Monday, May 30, 2011

Polo Wars

It's not what it looks like! (The author on right)
It was 1992 or 1993. In our downtown apartment over looking the lake and city lights, my roommate and I thought it would be a good idea to settle a score at long last.  Who was preppier, him or me? 

Instead of side arms, we entered this preppy duel equipped solely with the cotton arsenal in our closets and dresser drawers. The rule of the contest - who had more individual pieces of Polo Ralph Lauren clothing. (We were bored seniors in college and mildly intoxicated, so this seemed like a stellar idea.)

Back then, Polo was the standard bearer for quality and preppiness just as one could argue it is today.  Being young fools, we had wrapped so much significance in this brand of all brands to the point that we equated one's future success in life (wealth and enduring popularity with the opposite sex) with how much Polo we owned.

And so with a Shiner Bock (or was it cheap scotch) in hand, we headed to our respective bedrooms to  tally our ponies.

Me:  (3) button-down oxfords; (6) short-sleeved polo shirts; (2) pair of shorts; (1) twill baseball cap; (3) pair of boxer shorts; (3) pair of socks; (1) old bottle of Polo cologne

My roommate: (4) button-down oxfords; (3) short-sleeved polo shirts; (2) pair of shorts; (2) twill baseball caps; (6) pair of socks

Smugly, I thought I had this in the [tote] bag! 19 Polo-branded items to his to his paltry 17. But just as I was reaching for my bleeding madras crown, he slapped me down. "Not so fast, young Jedi," he said. "I don't have 17... I have 20." He reminded me that we said "individual pieces of clothing." I counted pairs of socks, and he counted individual socks. Beaten on a technicality.

He would go on to be a high powered attorney in New York, writing contracts. I would go on to IT middle-management in Pugetropolis, writing blogs.  But to this day, I still get great satisfaction from the fact that he didn't catch that my cologne was not an article of clothing.

The devil and the preppy are in the details.


  1. Polo is for proles - always has been.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I, too, am an Orwellian student. Perhaps that alone exempts me from "prole" status. The bigger issue is not that of being a prole as it is that I am a foolish / ignorant shopper. I recently bought a standard pique Polo at Macy's for $75.00, but then I went to Marshall's (to buy socks) and saw the same exact shirt for $40.00. Prolish maybe, foolish definitely.

  3. Ignore Anon @ 7:36 (above). There's good, and there's bad.

    I used to wear wear Polo quite often in the 1980s and early '90s, both in the UK and US.

    In the mid-1990s working in Manhattan I started seeing Polo shirts worn by unwholesome urban ghetto elements--which put me off the brand (at least the polo shirts).

    My impression (and I could be wrong) is that Polo is still popular with the 'upwardly mobile' professional classes in Europe, Middle East, and South America.

  4. i could not imagine that Polo Ralph Lauren is so popular yet expensive. If it were me i could buy dozen of cheap shirts.