The Highsnobiety Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. See the full list of this year's winners here.

Contrary to Kanye West's rap on Rhymefest's “Brand New,” Ralph Lauren wasn’t anywhere near boring before West started wearing his gear. In fact, when the two came face to face in an iconic moment captured at Ralph Lauren’s FW15 show, the result was something akin to a 21st-century take on Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam at the Sistine Chapel. West is seen beaming as Lauren touches his cheek, the way a father would proudly size up his full-grown son.

In a New York Times profile later that year, West said that’s exactly the way Lauren felt, telling Jon Caramanica, “Do you know what he said when he did that? ‘This is my son.’”

But West is not Ralph Lauren's only progeny. Indeed, this year showed just how much the designer and his label have singlehandedly shaped the intersection of street culture and fashion — and why Lauren himself remains one of the most inspirational people in the world today.

His hard-won route to success is the American Dream writ large, a fake-it-till-you-make-it narrative that still informs the strategy of up-and-coming rappers and under-the-radar brands alike. At his core, Lauren is a kid from the Bronx whose dreams didn’t correlate with his bank account, so he willed his success into existence.

As documented many times, Lauren launched his eponymous line in 1967 with wide ties that stores first refused to sell. The haberdasher refused to compromise on his vision from the jump, only working with merchants that would carry his offerings the way he envisaged them.

The nascent brand became a success and its offerings grew accordingly, expanding into a full collection of classic American menswear, and in 1971, debuting its first womenswear collection, largely inspired by Lauren's wife Ricky.

Among the many things Lauren influenced, the first was his approach to retail. He didn’t merely put his clothing on a rack, he offered a fully realized lifestyle context for them. This made people want to see themselves not just in the clothes, but in the Ralph Lauren universe.

Each garment was a temporary ticket to the high life, whether it was the Ivy League-inspired trad of Polo Ralph Lauren, the après-ski-driven aesthetic of RLX, the rustic vintage appeal of RRL, or the suave European jet set vibes of Ralph Lauren Purple Label. A simple embroidered horse on a sweatshirt, Oxford, or curved-brim baseball cap came to symbolize myriad wearable escapes and identities.

The Ralph Lauren label came to define what we now call “lifestyle brands.” Everything Ralph Lauren touches becomes part of its kingdom, from the snowboard-thrasher garments that became the iconic Snow Beach line to the Olympic-inspired Stadium collection that was as much a hit in the streets as it was on the runway.

Adding that signature Ralph Lauren touch to everything from pocket tees to teddy bears elevates the mundane into something special. It’s the reason a brand such as Supreme can get away with selling logo-laden bricks, Braun calculators, and crowbars.

In fact, in many ways Supreme has flipped the Ralph Lauren business model and perfected it for street culture. It too has spent a long time cultivating strong brand equity and a consistent aesthetic that isn’t too attached to one particular lifestyle or subculture. This makes Supreme equally comfortable collaborating on anything from Hanes undergarments to Louis Vuitton apparel and luggage.

Perhaps that’s why, when Ralph Lauren finally did an external collaboration with a brand in this space, it went with London skate brand Palace and not Supreme.

As Gregk Foley stated in our article on the topic, “The closeness in style and sensibility would possibly make a Supreme x Ralph Lauren collaboration too easy or too obvious. With so many Supreme designs rooted in the language of Ralph Lauren, what would a collaboration offer that’s different?”

The Palace x Ralph Lauren collaboration was exciting because it was a “zag” when other companies would have done a “zig.” One could imagine Lauren himself asking what he’d get from partnering with another NYC label, one that deals in the same power of brand equity and quality clothing as his own company, versus a scrappy young London brand with a clear, self-effacing voice and a decidedly British sense of humor.

And so, five decades later, maybe Lauren is finally acknowledging his place in the streetwear mythos. The Ralph Lauren legacy runs parallel to the rise of streetwear, yet very much in its own lane. But by amplifying the synergy between both movements, the veteran designer reminds us that no dream is too crazy.

What To Read Next

  • Image on Highsnobiety

    RIP Gawker (2023 Edition)

    Culture
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Balenciaga Will Show at Paris Fashion Week

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    MSCHF's WD-40 Cologne Is the Workwear of Fragrance

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    EXCLUSIVE: Engineered Garments FW23: The Great Outdoors Demand Great Clothes

    Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    Seth Rogen Is Included in His $42/Night Airbnb Rental

    Culture
  • Image on Highsnobiety

    David Yurman Drops Just In Time For The Season Of Love

*If you submitted your e-mail address and placed an order, we may use your e-mail address to inform you regularly about similar products without prior explicit consent. You can object to the use of your e-mail address for this purpose at any time without incurring any costs other than the transmission costs according to the basic tariffs. Each newsletter contains an unsubscribe link. Alternatively, you can object to receiving the newsletter at any time by sending an e-mail to info@highsnobiety.com

Web Accessibility Statement

Titelmedia (Highsnobiety), is committed to facilitating and improving the accessibility and usability of its Website, www.highsnobiety.com. Titelmedia strives to ensure that its Website services and content are accessible to persons with disabilities including users of screen reader technology. To accomplish this, Titelmedia has engaged UsableNet Inc, a leading web accessibility consultant to help test, remediate and maintain our Website in-line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which also bring the Website into conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Disclaimer

Please be aware that our efforts to maintain accessibility and usability are ongoing. While we strive to make the Website as accessible as possible some issues can be encountered by different assistive technology as the range of assistive technology is wide and varied.

Contact Us

If, at any time, you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular webpage on this Website, please contact us at accessibility@highsnobiety.com, +49 (0)30 235 908 500. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the web page and nature of the issue in your email and/or phone call, and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page or the information contained therein accessible for you.