Polo Country

Old-time rocking chairs ($350 to $1,000)

Twig brooms ($85)

Rolls of mattress ticking, stone-washed denim and buffalo-check cotton ($35 to $55 a yard)

Flannel shirts ($45 to $97)

Authentic late-19th-century quilts ($575 to $825)

Hooked rugs ($350 to $1,200)

Old postcards ($2.50 each)

New socks ($9 to $16 a pair)

Shearling-lined slippers (about $100 a pair)

Sweaters in American Indian-inspired patterns ($405)

Weather vanes ($425 to $1,200)

Birdhouses ($325 to $550)

No, this isn’t a listing of prices from the latest Brooklyn Flea. These figures actually come from a 1988 New York Times article on the long forgotten “Polo Country Store” which once occupied a corner on the fourth floor of Ralph Lauren’s Rhinelander Mansion (although the article doesn’t use this name) at Madison and 72nd in New York. While Ralph might not have any interest in creating a public archive (something I’ve never been able to understand), the New York Times fortunately does, and it’s there that I came across this incredible article, which quite frankly tells more about the Polo Country brand then I’ve ever read before. Aside from the prices (which really don’t seem to have changed that much over the past two and a half decades, I mean some sweaters still do hover around the $400 mark, although you could definitely tack a 1 in front of those flannel shirt prices), there’s some pretty boastful quotes from Mr. Lauren himself, and a particularly interesting passage on the layout of the store which was inspired by the 1953 Western “Shane” and sounds like it looked very similar to a RRL store. Unfortunately, the one thing the article doesn’t have is photos, but it still provides a fascinating look at Polo Country, a brand that acted as a precursor for so much of what RL is doing today.


What is it about the southwest U.S. that makes it so appealing to a Jewish kid from the East Coast?  Now, I don’t have much in common with the mighty Ralph Lauren, but I can say that he and I do share this particular question.  For the past decade or so, since my parents decided to purchase a vacation house not near the beach, nor the mountains, but in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this question has been on mind.  At first I dreaded coming out here, yet as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to love the Southwest for the much needed change of pace that it provides.  For Ralph, the southwest was an untapped well of inspiration, a region with colors, designs, and textiles that were unlike anything he could find in his homebase of New York.  And so in 1978, with the west on his mind, Ralph Lauren launched a new side of his brand, a move that elevated him from being merely a designer for the natty East Coast mentality, to a designer for the American history books.

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