Polo and Hip-Hop, an Oral History [Pt. 2]

6. Mid-late 1990s – The Backlash:
After hip-hop’s overwhelming embrace of their clothing in the early ’90s, preppy brands, including Polo, begin to get away from the bright colors and sporty style that made their clothes so popular in urban fashion. A rumor that Polo competitor Tommy Hilfiger made racist comments about Black customers’ interest in his clothes on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show spreads (Oprah later had Hilfiger on her show to definitively deny the claims), and a slight backlash against these high-end labels ensues within the hip-hop community. Brands like FUBU and lines created by rappers including Rocawear and Sean John, rule hip-hop fashion going into the new millennium. Despite all of this, Polo gains notoriety for using Black model Tyson Beckford prominently in their ads.

Dallas Penn: [In] the mid-to-late ’90s, Polo tried to distance itself from the urban consumer. So, Polo kind of got away from some of the things that the urban consumer really liked about it. They reduced the teddy bear sweaters that they were offering. The knits with color blocked primary colors… They pulled out from that and became more conservative… I guess that is the evolution of the brand in a way, because you’re going with different design schemes and you’re trying out some different colorations and things, but my opinion is that they were definitely trying to run from the urban market sensibilities… My understanding always has been that these brands don’t particularly target Hip-Hop culture or urban culture, but urban culture targets them.

Young Dro: Yeah! That [Hilfiger comment] what made us stop rapping [about] and wearing Tommy. You know Raekwon used to be like, “Tommy Hilfiger.” C’mon shawty, it was the whole life. Then when he said that, it really—so, I was like, might as well go get ‘Lo’d up. So that whole thing with Tommy, I think Polo still sold more clothes than anybody all through those years, all through that time [because of that]… And you can see a black model on TV. Tyson Beckford or somebody that was doin’ Ralph Lauren. Black people and urban, like “Oh, OK cool.” ‘Cause that’s what I thought. The Black guy, the model. I automatically was like, “I’m one, too.” And I had the nickname, people used to call me the mannequin.

Raekwon: I mean, I heard about that. But, at the end of the day, nobody ain’t give a fuck about that, you know what I mean… Who knows? I don’t know if the nigga’s racist or not. I’ve seen Black people in posters wearing it. So, that was just a speculation. I don’t really believe that until I actually see it myself.

Just Blaze:
You gotta remember, hip-hop has always been about taking something that wasn’t meant for us and making it ours. That whole thing, remember when they were saying, “Oh, Tommy Hilfiger said he didn’t want Black people wearing his clothes?” And then that kinda translated to Ralph Lauren saying [that]. It’s not that. The comment that was actually said was, “I’m surprised that my clothing has found it’s way into the urban space because I didn’t design it for that.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t necessarily make my music for a 70-year-old White man, but it doesn’t mean I have a problem with him listening to it.

Sean Price:
I don’t think Ralph Lauren give a shit about hip-hop. We just like the clothes. Fuck ‘em. Straight up.

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  • http://www.jcalderon.com J.Calderon

    Trick Daddy: Are those Burgle Boy jeans you’re wearing? Hell no Ho, you know they’re Polo.

  • JAFFEjoe

    lol my nigga 88 keys a fool for that poncho story… hahahahaha

  • http://www.poloparties.ning.com POLO PRINCE SEMINOLE SEMI-LO The Big Bad woLf LOsceoLa Sport

    aLL You been had POLO Dudes are Funny! Get your LO up b4 You Show up. 2Ls up & 2nd to NONE, AhhWooo!

  • Father AL

    C’mon son! Nobody said P-wing?!?! Stadium ?!?!

  • Smear

    good shit. XXL NEEDS to follow this up with a feature on the Lo-Lifes: Thirstin Howl III deserves his shine as does up and comin Lo-Life Mehyem Lauren. For that “been had Polo” dude and YoungDro they need to see the true heat the Polo-Rican and Meyhem keep in their closet. Just Blaze and Dallas are crazy with that shit too…… I’d kill for their collection… or Just’s Bank balance.

