As a teenager in New York City, I became obsessed with collecting and rocking vintage Polo Ralph Lauren gear. My whole crew shared in the obsession, too. People often ask what we did before we fell in love with Polo, and for some, the answer was comic books — as strange as that might sound. But the two interests share commonalities, not only in terms of having distinct aesthetics and inspirations but, most importantly, their scarcity and the sense of community that surrounds them.
With this unlikely link between collecting comic books and the culture of collecting Polo Ralph Lauren items in mind, I sat down with Joe Einhorn, a fellow native New Yorker, who collected comics as a kid. This led to trading Polo as a teen, founding Kanye West-approved e-commerce site Fancy in his 20s, and most recently opening a new comic store in Brooklyn called loot, where kids will be able to create and sell their own comics.
Below, he discusses his history as a collector, the Ralph Lauren pieces he used to chase after, and what loot offers kids who have never known the joy of trading comic books.
What did you collect as a kid growing up in the ’80s and ’90s?
My first memories of collecting are around baseball cards. While I was just getting into baseball cards, there was a big shift happening to basketball, in large part due to Michael Jordan, who earned Rookie of the Year in 1985. So it was baseball cards to basketball cards and then another shift for me from sports to fantasy in the early 1990s with Marvel Cards.
I’d already got bitten by the comic book bug when my mom gave me an Archie comic, so I loved the medium. And then the superhero storylines and the beautiful artwork definitely piqued my interest. During this era, it was very easy to get comic books at any deli, bodega, or corner store, as well as the dedicated comic book shops like St. Mark’s Comics, Forbidden Planet, Midtown Comics, etc. Eventually, as I got older, I got into collecting other genres like Ralph Lauren and fashion.
What made you get into Polo Ralph Lauren?
I was originally attracted to Polo by the artwork and the fonts, and then ultimately the collector in me took over. Artwork-wise, an example would be the Polo Bear knits, not just the drawing, but the stitching and fabric. I started out trying to get the ones I liked the most, and then when I got those, I wanted to get all of them. From time to time, I would do deals for other pieces from other lines, but often as a currency with the idea that I could trade those pieces for a Bear knit.
There was obviously art and fabric in other lines besides the Bears that caught my eye, like the Polo Stadium pieces that looked like cartoons, including the cartoon button-up and Dan and Dave T-shirt. I liked how Hi Tech looked in the font, even Polo Sport sometimes in the font, or Polo Golf. RL 2000 fonts really stood out to me too, or maybe it was just thinking about the year 2000 coming one day.
Sometimes I would even deal for a piece just because of the colors, even if it didn’t have any big value to anybody else. So I guess all in all, [it was] similar to how anyone might collect art.
I see a connection between the RL 2000 gear and comic characters. That collection is very futuristic-meets-fantasy, with those black, silver, and red colorways, like the Silver Surfer or X-Men. You mentioned your mom got you that first Archie, but why did you start collecting?
We didn’t have video games and the internet, so reading time wasn’t really a chore, it was a pleasure. I liked to draw and my sixth-grade yearbook quote said, “I want to be a cartoonist when I grow up.”
It’s not really that different than what would make a young person today get into the Avengers movies. The Avengers were not a super-important storyline to me. I was more interested in X-Men. But I remember back in the day, you had a movie like Titanic that was the highest-grossing film of all time after some years. Now you look at the Avengers movie; it did those numbers in a week or something. When I was a kid, we didn’t have movies like that, so the comic books served those purposes.
There wasn’t any library program for comics I was aware of, so you had to buy them. Once you had them, you wanted to preserve them. And then, from time to time, you might need to liquidate some to provide cash to buy new ones. So it was kind of a natural progression for me.
How has your interest in Polo and comics influenced your career?
The formation of [publisher] Image Comics in 1992 was a key moment in my life. Imagine if every NBA All-Star got together and formed their own basketball league. That was my first time hearing about a start-up and wondering about entrepreneurship myself.
At our shop, kids who read a lot of comics, by either buying or borrowing, earn “loot.” Importantly, kids can also create and sell their own comics with us to earn “loot.” Comics and Polo and collecting and dealing led me to try to understand subjects like marketplaces, eBay, retail, art, design, and popular culture. Not only my career but my whole life has been informed by these interests.
Speaking of pop culture, it’s known that Kanye West loves comics and has been supporting your endeavors for years. Last year he tweeted “I love my brother Joe and his new store” about your Tr3yway x Fancy fashion pop-up. Can we expect him to support loot?
I hope so. I mentioned to him that I was doing this and he liked the idea. We have a few special things in the stash just in case he pulls up some day.
Adults wishing to visit loot without children have to make an appointment by direct messaging @loot on Instagram. The store is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
463 Court Street, Floor 2
Brooklyn, NY 11231