Rugby Resurrected? Ralph Lauren Launches Boathouse

While fruitlessly searching for no-show socks at the downtown Boston Macy’s Monday, I stepped into a time portal. Or at least I felt that I had. There, hanging from a rack in the store’s little Polo Ralph Lauren section, was a genuine article from Rugby Ralph Lauren. And another beside it, and another beside that…

Could the brand have decided to liquidate the very last of its Rugby backlog in an obscure corner of Macy’s? I checked the tags of the first item that had caught my eye—a green multi-stripe rugby with a grey hood and oversized skull logo—and saw a modern Polo Ralph Lauren price tag. Same thing with a black polo shirt featuring a striped chevron and Gothic letters, which looked identical to something I’d once pined after in my college days at the Rugby store on Newbury Street.

When Rugby got the axe in 2013, it was claimed that the design’s spirit would still exist within Polo. Was that finally happening now, five years later?

On a visit to the still-existent Ralph Lauren store on Newbury Street the next day I spied similar-looking merchandise, like a bold patchwork rugby shirt and an oxford-rugby hybrid marked by a skull and a Gothic “P” hanging above a counter. I expressed my admiration, adding a remark about how similar it was to Rugby. A saleswoman replied that that was the intent, and said that Boston was one of the stores selected to stock the merchandise based on local nostalgia for the shuttered brand. 

She went on to tell me it was part of a new collection called Boathouse, which debuted on the RL website a few days ago. I noticed the crossed oars in many of the styles, such as the aforementioned patchwork rugby and a black knit rowing blazer. The admittedly aggressive graphics of the clothing won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and much is too bold for my tastes, as much as I admire them (this cricket blazer that appears to be part of the collection is another matter). But it does remind me of Rugby at its early best, before too many logos took over, and I look forward to seeing what else Boathouse leads to. — ERIC TWARDZIK

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12 Comments on "Rugby Resurrected? Ralph Lauren Launches Boathouse"

  1. I was thinking exactly this when browsing RL online the other day. Unmistakable inspiration from Rugby.

  2. Dear Lord. Just when I thought RL (under new leadership) would dump the large logo thing. Guess they’re here to stay. “On somebody else!”

  3. Mitchell S. | July 6, 2018 at 1:46 pm |

    Not so much a resurrection of Rugby but Benjamin Bixby, André 3000’s brand from the late aughts. Some of the items are almost identical to Benjamin Bixby’s offerings.

    Personally I looooove the Boathouse collection and I can’t wait for some of the items to go on sale. André 3000 said in an interview with W that he lost millions on Benjamin Bixby. His clothing line was a real trailblazer in men’s fashion.

    So far I assume that Boathouse is selling well. Polo.com is already sold out of some items in popular sizes. Best of luck to Boathouse!

  4. Looks like they are trying to compete against Tommy Hilfiger!

  5. Seriously??? Not to toss cold water on any who might be inclined to make a purchase, but…

    Boathouse is a great little Resturant in Lakeville.

    Is this line of whatever targeting Millennials? Whatever…

  6. johnny Bravo | July 6, 2018 at 4:02 pm |

    Are they marketing to Asia? Those large emblems are really vulgar…

  7. whiskeydent | July 6, 2018 at 4:14 pm |

    I googled boat house and boathouse and there are a bunch businesses under that name. One is a clothing brand aimed at “elite athletes,” but it doesn’t appear to be RL’s. Odd they would wander into a name with a lot of copyright issues.

  8. I’m not sure copyright issues is much of a concern for them…they’ve battled against the USPA (United States Polo Association) about use of the word “polo” and the image of “polo players” on merchandise……

    An association that has been around since 1890 regarding a sport that is, depending on historian, is a sport dated at least within s single digit century.

    So, no I’m not sure copyright is a concern.

    The foundation is strong on a lot of this, but then they toss on the gigantic logos or mess with the proportions and ruin it. To each his own…I guess this is the challenge felt when you no longer fall within the “target audience.”

    The funny thing though is that it always seems like it is the slim, super slim, Red Fleece, Blue, millennial bro stuff that always ends up on clearance.

  9. To this day, CC’s post “I Miss Rugby” remains my favourite of the blog due to its honesty, and accurate assessment of the line.

    It was interesting for being both an introductory label to the rest of the RL brand, and an outlet for pushing the boundaries of the ‘image’ so to speak at the same time.

  10. I would have thought that RL was so established that they could actually downplay the logo, but then no one hires me for marketing.

    Most of the stuff above smacks of costumery, though I’m warming to that blazer.

  11. Interesting selection some hip items. Something I’ve noticed though is that most of the tops are in classic fit rather than rugby’s typical slim-ish fit.

  12. Polo used “Boathouse” as a collection name in the early 90s (I believe Spring of 1994) when they made elaborate internal style guides for employees…called “Polo View”. I still have many pieces from that collection. And Rugby was always aimed at a younger Ivy/Prep customer with its edgy looks and very youthful silhouettes.

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