  • dutchmaster

    what a good article….im coming up in the late 80s, 90s just at the end of the good era (wu-tang, grand puba) to the mid/late 90s…..i remember really being into nautica and tommy….when that shit came out about him being racist, he definitely took a hit, i only bought a little bit of nautica and mostly polo from then on…..and i can’t remember when i’ve bought any other kind of high designer “hip hop” brand other than polo

  • Suicide Kobain

    No mention of Grand Puba?

  • http://www.spag-lo.com SPAG-LO


  • http://www.spag-lo.com SPAG-LO

    >>>> @SpagLO <<<

  • http://www.showyalo.com Wiggz-LO, Extraordinaire

    Amen brotha Spag…once again, the ball has been fumbled in the red zone. I def. applaud the effort and the nod, but the execution was all wrong. With all the fly visuals floating around online, I can’t seem to understand why this didn’t come out better than it did. I used to have a lot of respect for XXL as a magazine, but even that went from sugat to sh*t over the years. Money that obviously did these got hype off the “POLO” remix and decided to whip something together before the competition could get the proper shine. If he really knew the time, he would see it goes much deeper than the brand…hell, even Thirst and Rae kept making references to the sh*t that set it off for Ralph to do what he did, yet all the focus gets put on the overly hype-beasted Snow Beach pully and some clown wit a corny youtube video…man, let me fall back….WWW.SHOWYALO.COM…the real headz know what it iz….

  • http://www.twitter.com/mdmamusic Victorious

    eh’ they tried. i dont know why some people were in the interview but im sure there are a lot of things i dont know .
    the piece vado mentioned was Rugby. not polo. there is a difference. but not everybody know the difference. not everybody gonna care either.
    it is what it is..
    i reached out to one of the brothers in the interview. and connected him up. stay tuned.
    peace to Lo Lifes.
    victorious lo.

  • The Nite Shift

    The Pimp C Reference is originally from Pimp C, but on a song Called “Doin’ the fool” E40 feat. Pimp C, to Short and Pastor Troy

  • Real Nigga 365

    Yall niggas still hating on Jose Hustle ? Seems like alot of yall old heads got offended from the young nigga’s video. Its was entertainment, do something with your life besides collecting clothes for nothing. He’s working on a degree from an HBCU im pretty sure he couldnt give 2 fucks who got vintage polo or who’s a real OG. He’s mentioned with the greats so let the lil nigga get his shine, fall back.

  • http://youtube.com/youngsheed1 Jose Hustle

    Much Luv to all the supporters and haters. I never thought I’d be mentioned with the Polo ambassadors above. Check out my video blog Jose Hustle TV on youtube, much more than Been Had.

    ** Yall so called Lo heads need to grow up, if your collection was soooooo dope as yall claim, You’d be in the article too

  • http://www.luckylogan.com Logan P. McCoy

    I liked Part 1 a whole lot better. I’m biased, sue me. “Guess and lo from head to toe to let you know, who got the props”. Come on… is it because he didn’t say polo in that song. You figure out what song it was.

  • Goose

    Why are you asking Vado and Young Dro’s opinion?? None of these have history with Lo.. Wearing a rugby from 2009 ain’t shit.. New jacks looking like idiots. Let The Lo Lifes tell this story.. Nice one XXL you screwed this story.

  • Young Bodybag

    What is this bullshit? Just Blaze and 88 Keys sucking their own dicks yet DCV gets minimal shine? This piece can’t even be thoroughly appreciated due to the underuse of potential with the interviewees. Dallas Penn, Thirstin Howl III, Ving, Rae and Sean P could’ve done this interview solo.

  • Brass Tacks

    Dro been rocking POLO! The South been rockin POLO! Get the hell outta here with another N.Y. made shit hot first write-up. The whole prep look was in style in GA back when another coast seemed more comfortable in timbs and a bubble down goose necked whatever the fuck Eskimos wear to keep warm in the antarctic. Please stop swinging from NY’s Hang low every time something that’s universally HIP-HOP. Gets written about!

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