Ralph Lauren Spring 2018: The Return Of Neo-Prep

Four-and-a-half years ago, our erstwhile columnist The Millennial Fogey mused on the uncertain future of neo-prep. Well, fashion life cycles are pretty short these days, and I think we can say it’s back.

I’m a bit biased when it comes to Ralph Lauren. They’re my longest running client, as I’ve written for their online magazine for a dozen or more years. In fact, I’m on assignment once again right now, and for those who are new here, a feature I did on Miles Davis and The Andover Shop became the inspiration for launching this site a decade ago.

For the past several years RL has been in a “downtown” mode, their in-house term for a monochromatic casual look — even among the usually preppy Polo line. Well I just had a look at the new spring pages on the Ralph Lauren website, and once again, after 50 years in business, RL is making the effort to keep alive the taste for Preppy-Ivy-Trad-Americana (haven’t used the PITA acronym in quite some time!)

Of course, at this particular stage of American civilization, we’re in a post-post irony era. The web copy touts “Modern Prep: An eclectic, irreverent take on iconic Polo style.”

There also seems to be a return to a greater use of models. Over the past couple of years readers have written to me wondering if I’d noticed that the RL website was using mostly product shots with fewer full outfits on models. I think they were right and after recent changes in leadership, it looks like the new chief is refocusing on the classic formulas that built the brand in the first place.

Oh, and I see they’ve recycled my khaki story to go with the collection. Now I’m really biased….  — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD


25 Comments on "Ralph Lauren Spring 2018: The Return Of Neo-Prep"

  1. Rene Lebenthal | March 16, 2018 at 2:32 pm |

    I am always biased too when it comes to RL;
    But I have to admit that once more Polo RL is a very nice source of Inspiration.
    As Lisa Birnbach wrote, what would we Preppys do without RL and what would he do without us?
    Or…. to Quote the mighty and esteemed Bruce Boyer: “They should erect RL a statue in the hebrides for what he did to keep alive IVY style”
    I agree!!

  2. Ron Aldridge | March 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm |

    Love the return by RL to my favorite look (I’m a UNC alum and classmate of Alex Julian, and former associate of Jack Simpson) so why wouldn’t I ?!!!). Anyway, also read your khaki article, and as a native Tar Heel, I have to add another layer to khaki. In many (my) circles, Army khaki twill is referred to as Cramerton cloth. Not sure if Cramerton produced most of the Army’s fabric, but certainly much of it was. Cramerton Mills was in Cramerton, NC. Thanks for your outstanding and entertaining work! Keep it up!

  3. Mitchell S. | March 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm |

    It’s 2018, and yes, Polo is still cool despite what Ms. Ghivan thinks. Not so much the clothing, per se, but the styling. The rolled up sleeves, the turned up cuffs, the young models with their sprezzarura give RL a casual, irreverent look that looks modern and hip. The classics never go out of style and sweatpants and tanktops just don’t flatter most men and look out of place outside the gym.

    The monochromatic “downtown” grey and black look has run its course and so has the slim-cut silhouette. Full cut, relaxed clothing with wide lapels is the look of the future. Deconstructed suits have been the style for the past 40 years, but the new look is a recycled 30s Hollywood fashion that is glamorous and confident.

  4. Dave Honaker | March 16, 2018 at 4:01 pm |

    Ron, as a fellow Tar Heel I share your appreciation for classic RL style–and Cramerton cloth. I was excited to see Duck Head use it a few years ago with their re-relaunch (their store in G’Boro was outstanding), but it seems to have left the market again with their latest re-re-relaunch.

  5. Straight Arrow | March 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm |

    Everything above the belt line looks just fine. Everything below…absurd.

  6. Go-To-Hell denim. That’s a first,

  7. Vern Trotter | March 16, 2018 at 5:17 pm |

    I have not worn jeans since age 15 and have always disliked them unless you are on the ranch. These GTH Levi’s look sort of neat. Jeans being the only skinny pants I might wear. Maybe we can consider without the whole issue becoming an ad hominem argument.

  8. Looks pretty good here. But there is an will only ever be one true Ivy Style necktie!

  9. NaturalShoulder | March 16, 2018 at 7:08 pm |

    I didn’t realize that Cramerton twill referred to the name of mill. I purchased some Cramerton twill khakis from Bills several years ago and they were one of my favorite pair. Sadly they have worn out. Polo was my entry into the PITA world in the 80s and do have a fondess and certain nostalgia for the brand. I have since discovered other options and don’t have many items remaining.

  10. I hope new leadership tames the Pony!!!
    Any size larger than the original should be banned. The only exception being their sponsorship deals. Olympics, Polo and tennis, etc.

  11. I think the styling is still just wrong, all wrong. Each piece is individually preppy, but the way they’re putting them together looks screwy just for the purpose of being screwy, and the models don’t look right or even comfortable in the clothing at all. They don’t fit the style. RL needs to quit trying so hard to be relevant to people that don’t want him anyway and instead just do what he does. Just do it right, man.

