Styling the American Dream
If you can wear it, you can be it.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz as the son of two Eastern European immigrants. Him and his brother later adopted the name Lauren to draw less attention to their Jewish heritage. He grew up with an interest in fashion that led him to designing ties for different retail stores around New York City.
“‘I started to see that I had ideas about clothes,’ said Lauren. ‘What I imagined was a marriage of Fred Astaire and Brooks Brothers. And I’d see these ideas turn up in the stores six months later — not that anyone was copying me, but because I was on the wavelength” (Vogue).
That wavelength carried him through his fashion career and ultimately led him to build the empire he has today. All of us at one point in our lives have likely owned a piece of Ralph Lauren’s clothing. What makes Ralph Lauren unique was his ability to create that lifestyle brand for so many different people. Everyone from the fashion elite to underground hip hop culture sought after his clothing. He stylized the American dream and sold “clothes that are not clothes, but little pieces of an ideal world” (Vogue).
The Ralph Lauren brand attempts to bridge the gap between the fashion elite and the fashion novice by offering affordable style at every price range. With a Ralph Lauren clothing brand in every budget, a piece of the American lifestyle was accessible to everyone.
“Credited with creating the lifestyle concept, Lauren has never been about fashion for fashion’s sake; his clothes for the lives people would like to be living as well as the lives people are living” (Vogue).
Everything about the brand, even down to the name “Polo” was something that embodied tradition, class, and established wealth. Lauren saw a need for an image to be created around the United States. Italy, for example, was known for beautiful, handmade suits; England was known for fine fabrics like tweed. Internationally, however, there was nothing to represent America in the fashion world, until Ralph Lauren was given the opportunity to share his dream with the rest of the world. First appearing in department stores and then in movies like The Great Gatsby and Annie Hall, Lauren was soon celebrated into the genre of American classics.
His clothes have become the wardrobe staples for men and the most raved styles and high premium price tags for fashion forward women. In part, his ultimate vision only included clothes on the surface level. Lauren wanted to create the ideal world he never experienced as an immigrant from the Bronx.
“I’m trying to paint a wonderful world, a life that makes you feel good. Maybe I’m redefining a life we lost. That’s my movie. What’s yours?” (Ralph Lauren)
Ralph Lauren was a man with a vision who was motivated by the American dream and never looked back. His clothes speak of contagious success just as much as his personality does. He embodies the idea that the American dream doesn’t place limits on what can be achieved.
Baird-Murray, Kathleen. Vogue on Ralph Lauren. New York: Abrams, 2015.
Gross, Michael. Genuine Authentic: The real life of Ralph Lauren. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, ©2003. Print.
Koepp, Stephen. “Selling a Dream of Elegance and the Good Life.” Time, 1 Sept. 1986.