Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren Is the Most Underrated Quiet Luxury Staple

You only know if you, well...know

“I wish you well.”

When a certain Ms. Gwyneth Paltrow emerged from the courthouse, freshly victorious in a symbolic $1 ski-collision lawsuit, the internet world burst into a veritable state of collective hysteria, forever meme-ifying her sardonic remark to her legal adversary in the pages of pop-culture history. What also exploded simultaneously, at least, onto the fashion scene was the Oscar-winning star’s scene-stealing double-breasted navy blazer from Ralph Lauren – no doubt, another one for the history books!

In fact, although nearly all of Paltrow’s courtcore lewks had gained an obscene amount of attention thanks to the fashion fanzines (from her Celine boots and Prada cashmere, right down to her Mountain Valley water bottle!), it was really her verdict-day outfit that heightened the minimalism madness. And all of a sudden, Ralph Lauren, the underrated all-American powerhouse previously accredited for the quintessential Polo, had become a poster child for the quiet luxury movement. So, of course, we, as the fashion-obsessed folks we are, simply couldn’t get enough of it!

Classic Americana, Boldly Reimagined

Uniquely rooted in New York, Ralph Lauren’s origins date back to 1968, when the man himself began selling up-crafted neckties from a tiny drawer unit in the Empire State Building. Legend has it that Mr. Lauren originally pitched an idea for European-style ties inspired by those he saw the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. wearing. But having been subsequently dismissed, he set up his own operations at 26, going on to launch the tell-tale Polo label in 1971 and even designing the entire menswear ensemble for the cast of The Great Gatsby in 1974.

At its core, the influence of the 1920s remained pervasive in Lauren’s silhouettes (and continues to even today, as Mr. Lauren finds himself among the eager enthusiasts of Downton Abbey), and the era’s boxy blazers, crisp shirts, and tailored pants presented a sharp contrast to Lauren’s dreaded “three buttons and narrow lapels” of the sixties.

Ralph Laurent ID Bag

The appeal, therefore, was obvious and nearly instantaneous. In many ways, it was this vision of a cosmopolitan, wealthy polo-playing lifestyle Polo peddled that drew shoppers and designers alike, and for the next generation of American Creative Directors, like Tory Burch, Vera Wang, Michael Bastian, and Thom Browne, working at Ralph Lauren served as a canon event of sorts.

Eventually, the brand expanded into accessories, fragrances, homeware, silverware, and more, with over 25 registered names ranging from the high-end Purple Label to Denim & Supply and Lauren by Ralph Lauren. And that’s how we, as purse lovers, find ourselves at the juncture we are at today.

Ricky, Marcy, and More!

Back when I was desperately scouring the market for a work-school-gym tote (hey, a guy needs a bag to live in!), I discovered a little-known gem from Ralph Lauren’s diffusion label, Lauren by Ralph Lauren – the Brigitte tote. With an organized, three-compartment interior that is, in no small part, reminiscent of the Sac de Jour (*sighs*), my decision to purchase the gem of a purse was originally purely functional. As the brand has since materialized in the arms of fashionistas around the world, however, I find myself increasingly appreciative of my vintage find (and the object of quite a few envious glances, might I add), and, like said fashionistas, I too have begun to look at the brand with renewed interest.

Of course, when speaking of the heritage label’s handbags, the Ricky is what’s automatically conjured in our minds, and for a good reason too. Fashioned and named after his wife and muse, the Ricky was a structured affair that debuted in 2005 and has since not only been seen on lady Ricky herself but also on Jessica Alba, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, and most recently, Charlotte York from the And Just Like That universe.

Ralph and Ricky Laurent
Ralph and Ricky Lauren with the Ricky Bag.

In fact, while Charlotte’s croc Ricky is one of those bags that remains on your wishlist for such an inordinately long period of time, you develop an unhealthy obsession with it (or it becomes a Holy Grail), the 2013 addition to the product line, the soft Ricky, has long been a regular go-to for New York-dwellers. Other popular renditions of the Ricky include mini, crossbody, and clutch versions, while a tech-savvy 2015 iteration even came with its own battery bank and LED lights!

That’s not all, though. The RL50, the Marcy, and, lately, the Polo ID have all had their moments under the sun, with distinctive designs and perfect proportions garnering fans who swear by them. And yet, Ralph Lauren isn’t a brand you see everywhere or splattered across social media every other day, which, in an industry where exposure is expected, may seem like a bizarre choice.

The Stealthy and the Wealthy

Slept-on, underrated, a hidden gem – however you’d like to put it, it was probably by design. As a matter of fact, unlike its premier counterparts primarily preoccupied with the idea of an It-girl, Mr. Ralph quietly went on to determine the It-boy uniform for decades to come. Neither did he wish for the label of a traditional stamp of a high-end house, largely steering clear of major luxury department stores, despite going public in 1997.

