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Polo and Hip-Hop, an Oral History [Pt. 1]

2. 1985- 1987 – Polo hits the streets:
Nearly 20 years after Ralph Lauren founded Polo, his designs start appearing on the backs of kids in Brooklyn, NY along with other preppy labels like Bally, Benetton and Tommy Hilfiger. Polo’s unique colorways and distinct logo begin to separate it from competitors and establish it as the brand of choice for New York City’s flyest.

Thirstin Howl III: Polo started comin’ in like ’85… As [far as] really being accepted on the street, ’85 you would see people really fuckin’ with the ‘Lo items. And this was the same era, like I said, when the Hilfiger and the IZOD and the Benetton was popular. So that’s when the eyes started getting’ on Polo, ‘cause he was coming with more designs than the rest of them. I always explain the evolution. It was things that led up to the Polo. It ain’t just go “boom: Polo.” It was a lot of brands that started doin’ the things that Polo dominated. When it started getting to the Benetton and the IZOD stages and all that, this was before the Polo era. Those are the things that helped it transcend into Polo. Those designers like IZOD, Lacoste was a big influence. It helped [give] Polo reason to exist. Nah mean? Same like Benetton, it was colors.

Raekwon: That was like the uniform for cats in the neighborhood. If you was somebody or anybody, and you was getting your money, or you was criminal, or you was a notorious thug in the hood, you definitely had you some Polo pieces… It had to be either one or the other. Either you was camouflaged out, or you was Polo and Gucci and Benetton back then.

Dallas Penn: I went to Brooklyn Technical High School. It was [there] that I saw kids rocking ‘Lo. It was in and around Brooklyn… When I’d go into the city, hanging out by the Seaport, 34th street. You would see kids rocking it.

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