Ralph Lauren History, Style Evolution and Influence on Vintage Fashion

Ralph Lauren History, Style Evolution and Influence on Vintage Fashion

Ralph Lauren is one of Glass Onion’s top selling and favourite brands. We want to celebrate its history and give you details on how the company have influenced the fashion world, as they continue to do so today, selling both new apparel and quality Ralph Lauren vintage.  

Photo courtesy of The New York Times/Redux

Ralph Lauren History

Ralph Lauren 1960s - 1970s

Established as a neckwear company in 1967, under the name Polo, the now worldwide recognised Ralph Lauren crafted handmade ties in New York City. The business was founded and marketed by the American designer whose name appeared above the door, Ralph Lauren – he had set out to create garments for the elite American. Inspired by Old Hollywood, English Aristocracy and the American West, Ralph’s quality, sporty menswear designs quickly developed into outstanding collections.

Ralph Lauren 1970s - 1980s

Ralph Lauren’s dedication to the brand allowed him to quickly find a physical space in a Bloomingdale’s boutique in 1970. The next few years consisted of the expansion into a stand-alone store, and the birth of Ralph Lauren’s iconic pony logo, which was debuted alongside a line for women. In 1972, Ralph Lauren introduced the iconic Polo Shirt, which still sells out 5 decades later – crafted from the best materials and sold in an array of colours, this garment quickly became a symbol of American style. The late 70s continued as a success for Ralph Lauren clothing, as the designer won a Coty award, supplied Oscar-winning film costumes, and adapted to a cowboy inspired style with denim and embroidered detailing.

Ralph Lauren 1980s - 1990s

In 1981, Ralph Lauren launches its Santa Fe collection, showing the brand’s versatility and aspirations for artistry in high fashion. The same year, the business goes international, with a new Polo shop opening on New Bond Street in London. Ralph Lauren explores homeware, a Safari collection and eventually its first flagship store in New York’s Rhinelander mansion on Madison Avenue. This store allows Ralph Lauren to revolutionise fashion with story driven retail experiences that the brand still prides itself on today.

Ralph Lauren 1990s - 2000s

By the 1990s, Ralph Lauren had launched the classic Polo Teddy Bear, he appeared on the cover of Times Magazine and achieved a CDFA Lifetime Achievement award. His perfectly detailed craftsmanship and dedication to the Ralph Lauren customer allowed the brand to expand further, Polo Sports debuting in 1992 with the eye-catching Stadium Collection. Double RL western collection is launched, as well as the Purple Label in 1995 featuring tailoring and an overall refined look. In 1997, Polo Ralph Lauren becomes publicly traded after hitting the $1 billion sale mark.

Ralph Lauren 2000s - 2010s

Ralph Lauren goes online in 2000 and launches its ecommerce website, this representing a great opportunity for the company’s future. In the same year Pink Pony is launched, showing models wearing the new t-shirts in the spring runway – this helped raise awareness for Ralph’s cancer research charity initiatives. In 2002, the first men’s runway show debuts in Milan. In 2006, Ralph Lauren became the official outfitter of Wimbledon, and similarly in ’08 for the US team for the Olympics and Paralympics. In 2010, designer Ralph Lauren received the keys to the city presented by the NY city Mayor. He is the first fashion designer to receive this honour.

Ralph Lauren Now

Today, Ralph Lauren continues to deliver his classic apparel as well as new designs all across the world. Ralph Lauren truly marked itself as part of the classic style and had the power to remain prominent in contemporary fashion. Many celebrities choose to wear Ralph Lauren both casually and in stylised manners. The brand’s impeccable quality has allowed, of course, to find itself in a lot of our closets in the form of vintage today, as we trust in its long lasting wearability and forever stylish appearance.

What Inspired Ralph Lauren?

Ralph Lauren began with the aim of creating a concise style fitting to the American elite. Polo sports was a major contributor to the selection of materials Ralph Lauren used, as comfort and practicality were key. Equestrian lifestyle, European elegance as well as the designer’s personal style all concocted into the Ralph Lauren classics. Not to forget about Hollywood and film, very present in popular culture at the time of the brand’s launch. The designers inspirations all find themselves in favour of high quality, simplicity and sophistication, three main drivers in the brand’s design aspect.

Ralph Lauren Brands

It’s more than clear from the brand’s timeline that Ralph Lauren has explored a variety of branches, all with qualities and inspirations of their own.

Ralph Lauren Purple Label

The most luxurious and high-end brand within the Ralph Lauren portfolio, offering refined, tailored clothing, formalwear, and accessories for men.

Ralph Lauren Collection

A high-end brand for womenswear, featuring elegant and sophisticated ready-to-wear apparel, accessories, and footwear.

Polo Ralph Lauren

One of the most widely recognised brands of Ralph Lauren. It offers classic and preppy American-style clothing, including polo shirts, casual wear, sportswear, and accessories for menswear and womenswear.

