Ralph Lauren was not the first to associate this shirt with the name of the sport, but he changed its semantics. In English, Ralph Lauren elevated the ‘Polo’ shirt from a common to a proper noun
Lord Mountbatten, the author of An Introduction to Polo
As the sport of the ancient kings, Polo was becoming the preferred pastime of European nobles and the scions of good American families. It offered the middle class what it had always wanted from the nobility: not money – a mere vehicle for what it truly wanted – but leisure time.
Ralph Lauren, whose signature brand was preceded by the word Polo, decided to combine the English style with the irreverent dissonance that Scott Fitzgerald brought to America in the Twenties. Ralph Lauren was not the first to associate this shirt with the name of the sport, but he changed its semantics. In English, Ralph Lauren elevated the ‘Polo’ shirt from a common to a proper noun.
The Polo shirt, a cotton jersey with a soft collar and chest opening for two buttons, would thus become a reference point of the preppy world: the children of an American middle class enrolled in Ivy League schools in the Nineties. Today, having been overcome with streetwear and rhetorical branding, we find the need for it again: the bourgeois codes that we dismantled, and that we now want back – in Paris, with Hedi Slimane at Celine, and in Milan, with Raf Simons at Prada.
Fashion is a sine wave: by its definition, fashion comes in cycles – but these are never the same. We do not return to the same point; we proceed from points advanced forward. In this context, analogical photography printed on raw pages avoid obsequiousness and preserve full male nudity. No cruel detail has to be retouched anymore – neither using photoshop, nor make up. A colored Ralph Lauren Polo shirt evokes a freshness and acidity that cleans away superfluous dust.
Rigor and candor are woven into this rib stitch knit that hugs the biceps: what matters is the slight gapping, those modest spaces between the jersey and the skin, between intimacy and sensuality, that create the shadows that emphasize our anatomy when we raise a hand to touch a point higher than ourselves. Today we speak of the Metaverse, but in 1977 Ralph Lauren entered the permanent collection of the MoMA. That same year, to launch a perfume, the brand commissioned a sports video game: the creator was Carol Shaw, one of the first female programmers.
Photographer based in Milan and New York City. Patella has been commissioned to photograph for magazines such as L’Officiel, CAP74024, Esquire, Vanity Fair, L’Uomo Vogue, Lampoon, Wonderland, Elle UK, Rollacoaster, Muse, Numéro, Hypetrak, and Neuejournal.
Photography: Roberto Patella
Photo assistant: Giacomo Capellaro
Styling: Giorgia Fuzio
Styling assistant: Francesca Matricciani
Talents: Iago Santibanez Elite Model, Lena Bussolino Monster Management, Yves Diatta Elite Milan
Hair stylist: Alessandro Pompili
Make up artist: Raffaella Tomaiuolo
Casting Director: Simobart