  12. What the heck is “neo prep”?

  13. Must everything be irreverent and ironic these days? It gets tiresome so quickly.

  14. Every year there are a few pieces in lineup that appeal to Ivy sensibilities. A few years ago they offered a made-in-Scotland shetland crewneck that rivaled (or exceeded) anything offered by Harley or Shetland Woollen Co. Some of the madras stuff–especially the classic colors (navy, maroon, green, pale gold)–is worthy of a second glance. As always, wait for the sale.

    When I think of “new prep,” I think of the South–all that Vineyard Vines and Southern Proper (and similar) stuff. Ditto for PoloRL. I think there are more instances of purist Ivy in the Northeast (I still see sack suits and button downs in New York and Philadelphia), whereas the South has succumbed to “Updated Traditional” and “Neo Prep.” Both are equally stomach-turning.

  15. The biggest problem with modern Polo is the cut of the clothes. Low-rise trousers, short ‘classic fit’ shirts and sports coats with lapels that measure under 3 inches. These are the reasons why I don’t shop there as much as I once did, they need to get back to classic proportions first and foremost.

  16. Somewhere there’s an Ivy Style article (or two?) distinguishing Ivy and Preppy, right? Probably worth revisiting on occasion. Sometimes “preppy” goes so far off the rails that it’s no longer an extension of Ivy. It’s a more like a corruption of the look–a bastardization.

  17. Between this, the Drake’s Spring/Summer 18′ lookbook and Rowing Blazers venturing into polos I sense a full-on prep revival coming.

    I’m very happy to see the skull embroidery return to RL, though I too wish the cuts were less slim. I did just pick up a pair of straight fit skull khakis while poking around at RL this morning. As expected, the white skull jeans were exceedingly slim and I feel that the yellow-on-light-denim pair will be the same.

  18. After your “I miss Rugby” article, I wondered if RL would ever return to this. While I agree the styling is a little over the top, but having prep items back in catalogues and store racks does seem to raise awareness or even appreciation of the component items in the public eye.

    Working on a university campus, it’s interesting to see how dominant some fashion trends become. Where 5 years ago it was uggs and leggings, now it’s olive M-59 fishtail parka derivatives and Herschel backpacks.

    FWIW, I bought my first yellow OCBD this week – a pale lemon shade. Bring on spring and summer!

  19. Richard Meyer | March 17, 2018 at 5:28 pm |

    Personally, I prefer this ad-and the clothes actually fit, not looking two sizes too small:

  20. Those pirate jeans look silly. Great for an 8 year old kid…

  21. I think RL may have lost some talent, they used to have immaculate styling even if it looked ridiculous it still worked. Now it doesn’t feel as effortless for some reason, and the ‘downtown’approach hasn’t really raised them much over say a Brooks Bros facsimile

  22. johnny Bravo | March 30, 2018 at 4:18 pm |

    I’m trying to decipher the recent trend of the “partial tuck” seen in many catalogues featuring young, hipsters sporting PITA wear.
    I see the utility in allowing for the full view of a monogrammed buckle, etc. Looks strange if one had to actually attempt the look?
    This prep renaissance that RL has decided to engage in is an obvious retreat to the bedrock of their brand and may sell more clothing as a result of this strategy, who knows…
    Mens clothing design, and the attempt to vary styles and influence what actually will become a standard in a person’s wardrobe is much like trying to created a unique architectural design for a suburban house. Good taste is well defined and derivative of comfort and conformity to existing classical styles that evolved over the centuries. There aren’t a lot of unique style options for men that wouldn’t raise eyebrows on the street or at work, therefore, the constant recycling of various and sundry styles from our particular century.
    The expanding economy and geopolitical atmosphere of the 1980’s allowed the RL brand to thrive. Being both aspirational as well as a luxury purveyor, RL successfully projected the wistful elegance of jazz era wealth.
    Our present political climate seems more appropriately suited to brands such as Carhartt and Dickies?

  23. I’ve been wearing Polo for three plus decades and I love the slight edginess to the looks…always conservative but with an edge to preppiness. I’m not affraid to wear combos that might otherwise raise an eyebrow…even though I’m getting older now. I still love it as much as I did when I was young. And I have complete collections going back. I’m not boasting, just an enthusiast.

  24. Jovannie Bazil | September 19, 2020 at 1:33 am |

    I am still a “newbie” into the Ralph Lauren world. I have always like dressing preppy but was never really did so ordinarily until college. It’s been almost a decade since I have graduated and I am continuing the trend. I have always love the classy look and always had role models like Cary Grant, Nat King Cole and others for motivation. Now I’m strictly only a Polo guy and hope to continue the Neo-Prep style for years to come.

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