If you have a collection of vintage Polo Ralph Lauren gear it’s safe to assume you are familiar with the lore surrounding the ‘Raekwon SnowBeach’ windbreaker. This holy grail of Ralph Lauren jackets earned its nickname after Raekwon donned the item throughout the groundbreaking Wu-Tang clan video for “Can It Be All So Simple” off the Clan’s classic debut album Enter the 36 Chambers. The video’s imagery is mostly dark and sullen, except for the scenes where Raekwon expresses his esoteric rhyme style in this brightly colorblocked, graphic-lettered windbreaker jacket.
From this watershed moment up until today this jacket remains at the top of the wish list for anyone who wants to be considered an official ‘LO head. This is partly due to Raekwon’s meteoric rise in the 1990’s rap god pantheon and mostly because Ralph Lauren has made clothing better than everyone else for the better part of thirty years. Raekwon’s debut album, Only Built For Cuban Linx is considered in the top 10 all time of rap albums. This fact certainly adds to the lore of the SnowBeach windreaker.
The striking design of the jacket gives it a classic streetwear aesthetic which Ralph Lauren items were known for ever since they began to release colorblocked ski jackets and windbreakers in the mid-1980s. The racer yellow base with nautical navy underlays and Ralph Lauren red accents looks more like a Piet Mondrian pullover than a serious piece of technical outerwear. The SnowBeach windbreaker is however, a serious jacket. Designed with a high-tech, water-resistant polyester fiber exterior shell and lined with the remarkably lightweight 3M Thinsulate, this jacket was made to be worn in winter weather.
In the early 1990s, Polo Ralph Lauren joined the fray of outdoor clothing manufacturers like NorthFace, Columbia and Patagonia by developing lightweight, easily packable gear which could also serve in heavy duty weather conditions. Gore-Tex and Polartec fleece became costume de riguer for jackets, pants, hats and anything you would take with you when you wanted to play in the rain. The everlasting design ethos of Ralph Lauren has been to create aspirational apparel which imbues the wearers with super powers and the abilities to complete the outdoor activities the garment was designed for. For instance, a Ralph Lauren ski jacket gives you the ability to ski. Is it any wonder that the color combination of the SnowBeach windbreaker is also similar to this superhero‘s signature colors.
The Raekwon SnowBeach has been offered on the eBay auction website in recent years and each of those auctions has surpassed two stacks ($2000.00) which isn’t a bad appreciation from the original ticket price which was less than $200. For vintage Polo Ralph Lauren collectors, this 1993 jacket is more renowned than even the mythical (but real) cashmere teddy bear. Even more valuable than any single piece of P-Wing emblazoned sweater or jacket. The SnowBeach knocks all of your 1992 graphic items out the frame also. It’s incredible that the Ralph Lauren brand now has a 45 year-old legacy but the people who religiously acquire these items still look to a 20 year-old jacket for their inspiration.
Can it all be so simple?