Twenty Years Later, One Hopes

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Clothes can be much more than clothes. At best, they remind us of special memories, which can give meaning to our lives. Over the weekend, I had lunch with my oldest friend, Matt, who I’ve known for twenty-four years now. When we were in high school, during the mid-1990s, Matt and some other friends of mine were ‘Lo Heads – a type of clothing aficionado that collects Polo Ralph Lauren. What was deemed collectable at the time was largely determined by street style culture, hip hop music, and a blooming freestyle dance scene. In fact, I spent much of my youth in the mid-90s going to underground hip hop clubs, which people attended for only three reasons (none of which had anything to do with women, as women never attended these things). The first was to dance. The second was to see people dance. And the third was to admire certain people’s sense of dress, who more often than not were wearing Polo Ralph Lauren.  

One of the most coveted pieces back then was this black, handknit sweater you see above. It’s a thick, low-gauge, cotton knit decorated with the side profile of an Indian chief’s head. The design is actually a second generation, with the original being a women’s sweater made in early 1990s for Ralph Lauren’s short lived Polo Country Store. You can always tell which is which because the woman’s is a wool rollneck, with a white drop shadow on the RL insignia, but has no date. The men’s, on the other hand, is a cotton crewneck with an all red insignia, and is signed “RL 94” (as it came out in 1994).

Today, you can find the Indian head sweater on eBay trading between $300 and $750, depending on the condition and whether some Japanese collector is watching (they used to more than they do now). The problem is, the sizes are almost always large, and this is 1994 sizing. The cut is boxy, the shoulders dropped, and the ribbing at the hem isn’t terribly elastic. I actually don’t mind, as I think it gives the knit a nice, slouchy look, but I haven’t been able to find a size small anywhere. I’d love to buy one, however, as the sweater is much more than a sweater to me – it’s a symbol of a certain time in my youth, one filled with music, dance, art, and many good friendships. 

Matt has the sweater (in a size large), and I mentioned to him over lunch this weekend that I wish it would be re-released. “Well, if it’s ever going to happen, it’ll be in next year,” he said, “when the sweater has its 20th anniversary.” Indeed, Ralph has re-released other pieces from the past (this Indian head shirt, for example), and recently dedicated a whole site to vintage collectors. If it’s ever going to happen, it should happen next year.

Oh man, the hope.

(Photos via eBay, Roll With the Winners, and Ovadia & Sons)  

 

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