“It’s all Polo! Even the glasses fam!”
(click-through gallery above. Photos by Mike and Ryan)
By: The Enemy Staff
It's safe to say that Ralph Lauren has etched himself an immovable place in America's cultural tapestry. The Ralph Lauren brand is the poster child for upper-middle class luxury; everyone knows Polo. But not everyone knows how far the RL rabbit hole goes. In fact, no designer has touched the cool, dangerous underbelly of 80s and 90s American subculture like Uncle Ralphie has. The variety and quality of clothes he produced, in every conceivable cut and flavour, not only paved the way for other brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica, but were obsessively collected in the streets of every NY borough. While you may think these clothes are just bland patterns your dad wears for family dinners and the collared uniforms of frat boys worldwide, it goes way deeper than that. There's a reason why Raekwon rapped about 'Lo sweaters and wore the infamous Snow Beach jacket in Wu-Tang's Can It All Be So Simple video. It's precisely because Polo's luxury garments weren't made for the streets that they became so sought after by those deemed 'lower class'. Collecting Polo became so huge in the late '80s that people would rob and kill for the rarest of garments, and this is how the Lo Lifes were born.
The Lo Lifes were a special brand of ‘Lo Heads (those who heavily collect Ralph Lauren pieces); they were a gang who would only wear Ralph Lauren and got Polo gear by any means possible. They were not just overzealous collectors, but groups of kids who would rob department stores and other kids on the streets and subways of Queens and Brooklyn in the late '80s and '90s. They would buy, steal, stunt, and die for their Polo garments, and mixed with notable heads of New York's burgeoning skate and rap culture to inspire a generation of kids in their fashion choices. These hardcore ‘Lo Heads are seen as responsible for spreading the gospel of Ralph throughout the world, and this gospel has been resurrected in the form of a group of stylish Winnipeg youth, who we interviewed below. They all know each other, as is common in such interconnected circles, but names will be kept anonymous due to the somewhat criminal nature of the subject. A short sit-down with a few of the ‘Lo Heads is available below, with a video coming soon.
The Enemy: So, who started wearing Polo first?
“To be honest I think we all started wearing it at around the same time. It just starts off with the basic shit, ponies and all that; and then you start collecting and collecting until all you can wear is Polo”.
"There’s more of a sentimental
hood value for pieces that you’ve racked."
You guys ever racked ‘Lo?
“Uhh yeah, from Value Village.”
“Racked ‘Lo?! I’ve racked hella ‘Lo!!”
“Yo, that’s incriminating fam! Straight up”.
You don’t have to say where from, or who did; we can do this anonymously.
"Well Value Village, obviously. Uhh..thrift stores…anywhere."
"My first…my first blessed ‘Lo joint was…y’know what I’m saying..."
"There’s one I racked and it’s got no pony, just the cotton flannel. It’s the nicest fucking flannel. I don’t even wear it; it’s got so much sentimental value."
"Yeah, there’s a difference. There’s more of a sentimental hood value for pieces that you’ve racked."
Is there a difference between thrifting versus buying online or in store?
"Very rarely will I buy online, because re-sales are so taxed. People who sell online know the value of the pieces they’re selling and they’re gonna sell them for an exorbitant price."
"The thrill of finding a great vintage piece from a thrift store is…unparalleled".
"Rarely will I buy brand new either, because like, the pieces they’re putting out now are just re-creations of the stuff they put out before. So I don’t know if it’s the purist in me that wants the originals from the 90s and early 2000s and stuff, but I think the quality is higher and the fit is much better."
"I actually really like when homies hand me down pieces."
"Hand-me-down pieces are blessed because in essence…it’s like the hand of god touched you. You get dipped in a little bit of ‘Lo and because it’s from the homies you know it’s gonna be fly."
Are you guys always thinking of finding stuff for your homies when you’re out thrifting?
"Even if it’s not Polo, with thrifting I’m always looking out for the homies. Just because it might not be a good fit, it might not fit well with you but with your homies. But yeah, always."
"The demographic they're aiming for
is not what made Ralph Lauren what it is"
If you could design any piece for Ralph Lauren what would you design?
"Awh man, I don’t even know, I couldn’t. So many people are biting Ralph Lauren already."
“They’re taking all of his designs and flipping them…Virgil Abloh…Diamond…everything. Every athletic design or street wear is a rip off of Polo Sport or earlier Ralph Lauren, or Tommy or Nautica."
“It’s actually crazy how big of an impact strictly Polo has made in the street culture. For me, there was a critical mass point where skating and rap, and hip-hop shit were neck in neck. When ‘Lo was getting big and the styles of skaters were crossing with rappers and Ralph was touching rap. The skaters were wearing ‘Lo and rappers wearing it, which touched everything else that kids found cool.”
“The demographic that they’re aiming for is not what made Ralph Lauren what it is.”
“And the dude [Ralph Lauren] is now embracing some of those younger street dudes.”
“Well linking up with Ferg and Kanye, etc. So Manna still has a chance to meet him, haha.”
"Is there any ‘Lo in Ferris Bueller’s day off?"
"Probably. There’s ‘Lo in like every Hollywood movie too. Like if you notice…"
‘Cuz it’s an American staple! Did you know that shit is so common in the States? Like everyone and their mother and their grandmother and grandfather all wear ‘Lo. But it’s just the way you wear it, and your reasons behind it and what your influences are that make it special. ‘Cuz it’s for everyone.
"And it’s not a boastful culture either. It kind of goes without being said. If you’re just wearing a basic collared shirt with jeans and some Sperry boat shoes I know you just went to the Bay to cop it because it’s nice. But like, if you’re wearing a bear I know you didn’t just pick that bear up at the Bay because it’s cool. You had to look for it and you know about it."