When Vado dropped a Polo tribute that barely took it further than an underwear tee, he got a bit of a blowback. Supreme’s Polo-themed collection a few years back seemed to cause an E-kerfuffle that’s been swept under the carpet too—while Ralph’s output is a household name, it still carries an aura that unofficial brand guardians are keen to retain. Despite their frequent felonies, every original Lo-Lifer deserves commission for the gear they popularized. Remember Kanye’s “Ralph Lauren was boring before I wore him” line on the Rhymefest track aggravating FI-LO and company? It’s a powerful thing. How many emcees rocking the horse on their gear were genuinely down? It’s hip-hop’s equivalent of the Sex Pistols in Manchester. Many claim to have been down since the beginning, but few were. Legend has it that Zhigge were down, and there was talk of Fabolous being an affiliate. You know Meyhem Lauren is officially down—check his site, because the gear pictures are phenomenal, and the “Suicide Crew” shot (below) is the tip of the iceberg shirt.
There’s a lot of fanboys globally claiming Lo-Life status but missing the point. Kids are keen to remake 1992’s wardrobe, but while the respect for the originators is there, you can’t buy status second-hand or earn your P-Wings on eBay. The gear might be superb, but you need to appreciate the context.
Lo-Lifers helped push Polo and Polo Sport into an arena that needed an injection of style beyond weirdo dress shirts, unattainable Dapper Dan bootleg styling and Starter coats and sportswear. They altered rap’s aesthetic for the better, and that didn’t come easily. For those that love to hear the stories, the Lo-Life movement was rife with injuries, deaths and incarcerations. Paragon was terrorized. Apparel and assault sent members to Riker’s. There were foot chases and near-misses. little was paid-for. To claim to be on the same level for paying indiscriminately for any ’88-’97 ‘Lo output insults the originators. It’s inevitable that every authentic act is followed by a hundred weaker imitations that lack the same nerve. You can’t just throw together anything lurid and vintage either. You need to rock it properly. Everyone loves Polo and everyone hoards Polo. One group of Brooklynites just took it way further. Respect the originators. This is a moment-in-time, a group of groundbreakers taking it too far and one of the definitive eras in apparel obsession. OG Lo-Lifer Shillz Da Realz’s Blogspot is a trove of information too, and hopefully that book he’s just started putting together will see light-of-day.
It’s a repeat performance on this blog (it was thrown up here earlier last year) but just because it deserves to be constantly available, the Lo-Life story from September-November 2000’s editions of The Source is below. It’s a little story that must be told. yeah, garment preoccupations are global, but the Lo-Life contribution is legendary. These guys took it up a notch. It deserves documentation.