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Ralph Lauren style timeless at 50

American designer's signature looks have enduring appeal -- even at consignment shops.

Ralph Lauren's 2018 anniversary show at New York

Ralph Lauren's 2018 anniversary show at New York Fashion Week on Sept. 7. Photo Credit: Ralph Lauren / Michael Hankes

“There is only one Ralph Lauren,” so wrote Oprah Winfrey in a special edition of Vogue magazine toasting the designer’s 50th anniversary this year. "He’s defined American style for half a century," Winfrey said, with "consistently classic” clothing. It isn’t that Ralph Lauren reinvents the wheel each time he presents a new collection, it’s that for five decades he’s kept the wheel steady.  And those “classic” clothes are not only go-tos in closets everywhere, but have stood the test of time for resellers of the label.

At LuxeSwap, a designer consignment shop in Oyster Bay, owner Matthew Ruiz says Lauren is “one of the only designers that has staying power. You’re not going to look at something of his from the '80s and say, ‘I can’t believe I wore that.’ I could legitimately line up pieces for women in the store from the '70s and every decade going forward and ask someone to identify when they were made. I guarantee you most people couldn’t do it.”

Ruiz’s inventory has included sophisticated pinstriped men’s suits, coats with a Southwestern vibe and even a nipped-at-the-waist jacket trimmed in Persian lamb that, from a silhouette standpoint, is not far off from what Lauren’s wife, Ricky, wore to the designer’s recent celeb-studded anniversary celebration in Central Park.

William Wagner of Bellmore, who owns hipster consignment shop Deepcover in downtown Manhattan where the likes of Jaden Smith, Aziz Ansari and Chance the Rapper have turned up, credits the Ralph Lauren Polo label for getting him into the thrifting business. “I didn’t grow up having a lot of money, so when I saw people wearing his stuff, I thought ‘I got to figure out how to get this.’”

To that end, Wagner made it his mission to shop estate sales and flea markets, ferreting out the brand. “Ralph Lauren draws on stuff that represents a luxurious lifestyle — hunting, fishing, athletics. He offers things that resonate, like an Indian head, the Olympics, tennis, and you think, you have to have money if you wear this.”  

These days, many pieces, some decades old, uncovered by Wagner, sell before he even has a chance to post them on Instagram. His proudest find? A Polo ski jacket that he bought in a thrift shop for $20. “I was hyperventilating when I found it,” he says, given that it's worth more than $1,000 today. He kept it for himself for a year, but in a recent post showing the jacket on a customer, he wrote, “One of the hardest pieces I’ve ever had to part with, but it’s going to a good home.”

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