Is everything OK? I ask for a couple of reasons, but primarily this:
What is going on here, Ralph? It isn’t necessarily the sweater itself that concerns me (although there is a lot to be concerned about) but the naming. This sweater is called The Iconic Cricket Sweater. The Iconic Cricket Sweater? And then there’s this:
Again, more than a few questions and concerns about the cardigan itself, but the name? The Iconic Letterman Sweater.
These two things wouldn’t concern me if they didn’t fall so close to the release of the 3rd Polo LTD – a throwback to one of the most iconic collections in the RL canon: Polo Stadium. I’ve watched these Polo LTDs roll out with more than a little ambivalence. The first two were not only out of my price range but also out of my style comfort zone. They seem designed more for Instagram than for any lifestyle I associate with the world of RL, but nonetheless, they took their inspiration from a place. And so it gave me a little pause when the third release, the Polo Stadium throwback, took its inspiration not from a place on earth, but from a place in time. Specifically, your iconic past.
I get it. The brand is trying to find ways to move forward, trying to find ways to be modern, trying to find ways to lure the youth market who are buying up ‘90s-tinged nostalgia from Tommy Hilfiger, wearing high-waisted acid-washed jeans and seriously enjoying the music of the Counting Crows. I still haven’t wrapped my head around being old enough to experience something I lived through a second time as a retro-nostalgia craze, but I get it.
Because I tend to lean so heavily on an incredibly personal and unrealistic understanding of the past, nostalgia as a broad cultural phenomenon or a specific personal passion always seems suspect. The world of Ralph Lauren is such a totality that, despite relying almost entirely on a mythic past, it seems to transcend the world of nostalgia.
It is not original or fresh to point out the origins of the word ‘nostalgia’ are rooted in the pain of homecoming, but the question remains: why is the pain of homecoming is so sweet? Like a cut in the mouth that you can’t stop tonguing, the sweetness of the taste of your own blood intermingled with the sharp sensation of pain, we keep asking; is it 1992 you miss? Is it the version of you in 1992 that you are seeking to revisit twenty-five years later? Is it the times that have changed or is it us? Can the world be reclaimed through a T-shirt?
Sadly, I think we both know the answer is no. The Stadium LTD is brimming with full-on Ralph details, including the old Polo tags that I miss so much. The problem is that cannibalizing the past seems very un-Ralph. The Ralph Lauren of 1992 stood looking at the future, it is why those collections were so great; you’re eye to eye with him now, staring into your former glory. When the past, either real or imagined, becomes as tangible as the places that we draw inspiration from, you know you are walking through the land of the blind. I beg you, Ralph, turn around.
Written with love and concern,
PS – I own a lot of ‘iconic’ articles of clothing made by Polo (my herringbone tweed jacket is just one example) but I only own one iconic piece of Polo, this rugby shirt from 1992. Even though the world can’t be reclaimed through a shirt, let me just say: this one’s a motherfucker.