It would appear that I’ve gone, to quote Pusha T, “Laptop hot, internet warm” of late with an unexpected inclusion here. I’m unlikely to start trying to tell anybody how to do up a tie or identify the suit that suits them. In fact, I feel bad for all the people who clicked through, then saw a rambling eulogy to Michael Winner and home invasion movies. Sorry about that. I suppose the recurring Lifshitz theme borders on menswear and, according to store employees (who, lest it look like I’m trivialising their unemployment in a tough market, assured me that the Lauren company is looking after me) the London Rugby Ralph Lauren store closes this weekend, as the Rugby side of the business draws to a close. Let’s face it, you never made a point of traveling to the stores, did you?
That’s because Rugby fell into a strange realm where the brand, launched in 2004, lacked any real identity beyond being a whippersnapper Polo. The preppy aesthetic is present in many Polo pieces and the majority of strong Rugby designs were pretty much interchangeable with its big brother. With the opening of a UK store in 2011 seemingly aimed at the sector who’d graduated from Superdry technical college to the former poly that was Jack Wills, I can’t help but think it was a little misplaced — timed just as Jack Wills wearing bellends made a slow move to Streetwear Dave brands like Hype. Can Ralph cash in on streetwear? He doesn’t need to, because he’s instrumental in igniting many, many, many facets of that industry (ask your favourite “streetwear” and skate brand overlords what their favourite brand is in terms of wear and inspiration). And, as I’ve noted here before, there’s an official Ralph Lauren site (Ralph Lauren Vintage) talking up Lo-Life favourites and pledging reissues. Ralph knows.
So that was the end of the brand launched to capture the hearts and expendable/parental income of 14-29 year olds. Better than CHAPS, but not as hard as ‘Lo — that’s what the gravestone will read. What will Rugby be remembered for? While the majority of the products blur into one vast beige cotton twill and navy mass with twee collegiate cues, the all-over skull embroideries were amazing. Who else pumped out prep-goth like that? With THC-addled YouTube conspiracists keen to pinpoint French Montana and friends as satan’s spawn for waving their fingers around in a certain way, there was something strangely subversive in how Rugby merrily took inspiration from Yale’s Skull and Bones secret society. One day you may mourn not picking up those shorts, if nothing else, because they’re currently being sold dirt cheap. Sadly, this secret society’s global conspiracy for world domination has come to a close.
While we’re talking dirt cheap Rugby, what’s all the fussing and grumbling about with regards to Pyrex Vision? Mad because they took a shirt and stick some letters on it? You would have been apoplectic in the early 1990s — those lazy folks, just sticking letters on Champion, Gildan and Hanes blanks. Are you really annoyed because they never took the ‘C’s off the mesh? André Courrèges tributes are nothing new, pretty much dating back to Supreme’s earliest days, but I salute Virgil and the crew for getting their Malcolm McLaren on. Reappropriate it, hype it and they will come. Isn’t that the essence of streetwear? Chuck a Dipset reference in and you’re good to go. I’ll take a hustle like that over whatever fake artisan crap I’m supposed to be taking an interest in at the moment. Spend less time moaning in comment sections and more time buying up closing sale gear and making famous friends and maybe you can make that Pyrex money too. Who needs coke and Arm & Hammer when you’ve got cotton and a buddy who screen prints?
Jean-Noël Kapferer’s ‘The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands’ is a pretty good read (example heading, ‘Prolonging the ecstasy of a privileged moment’) if you’re hunting case studies and theory. It’s doubly handy if you’re building your own cliquey, willfully exclusive brand (it’s a good accompaniment to your cut-price Rugby shirts and printing hookup), but I’ll discuss more about it another time. This diagram of the Ralph Lauren galaxy is taken from it. It lacks RRL and Polo Jeans for some reason, but it’s a quick-fix glimpse of an empire. You can bet something will appear to fill that middleground void and accompany Club Monaco.
Affordable and Ralph Lauren co-signed publication ‘Men’s File’ has got a book coming out in August called ‘Men’s File: Tracing the Roots of Style’, written by Nick Clements and released on rockabilly and Americana-centric imprint Korero books. Promising a visual collection that examines revivalism as something that’s far, far more than a game of regressive dress-up, going on the magazine’s work, this could be worth picking up.