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

4. 1989-1992 – The Golden Era:
Polo begins spreading beyond Brooklyn and throughout NYC. Rappers like Grand Puba, Zhiggie and Heavy D name-drop the brand in songs and help make it a mainstream part of hip-hop culture.

Just Blaze: it was in 8th grade, either 7th or 8th grade. Whenever they came out with the Polo USA line. They had the gooses, the down jackets and the down vests that had the Polo USA with the skier on the back. And, it’s funny because the reason I actually really became aware of it is because Triple Fat Goose jacked that design, and that was one of the first popular Triple Fat Goose jackets. And I wanted the Triple Fat Goose one because that’s what everybody in my grammar school had. And my moms or my aunt, somebody actually got me the Polo by mistake. And I was initially upset, not realizing that the one I had was the original and the Triple Fat one was the knock-off. So, that was probably my first experience of actually being aware of it. I’m sure I had seen things before that, but it just wasn’t in my consciousness until that point when I got the original Polo USA ski jacket and I was mad. You know ‘cause as a kid, you just whatever your friends got. And they had the rip-off of the Triple Fat Goose version. And I was tight. But obviously (I) did learn, I came to realize that what I had was the real one.

Around that time is when it actually started to pop off and trickle out from places like Brooklyn or whatever. And it started translating into rap videos and things like that. Same way whoever puts on something today, and it becomes a hot item or a hot trend. It was really no different back then. It was just what you saw the older dudes that you looked up to wearing and what you saw in videos basically…I mean, obviously everybody knows about the Snow Beach. Everybody knows about the Zhigge videos and Grand Puba obviously. But then there’s also dudes like, if you look at KRS-One’s “Outta Here” video, there’s actually a couple of heavy pieces in that… If I’m not mistaken has something on in that video. You can actually go back and look at videos from that time that you weren’t checking for or really paying attention to like that, and you’ll find pieces floating around in so many videos from that time period. And also, old photo shoots. Go back and read Source Magazines, you’ll find Cormega with pieces on. I came across a few pictures of Cormega, Nas— I remember Nas had this one Polo Sport, a blue and white and red Sport anorak windbreaker on in a old photo shoot from like ’91, ’92. It was everywhere at that time. At that time, it was in its first generation of of being a hip-hop fad.

88-Keys: It wasn’t until, I wanna say when Zhigge came out. With the, “Do the Uptown Bounce,” and all that. That’s when I was like, “Aw, OK. ‘Lo heads are starting to really represent in hip-hop.” When they came out, that’s when I first started noticing cats outside of what I’d heard of already about ‘Lo heads and Lo Lifes and stuff like that.

Sean Price: Brand Nubian. I seen Brand Nubians rock a lot of Polo. And then you had groups like Zhigge. They used to rock a little Polo and all that. And Slick Rick wore the cologne, you know “La Di Da Di.”

Dallas Penn:
In the early 90’s you had not just the Golden era of hip-hop, but it was somewhat considered the Golden era of Polo Ralph Lauren. Polo had some incredible designs. From ’91 to ’96, Polo had some incredible graphically created pieces: Colors, just systems of arrangements. I give Polo Ralph Lauren credit for what they did in those times, which was to really— they created the new vintage. The designs were based on Olympics and gear from the ‘40’s. When you look at the P-Wing, you’re goin’ back to like the 1932 Olympiad. And you’re goin’ back to collegiate wear with that logo, with that design. The wing foot, that was Mercury. The winged-God. So, give Polo credit for reaching back to a time when most people wouldn’t. Who would remember what collegiate letters and varsity letters looked like back in the 1920’s, 1930’s? But they had that design set up in their portfolio and they put that out. They were also kind of ahead of themselves.

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