polo ralph lauren sport Clothes Reflect the Spirit of the West
Rough wear has become a design category, like evening wear or career wear. Inspired by the styles of the Southwest and by hunting, fishing and riding gear, such clothes tend to be made of simple, durable fabrics, often with brawny, visible stitching and a broken in, one of a kind look. They are the fashion equivalent of the Jeep Cherokee Chief or Stickley furniture: strong, classic, utilitarian and rooted in American industrial and craft traditions.
Designers and manufacturers have clothing lines with names that reflect this spirit: Mighty Mac, Ruff Hewn, Nautica, British Khaki, Timberland. They have given rise to the high plains drifters of the Upper East Side, the sturdy Nantucket fishermen of Columbus Avenue and the calico skirted pioneer women of downtown.
Ralph Lauren, known for his rugged men’s wear, designs a separate Rough Wear collection for women, which he showed for the first time along with his regular runway clothes for spring. His hand painted leather skirts, deerskin trousers and Navajo blanket sweaters were among the hits. In its quality and individuality, this rough wear approaches a kind of American couture. Pockets for Game
Prices reflect the craftsmanship and materials. His chamois suede pants for women are whipstitched, a basic over and under method of sewing that leaves the stitching exposed, and cost $750. Handknit linen and ramie vests have sterling concho buttons with braided suede ties, and are $425. The Polo/Ralph Lauren Mohawk duster cloth jacket for men, $197, comes with hunting pockets and a game bag; most young men will use it to carry the Sunday paper instead of a dead duck. The Beacon blanket sweaters are $235 for a crewneck.
Much rough wear is more romantic than rough. And some of it is tongue in cheek. According to a straight faced brochure attached to every garment, the 97 year old Mr. Hewn was ”born to wealth and prominence in Astoria, New York” and ”lettered in eight rough sports at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.” He is said to have made the first running shoe (”from cut out Michelins and luggage canvas, Paris 1900”) and to have designed the clothes for, naturally, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
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In the real world, Ruff Hewn makes bully khaki shorts, denim shirts and outerwear. Sailor jackets are made of tent cloth, and a yellow rubber backed cotton slicker is cut jean jacket style, for men and women. Ruff Hewn for women, considerably softer in character, features cotton batik skirts, simple linen tanks and blue jeans with floral print cuffs and waistbands.
At British Khaki, a company begun by an American, Robert Lighton, the concept is simple: everything khaki and everything that goes with khaki. A fitted shawl collared vest with welt pockets, made of 100 percent cotton drill cloth, can be worn bare shouldered or with one of the company’s chambray shirts, which are a bargain at $55. ”People don’t want namby pamby clothes anymore,” said Lynda Reid, a spokeswoman for British Khaki. ”Obviously, very few of our customers hunt or ride. But in New York, where not everyone is arriving in a limousine, you need durable clothes that don’t need a lot of attention.”
If men on the Upper West Side look like lumberjacks emerging from the Maine woods, it may have something to do with the success of Timberland, a New Hampshire manufacturer that has in recent years added clothing to its line of handsewn leather footwear. Timberland now makes a weather resistant lambskin jacket. A silicon impregnation process keeps the buttery, suedelike fabric from spotting in the rain. Like the company’s leather luggage, no two garments look exactly alike, which has a certain appeal to rugged individualists.