I often get asked what makes for good style and it’s never a straightforward answer. Often it depends who I’m aiming the answer at, reassuring them they haven’t completely let themselves down in the style stakes. One person I always reference is Ralph Lauren. The American designer celebrates 50 years in the fashion industry this year. A designer who has risen above the confines of what is considered on-trend and of-the-moment, his designs have come to shape American style over the last half century.
Since he starting sell ties out the back of a van in New York City, Mr Lauren has witnessed his contemporaries’ popularity rise and fall. Yet there has been something so consistent with Ralph Lauren that the aesthetic of the house and what it signifies has become a byword for timeless American style. He may draw many of his design influences from our very own inimitable British style, with our country tweeds, grey flannels and Fair isle knits, but it’s always balanced with classic American collegiate and workwear pieces. To celebrate this half-century, we’ve selected five of Ralph Lauren’s best-loved and most enduring pieces. Naturally, choosing five doesn’t come anywhere near doing the full Ralph Lauren style encyclopaedia justice, but it does show his designs to be timeless, able to be worn over again and again for decades to come.
1. Polo Ralph Lauren tan herringbone suit jacket
This wool jacket forms part of Mr Porter’s exclusive 50th anniversary Ralph Lauren collection. It’s been an enduring piece in the Lauren style universe for decades. Neatly tailored, it offers a flattering smooth line through the body, while the Herringbone wool is a seasonal favourite. The large patch pockets and hidden contrast Black Watch check under collar are details we’ve come to expect from a classic Lauren piece. Go the full Monty and wear with waistcoat and trousers as a three piece suit, or go solo with a warm autumnal wool rollneck in green or brown, a pair of worn-in jeans and suede penny loafers.
£595, shop now
2. Ralph Lauren rugby shirt
Ralph Lauren has become synonymous with many classics over the years, mostly notably the pique polo shirt, but his iconic rugby shirt isn’t far behind. It’s not surprising it made it into the brand’s 50th anniversary collection this season. Lauren was sporting the stripe cotton shirt long before sportswear was heralded as the new shift in menswear, and it’s been a staple in his collections for years. It has all the usual hallmarks of a classic rugby shirt with its distinctive stripe, white point collar, rubber buttons and ribbed cuffs. Wear yours as it was intended with navy joggers and trainers with a white t-shirt, or treat it as a regular sweater and dress it up with a blazer and a pair of Ralph’s chunky autumnal cords and brogue leather boots.
£159, shop now
3. RRL denim trucker jacket
The RRL line is named after Ralph Lauren’s working ranch in the Colorado Rockies (and his wife Ricky) and aims to produce authentic American workwear. This denim trucker jacket is a prime example of that, with the cut inspired by an original 1950s design. Made from an exclusive 11.5 oz Japanese denim with a red-blue cast, details include hand sanding for a unique finish and a subtle pigment for a natural, worn-in look. Wear over a fine rollneck and under a wool overcoat to nail this season’s trend for layering – and also to stay warm on chilly winter days.
£390, shop now
4. Polo Ralph Lauren striped shirt
Along with the polo and Rugby shirt, this striped button down is classic Lauren territory and has underpinned many of the brand’s signature styles over the last half century. Not least as it’s the one piece that best demonstrates the collegiate style Lauren has constantly referenced over the years. The cotton poplin has a tiny amount of stretch for ease of movement, together with a split back yoke with box pleat. Dress it up with a one of the brand’s silk club ties, a shawl-collared sweater and a blazer, or dress it down with a striped rugby shirt and a denim trucker jacket.
£95, shop now
5. RRL Fair Isle sweater
A classic knitwear piece that’s reoccured in Ralph Lauren collections over the years, this Fair Isle sweater is from the RRL line. It’s cut in a slim shape, so it’s ideal for layering. The lambs wool blend knit comes with a navy base and rich warm autumnal tones running through the pattern. Team this sweater with casual basics such as indigo jeans, hiking boots and an olive quilted jacket, or dress it up and team with one of Ralph’s tweedy wool jackets, grey tailored wool trousers and a pair of suede lace up Derby boots.
£430, shop now