Lauren Ralph Lauren

Positioned as a more affordable brand, Lauren Ralph Lauren offers stylish and accessible clothing, accessories, and home goods for women.

Polo Ralph Lauren Children

A line of clothing and accessories for kids, inspiring the same classic American style as the adult Polo Ralph Lauren brand. 

Polo Sport Ralph Lauren

A brand that focuses on activewear and sport-inspired clothing for men and women, offering a blend of functionality and style.


Targeted at a more budget-friendly market segment, Chaps provides casual clothing for men, women, and children, often featuring classic American designs.

Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren

This brand offers a youthful, bohemian-inspired collection of denim and casual wear, targeting a more laid-back and trend-conscious audience.

Double RL (RRL)

A brand known for its vintage-inspired denim and workwear, appealing to customers who appreciate a rugged and Americana-inspired aesthetic.

Polo Ralph Lauren Golf

Focusing on golf-related apparel and accessories, this brand offers functional and stylish options for golf enthusiasts.

Collectively, these brands offer a wide range of styles for Ralph Lauren consumer, allowing the Corporation to reach a diverse audience and establish itself in the centre of global fashion.

Ralph Lauren Style Evolution

Ralph Lauren is worldwide recognised as the ultimate classy brand. We’ve highlighted 3 main styles you also probably associate with Ralph Lauren: preppy, streetwear and vintage.

Ralph Lauren Preppy Style

With inspirations drawn from the traditional Ivy League uniforms worn by students in the United States, Ralph Lauren designed his clothes to be refined, sophisticated and presenting timeless features which blend casual, sporty and formal. The classic Ralph Lauren preppy style would include key items such as the polo shirt. This is one of Ralph’s best selling designs, adapted for menswear and womenswear, in a multitude of colours, sizes and price points. Harrington jackets, chinos, blazers and sportscoats, button down shirts and sweaters/cardigans are other preppy Ralph Lauren classics.

Ralph Lauren Streetwear: Lo Life’s

Emerged in Brooklyn, New York during the 1980s, the street gang known as The Ralph Lauren Lo Life’s were far from your expected subculture. The street gang weren’t involved in violence, but simply were known for their obsession with stealing and wearing Ralph Lauren Polo clothing and apparel. The Lo Life’s, with ‘Lo’ standing short for the brand Polo, were founded by a group of young and underprivileged individuals in the Brownsville and Crown Heights neighbourhoods of Brooklyn.

Their aim of theft stood exclusively within high end stores, they proudly wore their clothing to symbolise the status and success that came alongside Ralph Lauren Polo’s preppy and upscale image. The brand’s aim to portray wealth and luxury cost them an economical disadvantage in this instance, as the unusual case of the Lo Life’s continued to rid the stores of their high quality products. Lo Life’s prominence started to decline in the early 1990s, as the corporation implemented higher security standards and the police cracked down on the gang. It’s interesting to note the power and influence Ralph Lauren had at this point as a brand, wherefore subcultures developed from a pure obsession with the connotations that came from wearing a fashion house’s logo.

Ralph Lauren's Influence on Vintage Fashion

Unlike other designers which seek to expand their areas with fresh, contrasting ideas, our perception of Ralph Lauren as a brand has pretty much remained the same since its origins. Ralph Lauren has had an everlasting impact on vintage fashion, as he combines timeless inspirations with the adaptation to modern days. He is exceptional at managing to keep the brand relevant, whilst also suggesting such a nostalgic edge. Ralph Lauren’s designs evoke the sophistication and elegance typical to vintage fashion through tailored silhouettes, classic fabrics and intricate detailing. The inspirations originally drawn from ivy league, now find themselves synonymous with vintage collections we see in contemporary fashion – polo shirts, blazers, sweatshirts, chinos, etc.

Ralph Lauren has consistently been an advocate for the vintage style, this can be seen in his accessories too: leather belts, leather bags and silk scarves. Western and American styles have also majorly influenced the Ralph Lauren aesthetic, with popular vintage items including denim, cowboy boots, suede and fringe. The brand had consistently used vintage style fabrics in their collections too, tweed, herringbone, corduroy and cashmere are just a few examples. Overall, Ralph has taken a point of inspiration and utilised it to revive and reimagine clothing for each new generation.

Shop Vintage Ralph Lauren

Here at Glass Onion, we’re happy to supply you with a variety of Ralph Lauren pieces, as we stock not only vintage basics, but also adapt pieces in our own manner to create new styles for our customers. All our Remade Ralph Lauren pieces have been repurposed in our South Yorkshire HQ using products and materials originally destined for landfill.

We continue to share Ralph Lauren’s love for vintage in our menswear an womenswear collections – you can find the classic polos, as well as jackets, shirts, shorts and sweatshirts in stores and at our vintage pop up events across the UK.