This first letter was supposed to be congratulatory. I mean, 50 years is no small thing. It was going to introduce the brand and the concept; not just the concept of what we will be calling ‘the world of Ralph Lauren’, but the concept of this here enterprise. A year in my world of Ralph Lauren, 50 weeks, 50 items of clothes, and for those two additional weeks a sort of hello and good-bye. So this is hello.
But let’s be honest. Everyone has some idea of what the world of Ralph Lauren is. It is probably different than your idea, and I can guarantee you that it is different than mine. Because your world, at least as it represents in boutiques and online stores, in newspaper and magazine ads, on social media and on red carpets, is a well-ordered world.
It is a little bit different for me. Mine is a world of obsession and sales, unnecessary purchases and thrift store digging, of signifiers and signified melting into a closet that is smoldering with the unworn hopes and dreams of who I am. For me personally, as if there could ever be any other way, the world of Ralph Lauren is one of disorder.
Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. I’m not blaming you. There is a whole universe of things that consume me, that I demand more meaning and experience from than they can provide, things like jazz and Interwar American literature and Netflix, but none of them have inscribed at their very core what Polo does. Because at the heart of it, beyond the stunning references to ranch life and the Ivy League, beyond English estates and country living, stepping off the sailboat in Cape Cod or walking away from the cricket pitch, Polo says that this too can be yours. That is some profound American shit right there.
So I’m going through my desktop as I get ready to write this and I come across this picture, posted above, in a folder that I keep full of images that I’ve dragged off the internet that I think may one day inspire me. There are photos of Acoma pueblo pottery, 50 Cent lifting weights, Miles Davis boxing, Pablo Picasso holding Gary Cooper’s gun, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing bongos and a painting of a wolf crossing a river on the back of a bison. And then there is this picture of you. I mean, really, what is this? It’s like the cover to the Harlequin bromance about us I’ve written in my head. But more than what, why? Why do I like this picture so much? Why does it make me so happy? Why do I want it to be emblematic of my life?
Already we are way off track, and we haven’t even started. So I’ll end this by wishing you and your family a happy New Year and offering a hearty congratulations on 50 years of Polo. Last year my 2016 fashion resolution was to get to a point in my life where I had to wear suits on a regular basis (didn’t happen), but this year is a little different. My style goal for 2017 is to simply look good in a black T-shirt. You, more than anyone, know the power of our dreams and the necessity of covering those dreams in clothes. The dreams change, but Polo remains.