After seeing a baffling amount of YouTube promos for it over the last year and a bit, I just watched DJ Scripz’s factually titled The Haitian Polo Documentary, which is about young Haitian kids in Brooklyn becoming preoccupied with Ralph Lauren’s iconic output. We’ve moved on a lot from the days when I got hyped about a page or so in the Source each month at the turn of the decade to the point where it’s hard to find much on the Lo-Life crew and other boosting squads that hasn’t been told before, over and over again.
This 87-minute documentary only touches on the Lo-Life side of things and focuses on the Haitian experience instead, which affords it some extra depth. Sure, it has that Don Diva DVD drama aspect to it, it’s unnecessarily stylised with gaudy effects at times, when the subjects and the archive clips are all that’s needed, the topic could have been condensed into a solid hour, and there’s a few typos in the titles, but I was engrossed solely for the anecdotes and discussion on a story of which I knew barely anything.
In a world where everyone can have a wardrobe of limited edition gear without fear, we’ll never know the prejudice these kids faced, the true extent of crack related mayhem in the 1980s and its resulting no-go zones, or tension in running the gauntlet every morning to avoid trading that 1987 Cross Flag 20th anniversary piece for 60 stitches. When your Suicide Skier jacket means that you’re risking your life to leap from rooftop to rooftop in the dead of night, nicknames become a reality. Spending $165 on a sweater nearly 30 years ago put a target on your back. I’m fully backing any film that features a crude animation of the Deceptions steaming a subway train (by all accounts, hearing a chant of “Who are we? DE-CEPTS” would be followed by a mass mugging spree of almost mythical proportions.
I never knew about IZOD giving way to the Deceptions or about smaller crews like Lo Profile, Flatbush Polo Kids, Lo Ave, Steam Team or the brilliantly named Tribe Called Guess. Seeing as Zhigge videos put me onto plenty of clothing (and the album addressed the Polo fanaticism), it was good to see Prancer in there too. Shouts to Scripz for getting this made, and if you’re interested in matters of rebellion, revolution and racking, you can buy it right here.