anniversary show in Central Park blew me away. It was fantastic. It was the culmination of his style, and he brought it out beautifully, with so many artful looks that spanned the globe but came back to Anglo/American style.

    When I look around at any other men’s clothing today, I see RL who did it first, did it better, did it with more elan and imagination than anyone. He started out at Brooks Brothers, but look at how RL has surpassed BB, which today has as much personality as a Ford dealership. Polo is still great….maybe not the only game in town…but everything comes and goes and RL is still here.

    The larger society no longer needs to dress up elegantly, but we can still have button down shirts, a nice crew neck sweater, some leather shoes, khakis, and put it together with some dignity and self-respect. Perhaps this is why RL now seems somewhat past its moment…but somehow that moment always circles back and reinvigorates his brand.

    Sorry for rambling on….

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