Remembering the Death of Ralph Lauren’s Polo Rugby

Remembering the Death of Ralph Lauren’s Polo Rugby

Words by Cole Louison

One year ago this week, at 7 p.m., the last remaining Rugby store locked its doors. The closing officially ended a fashion line by Ralph Lauren that was, by all accounts . . . interesting. Rugby was based on the prep school look: tweeds, rep stripes, knit sweaters, and the classic heavy-weight shirts incorporated from the jerseys of rugby clubs in the UK. Well-made stuff your grandpa could have worn to Yale, but looked good today. That was the concept.

The execution was another story.

Maybe they were downsizing and Polo had to incorporate their Halloween line. Maybe corporate guys got drunk and began a brainstorm session with, “Y’know what people love? Skulls!” Or maybe Ralph just wanted to play a $6 million joke. Whatever the reason, soon Rugby was pushing a look that appealed to very few, a look a friend described as, “Harry Potter on a Pirate Ship,” a look that didn’t make much sense. $500 was too much for a blazer covered with fuzzy patches. Stripes were fine, but ties so busy they looked like big pieces of taffy were not. And the skulls. Be they on key fobs or knit sweaters or incredibly expensive velveteen slippers, they had little to do with most shoppers’ college experience.

Rugby seemed out of it, and the shuttered store in NYC’s West Village was the best illustration of that, with its Jolly Rogers and piles of ties draped across old trophies you felt like knocking over. Then there were the saleboys. Here’s an actual exchange that took place regarding a nice pair of wingtips:

Me: How much are these?

Blonde Kid In saddle shoes, khaki clamdiggers, and a bow tie tied in a knot instead of a bow: They’re not for sale.

Me: Oh.

BK: Yeah.

Rugby limped through the fashion world for eight years, and did appeal to some. Certain rappers rocked the bright colors and geezer styles with flair, and the best dress shirt I own is theirs (it’s white, slim-cut, and totally skull-less). But for the most part, the label goes in the cultural file cabinet between Nike SHOX and Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania—ideas we can enjoy now that they’re behind us.

For your consideration, here’s a trip down memory lane:

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1. Basic dressy-causal. Good quality. We’re off to a great start, though popping half a sportcoat’s collar makes it look like you just stepped in from the wind.

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2. Pushing it a little, but that’s the idea right? A few bright colors to enhance a classic look. AOK.

Polo Rugby Ivy Club

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3. Besides George Bush’s motherfucking Skull and Bones, we don’t know much about the secret clubs of the Ivy League. We do know they probably didn’t give out short-sleeve sweatshirts that say IVY CLUB with falsely distressed bullshit Greek letters to be worn with comic book panel slacks and another polo shirt (collar popped).

Polo Rugby 2 Chainz

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4. It’s very possible that the guy who brought Rugby to hip-hop was 2 Chainz. He performed in the brand, pairing the classic shirts with bling. It caught on.

Polo Rugby Girl In Green

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5. Fine.

Polo Rugby Black

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6. Want to make a good topcoat great? Just replace the buttons with little nooses, then add an arm patch of a gold and purple lion waving a dildo. Best when paired with filthy All-Stars and pants from the summer John Kerry ran for office.

Polo Rugby Artsy Girl

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7. What. The.  Fuck.

Polo Rugby Paul Cain Fabolous

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8. Castaways can be treasure. Alongside Paul Cain (also rocking Rugby), Fabolous rocks a knit sweater and matching hat. The result is an old new look of edgy prep. Well done.

Polo Rugby Twins

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9. We don’t think much about rugby — the game – but we think we wouldn’t play it in Willy Wonka’s dinner jacket and sweatshorts. (We might try and hold Channing Tatum’s hand on the way back to the dorm, but that’s another story).

Polo Rugby Vado

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10. Vado dug Rugby too, and knew how to enhance its already-enhanced look. The matching watch and the tattoos only help things along.