The Great Debate Takes A Turn

Been doing this for a few years now, and there are a few questions that are fun to return to. One of my favorites is whether or not Ralph Lauren is Ivy. My assertion is… no.

I do have two great Ralph Lauren as a person stories though. As a person, definitely Ivy. One night, Trish and I go to the movies in Bedford. The theatre there has a balcony with four rows of seats. It’s a week night, so we go and sit in the balcony, front row, rest of the theatre is empty. Mr. Lauren and his wife come in, he is on crutches with a cast on his foot/leg. They sit down in the front row too, and he asks, “Do you mind if I put my leg up?” I said, “Do you mind if I do?” We moved over, they moved over, and we watched the movie as a foursome and chatted the whole time. LOVELY people. No mention of anything, and charming and funny.

The clothes though? Not Ivy. DEFINITELY Ivy adjacent. Logo placement and size. Collar proportions. Fit. Etc. All disqualifiers. BEAUTIFUL stuff and god bless for carrying the trad flag, but not Ivy.

And, not trying to be. Here are the sneakers at the State dinner two weeks ago.

16 Comments on "The Great Debate Takes A Turn"

  1. I would say that Uncle Ralph offers a few trad and ivy pieces each season, but preppy is what they do and who they are.

  2. whiskdeydent | June 26, 2023 at 8:46 am |

    I got the exact same sneakers a few weeks ago. My 15AA’s are probably as long as he is tall, however.

    I agree with you that Lauren’s clothes are not Ivy and with OCBD that they’re mostly preppy. English country and a little bit of drugstore cowboy inform a lot of his looks as well. The smug, idle rich imagery of his ads is a total turn-off for me, but it is obviously very effective.

  3. Not ivy in the strict sense, but I have and wear quite a few of his items that seem to work well with the rest of my not consciously, yet ivy-inflected wardrobe. Trad is an apt descriptor.

  4. Agree – he’s not trying to be, and has never made any pretense to be. Certainly flirted with it in the 1980s, but there’s always been a little more trend-chasing with RL than with the Ivy stalwarts, and he’s always been more at home with the preppy wing of PITA (Prep/Ivy/Trad/Americana). But are certain pieces Ivy enough that you, the wearer, could make them Ivy? Absolutely.

  5. G. Bruce Boyer | June 26, 2023 at 12:30 pm |

    “Preppy” is the word. And RL is the great editor of the genre.

  6. Charlottesville | June 26, 2023 at 1:27 pm |

    As John and others have noted, he is a fashion designer, drawing on tradition, but not strictly a traditionalist. Ivy adjacent, with a touch of English country is about right, and I think he and his design team did it awfully well when they kept the flamboyant streak in check.

    Most of the tailored items in my (much too full) closet are J. Press and Pre-2000 Brooks 3/2 sacks. However, I have had several Polo suits, blazers and sport coats over the years, going back to my first pricy suit in the 80s. I still have a few from the early 2000s (in seersucker, tweed, and a doeskin flannel blazer) that I keep in the rotation, and I think they still look great after roughly 20 years. Not something that can be said for most “designer” clothes.

  7. Tom Conroy | June 26, 2023 at 1:44 pm |


  8. Tom Conroy | June 26, 2023 at 2:09 pm |

    Actually Richard Press touched on this topic in an interview with The Spectator magazine. I’m not sure if it’s paywalled:

  9. MacMcConnell | June 26, 2023 at 4:07 pm |

    Preppy was just a Northestern word for Ivy, see “Love Story”. The movie was the first time I ever heard the term till the 1980s. Suddenly all things Ivy were Preppy.

    Looking back, I have come to think Preppy is how I dress for a BBQ or casual social event. Ivy is how I dress for work.

    RL has moved in to Urban wear over the decades. Not my cup of tea, but you can find Ivy on RL website. You have to spend time looking. I admit wearing unpressed RL buttondowns as sports shirts and pique polo shirts scince the 1970s. I also score some great shoes on sale.

    My pressed OCBDs are O’Connells.

  10. Can you please add me to your email list. Thank you.

  11. Rl is definitely no longer preppy, but he laughs all the way to the bank. JPRESS AND BB and few other others claim to be but they cannot even compete. However, I buy good stuff elsewhere.

  12. Gregory Carrara | June 26, 2023 at 6:02 pm |

    I love his casual stuff, especially RRL but the dress shirts and suits, ugh, enough of the damned “polo fit”. Hopefully the trend passes because the stuff is pretty good quality. I am not “trad” per se, but, probably straddle the Daniel Craig (not the tight suits)/prep/trad lines.

  13. Anonymous | June 26, 2023 at 8:59 pm |

    Over nearly 45 years, Joseph A. Bank to Brooks Brothers to J Press to O’Connells. Retired. Never bought a single RL item. Never even considered it.

  14. His style is largely “classic America”
    Yes, there’s the nod to the Southwest (US) & with a look back & across the pond.

  15. Poison Ivy Leaguer | July 2, 2023 at 3:01 pm |

    Ivy is preppy. The scholarship students from Iowa didn’t show up at H-Y-P etc. looking like that. They learned the look from the St. Grottlesex boys.

  16. Lil’ Ivy Prepsta | July 5, 2023 at 9:48 am |

    No no. No way. I have a lot of aunthetic Ivy stuff from Hilfiger and Lands End, some of it is vintage and the real deal. When I compare it to RL it is clear that this don’t reach the required specication to be considered Ivy classical streetwear. RL is pure MAGA imho.

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