by Kristie LeVangie
Seventy-five years ago, a woman gave birth to one of the most influential icons of American fashion.
Born in New York in 1939 as Ralph Lifshitz, Ralph was the son of a house painter and came from humble beginnings. His first foray into fashion began in high school where he sold neckties to his fellow classmates.
At age 16, he would change his name to the iconic Ralph Lauren. He didn’t like his given name because it had the word “shit” in it as he would tell Oprah in a later interview. He was often made fun of for this.
After high school, Ralph went on to Baruch College where he began to study business. Two years later, he would drop out and serve in the U.S. Army. He left the Army to work a brief stint at Brooks Brothers before landing a job in a tie company as a salesman.
At age 26, he was inspired to begin designing his own ties and pitched an idea for a wide European-style necktie to his company. It was rejected, so he left to break out on his own.
Working out of The Empire State Building, Lauren took rags and turned them into his own designed neckties. He would then sell them to small New York shops until his fate turned when Neiman Marcus placed an order for 100 dozen!
Just one year later, he would open his own necktie store where he would sell ties under the label of “Polo” with the backing of the famous clothing manufacturer, Norman Hilton.
Four years later, Ralph expanded his line and opened a boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
In 1970, Ralph Lauren would go on to win the COTY Award for his menswear line and enter the realm of women’s fashion introducing a line of tailored suits. This was also the debut of the iconic Polo logo.
His famous Polo shirt would be unveiled in 1972 and was available in 24 colors. Today, this is still a classic staple of the Lauren line.
Fast forward to 1997, the Ralph Lauren Corporation became a public company.
Today, one man’s dream to sell neckties has turned into a billion dollar business, and Forbes places Lauren as the 19th richest person in the world with over 35 U.S. boutiques and many other retailers carrying the Ralph Lauren label.
Ralph Lauren exemplifies an individual who strived to reach his goals despite the obstacles and haters placed in front of him. He knew what he wanted, and he set out to get it through hard work and raw talent.
Ralph Lauren, we salute you as an inspiration and raise a glass to 75 years of awesome!