Sayonara Rugby

This weekend Rugby Ralph Lauren is scheduled to shutter its online doors, joining Chaps….

….and Polo University Club…

… in the Avalon of failed attempts to reach a younger consumer.

And that younger consumer seems to be getting younger with each new decade. While Rugby had a spirit of irreverence and winking irony for Generation Smartass, check out the aspirational earnestness and sophistication that tempts you from these University Club ads from the Reagan years:

Finally, you’re probably wondering where Richard will get his clothes now. Fortunately when one retail door closes, another opens. — CC

25 Comments on "Sayonara Rugby"

  1. No Chaps! What will Khols do?

  2. Saying Chaps failed is not entirely accurate, as I believe it still exists. But Ralph Lauren sold the license some time ago, I believe, so it was a failure in the sense that it wasn’t worth keeping.

    Also, “failure” sounds overly condemnatory. RL is a $10 billion annual corporation constantly reevaluating its market strategies and making business choices.

  3. What I wonder, is if it couldve sustained itself without ending entirely.
    The stores were exceptional in every way, but LOOKED like they had a ton of overhead.

    Could the line have dumped the retail stores and continued as an exclusive online venture?

    I know that there was a very devoted following.

    Will people look back upon Rugby with nostalgia? Did it go out on top? Will it be remembered as a unique brand that people will collect from thirfts and ebay? I would say yes.

    I am curious what others will think.

  4. the Gothic R is a common complaint, but remember, it wasnt on everything…

  5. I always viewed University Club & Rugby as a caricature of the main Polo brand while I viewed Chaps as an less expensive (and lower quality) option.

    I have recently come to appreciate the quality of the Polo OCBD’s. While I don’t like the cut of the shirts any longer, the 2 that have stayed in my closet are 14-15 years old and are still in great condition.

  6. The very first serious (and seriously expensive) article of clothing I bought was a University Club sport coat in a wonderful navy & gray flecked tweed. I still have it, thirty years later, though I need to get patches for where I wore through the elbows.

    I also recently picked up a University Club corduroy jacket, still in excellent condition. Needless to say, both were made in America, and while I hate to contradict PJG, neither are a caricature. I can’t compare the quality to the Polo brand, but that both jackets lasted so long speaks for itself.

  7. Dutch Uncle | February 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

    Parodies of orthodox Ivy style.

  8. Richard Meyer | February 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    No big loss. The exquisite ” Super-Waspy” photos in the RL ads in the 80’s were by Anthony Edgeworth, who also has done other coffee table books on golf and other matters, as well as the photos for the Racquet and Tennis Club of New York book.

  9. Christian, Rugby is one of the many brands I wear. However, I will go ahead and predict the failure of York Street. It will not make it, and in part because it is super expensive. Truthfully, this was the demise of Rugby. It’s target market couldn’t afford a $700 suit or $500 sport coat.

  10. Dickey Greenleaf | February 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

    I still have GQ magazines from the 80’s and 90’s, and there are plenty of these images inside, and from countless others, that Photographers name is Bruce Weber. This guy is one of the original Poloroids.

  11. Is the “aspirational earnestness” of those Polo University Club ads lost on anyone else? To me, they look more like illustrations for The Theory of the Leisure Class.

  12. I would say that the brand played itself out, not necessarily failed.

  13. Ralph and his Polo brand have been around for forty five years, he’ll go for the lower price point market again. He’ll come up with something, he always has.

  14. Old Philadelphia | February 3, 2013 at 6:37 am |


    “lower price point market”

    Yes, sir, there’ll always be a lower market composed of people who use jargon like “price point”.

  15. Old Philadelphia
    Or maybe most people that have actually sold clothing, just maybe.

  16. Orgastic future | February 3, 2013 at 11:38 pm |

    It jumped the shark with that horrendous giant R emblem. However, I loved the variety of trouser styles. Their style pairings were awesome as well. Their brick and mortar’s were brilliantly setup also. The problem was that it was too expensive for the demographic.

  17. I wore a Rugby wool challis bow tie this weekend with a PoloRL shirt, sweater & cords. Best bow ties I ever saw and at the full price of $49.50 they still were a bargain. Sorry to see Rugby completely

  18. @ Christian – “overly condemnatory”…..seriously? It failed as a business…period. As a publicly traded company RL’s only goal is to create shareholder value. If a product line or business unit doesn’t generate a sufficient return it is shuttered.

  19. Old Philadelphia | February 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm |


    I wouldn’t buy clothing from anybody who used the term “price point”.

  20. Shareholder value. Okay, fine. Profit. This is why many attempts fail.

    But I do wonder:

    What if someone started a business. One product. One jacket model. A few variations of pattern–pockets only. A natural shouldered, barely shaped, circa ’65 jacket. A small selection of British cloth–spun yarn, woven, and finished in the UK–that changed each season. Made in the USA. Thin chest piece, no glue, floating canvas, no shoulder pad, rounded sleevehead, lapped seams, hook vent, 5/16″ lapel stitching. Narrow point to point, and high armholes.

    Price point around $750. Remember, this is good cloth.

    A side project or someone who made his profit elsewhere, but cared about keeping a great look–a great style–alive.

    One jacket. Done really well. Eniugh of a profit to keep it going. No loss, no great gain. What if?

  21. @ S.E. – i thought of Best Made as I read your comment. I think one product/year is probably too little to engage with a market but if there were one product/month that adhered to a shared set of values I think it absolutely could work

  22. Thanks, Green.

    One item. One pattern. Keep it Simple.

    A few pocket combinations, a throat latch option, and a few seasonal cloth options. Maybe even a few bespoke cloths woven by many Scotland’s weavers.

    Granted, early Norman Hiltonesque in its monomaniacism.

    Ours is an era when so many do so much so poorly. “Doing one thing well” deserves a comeback.

  23. There was nothing “failed” about either “Chaps”, which was originally introduced as a brand at Hathaway Shirt soon after someone named Warren Buffet bought the company. Of course, about 40 years later the brand is still recognizable. Not failed.

    Polo University Club, hardly a failed brand, thousands of suits and sport jackets were sold nationally for years under this label, and primarily to the university age man or the man still in trim, and manufactured in Baltimore by the L. Greif Co. and which, by the way, bore one of the most beautiful machine natural shoulders in the industry.

    You probably should ask Jerry Lauren just how failed these licenses really were.

  24. On a recent trip to Marshalls I found some Rugby goods for sale. I picked up something that I could take the hideous “R” off of with a seam ripper.

    So, Rugby fans, you can pick up the last of the unused stock from Rugby at Marshalls, and probably Ross and the like, too.

    To follow on Bob’s comment: there are some people who say that the purpose of building a company is to sell it. If that’s the case, then Chaps was a huge success for Ralph Lauren. If they’re still paying Mr. Lauren for the use of his name, then he’s raking in dough for doing nothing.

    Imagine that—being paid simply because you exist!

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