Although it specializes in neutrals, Ralph Lauren’s more vibrant offerings are just as delightful.

Ralph Lauren Small Ricky
Although it specializes in neutrals, Ralph Lauren’s more vibrant offerings are just as delightful like this Soft Ricky 18 ($2,400)

Plus, when compared to its contemporaries, few brands have been able to stay true to their ethos of exclusivity like Ralph Lauren has. It may not be the hardest bag to find on the market, but it’s nowhere near the ubiquity of a Chanel or Hermès. And perhaps that’s the real reason why the house has become such a darling among the stealth wealth set. Classically American, chic yet casual, the brand relies on tried-and-tested designs and a largely subdued palette (even though they can do color with equal aplomb) to create, as Amanda says, “a ladies-who-lunch cachet, but bolder.”

And in an industry incessantly chattering about the latest and the greatest, perhaps the privilege of falling back on effortless, familiar styles encapsulates the spirit of quiet luxury best. Well, folks, that’s Ralph Lauren for you.

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del
del
11 months ago

I dunno. Do I really want to spend $500 on a Polo bag!?! I remember Polo bags selling for $29.99 at Macy’s. The Ralph Lauren brand is so diluted and it has been that way as long as I can remember. There is the luxury Ralph Lauren collection, there is Lauren Ralph Lauren and then there is Polo Ralph Lauren among other iterations. Though I love the Ricky bag, I find it hard to justify the price if the house is selling other bags at a fraction of the price. They should have carved a separate identity for their luxury line. At this point “Ralph Lauren” is a throwaway name used to identify all products from the company.

KittyHawk
KittyHawk
11 months ago
Reply to  del

I don’t disagree with regard to the branding – but I do own and love Ralph Lauren – bags, shoes and clothing. And the luxury line is quite luxurious – on par with almost anything I’ve owned from other luxury brands. If you are buying for quality, for me, it’s always been worth the price (if fact, it has seemed like a steal compared with other luxury brands). If you are buying based on brand reputation or how the brand will signal in public – I agree that the price seems really high. I definitely fly under the radar with my RL bags – especially compared with a Chanel or an LV.

del
del
11 months ago
Reply to  KittyHawk

Thank you for sharing your experience. I will definitely keep an open mind when considering future purchases.

Hervé
Hervé
11 months ago
Reply to  del

THIS! The Ralph Lauren family of brands is confusing to the customer. The fact that there are so many different price points for so many sub-brands makes the “luxury” items a lot less desirable. They wanted to make a quick buck by selling low-quality items in bulk at discount stores and it’s really affected the way the brand is perceived overall. It’s a shame because some of their lux items are quite nice, but it’s the consequences of their own greed.

KittyHawk
KittyHawk
11 months ago

I love Ralph Lauren. I’ve owned and loved my Ricky bag for almost a decade (it’s one of the big reasons I ended up selling my Birkin). I’d love to see more about RL bags here – like their Welington line or the brand new 888 bag!

Kaly
Kaly
10 months ago
Reply to  KittyHawk

Ah, a fellow Ricky lover! I’ve got two, black and taupe, and have had them for years. Haven’t carried them lately but can’t bear to part with them. I’m thinking about getting wider shoulder straps for them, like the newer versions have, to get more use out of them. Beautiful bags! Do you carry yours much?

Beth
Beth
11 months ago
Reply to  KittyHawk

I like the shape of the bag. Is it heavy?

KittyHawk
KittyHawk
11 months ago
Reply to  Beth

It is heavy – but a lot depends on the size, kind of leather and hardware, etc. It’s worn really nicely over the years.

charlottawill
charlottawill
11 months ago
Reply to  KittyHawk

I don’t own either but the Ricky seems heavy and clunky to me. The Birkin has much cleaner lines. To each their own.

Passerine
Passerine
11 months ago

Too bad this “classic Americana” is made far from America’s shores. It didn’t fly in the 2012 Olympics and it doesn’t fly now.

Antonia
Antonia
10 months ago

I love that large hobo shoulder bag in the first pic!

Agreetothis
Agreetothis
10 months ago

I have been loving the new polo bags . I can see how for customers their different lines can be confusing but I personally think its great to have different price points based on quality of materials.

Lauren – named after his daughter, cheaper line
Polo – the middle line
Then their even higher “label”

I have mostly lululemon sweatshirts but recently switched to polo sweatshirts. Love the heavier weight and softness inside them. Lulu is getting thinner . For their price they shouldn’t be.