#27: Bed Sheets

Dear Ralph,

I owe you a bit of an apology. I remember laughing and rolling my eyes a little when I read a quote from you that said: “I style a bed the way a woman dresses – in layers.” It seemed like the apotheosis of a certain kind of banality – maybe a banality that was just a little too close to home for me. Sure, a person can care deeply about the wale of their corduroy pants or where the metal buttons on a blazer are made, but this bedding stuff is just a little too precious. How wrong I was.

As you know, I’m not working right now and as a result bedding has taken on huge significance for me. More than I ever could have imagined.

A well-made bed is both a promise and a reward. It gives a day structure. At the end of a day, no matter how many well-made plans have unraveled, no matter how despondent the reality of your morning dreams has become, the bed is waiting.

It also helps that my partner is very supportive of any bed-related purchasing. So if I have an itch, say, for tan bed sheets that looking at pictures of Peter Beard has inspired, I can scratch it with impunity.

When you launched the Home Collection in the early ‘80s it marked a big change. Even though they wouldn’t have had the words for it back then, you had always been a lifestyle brand, but the Home Collection turned things up, maxed them out. Before, you had sold people the world of Ralph Lauren as an idea, now you were quite literally selling them the world of Ralph Lauren as objects, as lamps and fabric swatches, as rattan headboards and monogrammed crystal highballs. If it makes sense today that we live in a world where you have a restaurant in Paris and Armani has hotels, we are living in a world you created with the Home Collection.

It isn’t a world that is characterized by a tartan-upholstered chair or the burger at the Polo Bar; it is a world where we have essentially outsourced the development of taste and discernment to the major brands that market us back our own dreams.

So when I got interested in bedding and started to assemble a closet full of blankets and comforters, throws and extra pillows, matching duvet and sham sets, I just looked for Polo and Ralph Lauren branded products. This might be considered brand loyalty, but I think it is just laziness. It is reaching out and grabbing the lowest hanging fruit.

Ironically, for someone who has bemoaned the fact that this generation of men has missed a particularly male rite of passage in not being taught to really dress by their fathers, my mother makes a terrific bed and not once have I bothered to ask her advice or seek her counsel on hospital corners and the proper placement of a bolster. Her quilt collection is enviable.

So the truth is I don’t want the father teaching the son a four-in-hand knot at the bathroom mirror anymore than I want my mother’s advice on fluffing pillows. I am much more content to complain bitterly about its absence than I would be equipped to appreciate it. It makes me sick to say it, but since I haven’t held back yet I won’t start now: I just want the most elegant solution I can afford, without a lot of fuss and chatter about it.

So do I sleep any easier on my well-made bed, a rootless child of the ultra-marketing age who bemoans his modern fate while embracing the buying power it offers. Not a chance. But I tell myself I do.

Sleep tight,

S

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