Life-long Love Affair with Ralph Lauren

Vintage seller Mark Rosado from Top Shelf Premium has been a Ralph Lauren fan all his life.
Life-long Love Affair with Ralph Lauren

“My love for Ralph Lauren stems from birth. Ever since I was a kid my mother dressed me in Ralph. My family was from The Bronx but moved upstate to get me out of the city. My parents probably shared the vision that Ralph was putting out there at the time: a clean-cut American look and a middle-class lifestyle.

I went to a private high school where we wore uniforms. After graduating, I started wearing my own thing, thrifting and collecting Ralph.

I grew up surrounded by hip hop – so whatever hip hop artists were wearing, I was wearing. Not only Polo, but Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica as well.

Now 80% of my wardrobe is Ralph. His clothes are simple and comfortable. I love the color-blocking he did in the 90s.

I like to wear my clothes big. My mom hates that, but I love it.

In 2012 I started selling vintage, first at flea markets and then from the back of another store in Lower East Side in New York. A lot of hip-hop artists were looking for Polo Sport at that time, and I had it.

When you put your mind and attention to something and dig, you can find the really good stuff. I realized old Lo-Life guys were crazy collectors who never let their Polo clothes go. Lo-Lifes were Brooklyn teenagers who acquired Polo Ralph Lauren in the 1980s by any means necessary. They still had bins full of vintage Polo in their garage. They only deal with each other, so you had to be accepted into that group to trade with them. I created a personal relationship with these guys. We hang out so they kept coming back to my store.

I only keep Ralph pieces that are gifted to me by a loved one. The all-time favorite I’ve owned is a Snow Beach Cold Wave Hoodie which Joey Badass is wearing in the photo.

For hip-hop artists, Polo has always been a thing. They took Polo as their own even though it was not marketed to them at all. Hip-hoppers wore Polo head-to-toe as if it was their uniform. They liked the fact that it cost a lot.

Ralph is classic to our culture on all levels, from the hood to the Hamptons.

Hip-hop artists have kept Polo fresh. Now that 90s are back, Polo is, too. The latest Polo comeback was 4-5 years ago when young artists like Retch / Mac Miller started wearing it.

I’ve sold Polo to artists like Joey Badass and Meyhem Lauren (on the left in the picture above). I’ve sold a Snow Beach piece for $1,900 and visited the Ralph Lauren archive, The Library, where I saw the first piece with the horse logo – it was on a cuff of a women’s blouse. That stuff is priceless.

The crazy show-off Polo pieces attract the money and the collectors. You do not really find those in thrift stores because people do not want to get rid of them.”

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Watch the Complex Documentary on Hip-Hop's Impact on Polo Ralph Lauren.