ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

From High Class To Hip-Hop: The Polo Brand

Updated on March 30, 2018
Ian Barron profile image

Ian is an avid sneakerhead and streetwear enthusiast. He experiments with his style so you don't have to.

Dashing clothing for the dashing man.
Dashing clothing for the dashing man. | Source

The Man Before The Brand

The Polo brand is well loved, and almost instantly recognized by fashionistas and regular men and women alike. But not many people know the story well, and even less people know the man himself. Ralph's real name is Ralph Lifshitz, who was born in October 14, 1939 to Jewish immigrants Frieda and Frank Lifshitz. He was born in the Bronx, New York as the youngest of two brothers and a sister. Ralph actually did not have too substantial a childhood, attending day school and then graduating DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957. He then went into Baruch college in New York to study business, though he dropped out after two years. In 1962, Ralph then joined the army until 1964, when he dropped the army to work for Beau Brummell. He was only 28 when he convinced the CEO of Beau Brummell to let him start his own line of clothing in 1967.

Starting Polo: Ties and Sports

Ralph started Polo in 1967, taking inspiration from his interest in particular sports. After a year, Ralph released his first line of menswear, which he delivered to various stores himself. He worked out of a single office from the empire state building, designing and manufacturing the clothes himself. By 1969, Ralph had the pleasure of seeing his clothing become an exclusive outlet in Bloomingdale's. In two years, Ralph had begun to gain traction with menswear and tailored suits and ties for men. By 1971, Ralph introduced a line of shirts for women. This is where the world first saw the now iconic Polo emblem. It was on the sleeve of these shirts, and became an instant classic. 1971 also marked the opening of the first Polo store in California, selling exclusively Polo outside of New York. By 1972, Ralph moved the logo of Polo to the chest, and kept it there for years to come. Ralph was gaining serious traction among the more preppy crowd of people, and the high life style of clothes began to attract people outside of this preppy high class demographic Polo had originally aimed toward.

Timeless design on a timeless garment
Timeless design on a timeless garment | Source

Hip-Hop Begins to Take Hold

For some of us, we only know Polo as a simple polo shirt with the logo onto it, but there is so much more to Polo than those simple shirts. Especially back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The brand began small in the hip-hop community, being worn by people all over more impoverished areas of New York, California, and other such places all over the East and West coast. Polo was a status symbol. People saw Polo as a sign of affluence and wealth. With such a wide influence in impoverished areas, it was easy to see how easily it leaked into the hip-hop community. Polo was on the rise simply by being an affluent brand with high influence.

A lot of people loved Polo, and some people would literally wear it from head to toe.
A lot of people loved Polo, and some people would literally wear it from head to toe. | Source

Lo-Life Crew and Shoplifting

A huge issue for Polo back in the 80s and 90s was that of shoplifting. Several people, who banded into crews, began to go into popular outlets and shoplift Polo pieces such as rugbies and polo shirts. There were even well-known crews such as Ralphie's Boys and U.S.A (United Shoplifters Association). A bigger problem came after the shoplifting as well. Several people would steal from the shoplifters, sometimes killing and robbing for Polo. Polo was so sought after that people stole from the thieves, and thieves took from wherever they could. Some people could vividly recall stories of Polo being taken from people straight off their backs.

Polo's Breakout Into Mainstream Hip-Hop

With Polo being so loved by the developing streetwear community, it was obvious that it would be very prevalent in hip-hop culture. Rapper such as 2 Chainz, Nas, and Pimp C began to buy Polo in almost bulk. Atlanta was a particularly popular place for Polo during the 90s hip-hop era, with almost every popular Atlanta rapper wearing Ralph Lauren. And of course, Polo was not entirely apathetic to this new demographic they had attracted. Polo was quick to hire Tyson Beckford to advertise Polo to both his white and black demographics. Polo, however, never really accepted hip-hop as a whole. Though they knew their demographics, they were not willing to accept the hip-hop community. Later, people could spot figures such as Snoop Dogg, to the Wu Tang Clan, to even Young Dro who loved the brand.

Polo this, Polo that. Polo was basically the Balenciaga and Versace of hip-hop in the 90s.
Polo this, Polo that. Polo was basically the Balenciaga and Versace of hip-hop in the 90s. | Source

Post-Polo Era

Polo is not nearly as popular today as it was in the early to mid 90s. By time the 2000s came, the interest in Polo rapidly deteriorated as brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Versace became more popular in hip-hop culture. Polo quickly fell off, yet their influence can still be felt in design inspirations from brands such as Supreme, Bape, and even Gucci. Though vintage Polo is coming back to some extent, it will never be the same as it was in the early to mid 90s.

Even rappers like Chance and Kanye can be seen sporting Polo, especially vintage Polo, during public appearances and concerts.
Even rappers like Chance and Kanye can be seen sporting Polo, especially vintage Polo, during public appearances and concerts. | Source

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)