What sort of work goes into workwear? And, for that matter, the sport-and military-inspired pieces that Ralph Lauren’s RRL line so deftly renders, season after season? As evident with the Spring ’17 collection, troves of vintage references, a knack for clever reinterpretation, and a penchant for irreverence culminate in the singular RRL style—that is, modern clothes by way of the past.
RRL (said Double R L) gets its name from Lauren’s ranch in Ridgway, Colorado, which, in turn, is named after himself and his wife Ricky. And it’s the rugged spirit of the ranch that led him to launch the label back in 1993, fresh on the heels of its now-collectible predecessor, Polo Country. Ever since, it’s remained Lauren’s under-the-radar fantasy of the American West, turning out durable, well-made garments. Each piece bears traces of its predecessors, but is remade in a wholly original way.
The work shirts of yesteryear were designed for function, often at the expense of fit and comfort. But under Lauren’s guidance, they receive a total upgrade, from better fabrics to a slimmer fit, all while maintaining vintage-accurate details like pocket shapes and button quality.
A varsity jacket, so often ill-fitted and emblazoned with felt insignia, is now well-proportioned and appropriately minimalist. Sports gear, in fact, makes up a cornerstone of RRL’s reference points, as seen in this black-and-white checkered shirt that conjures the iconic flag indicating the start of auto races since the early 1900s.
Motorcycle racing, another popular pastime for men of the early 20th century, lends its distinct style in the form of a shawl-collar cardigan, complete with a race-club-style black cat appliqué. These clubs became popular after WWII—their members looking for the same camaraderie they found in the barracks—and their logos were a means of association and rebellion. RRL’s black cat, in frightened state and bearing the unluckiest number, carries on that same tradition.
The military—which constituted the day-to-day lives of those renegades before they rode bikes—is yet another source of hardworking clothes, and as such a perennial source of inspiration for RRL. Aviation lends its influence in stenciled graphics and the label’s own winged logo, found on an Army PT-style sweatshirt and an olive drab bomber jacket. And RRL’s bomber, of course, is a carefully tailored update to the war-pilot original. Even a pair of chinos, the wardrobe staple whose execution has morphed over time, gets back to its glory days with herringbone twill—the same fabric used for uniforms in WWII.
The past provides context for the present, and for RRL, it’s only right to reciprocate with clothes that remember the way things used to be.