A lesson on vintage: Meet the vintage collector and man behind the most influential Ralph Lauren Instagram account
Exploring the legacy of Ralph Lauren through the eyes of vintage collectors: an enlightening exploration of Ralph Lauren's iconic 70s and 90s eras with Manuel Cozar (@orenim).
Embarking on a journey through time, we delve into the world of vintage Ralph Lauren, a brand synonymous with timeless style and enduring quality. This exploration takes us back to some of the greatest pivotal decades that saw Ralph Lauren cement its status as an icon of American fashion, particularly the 70s and the vibrant 90s.
Our journey begins with a conversation with an avid vintage collector sharing his passion and stories about its treasured pieces. Manuel Cozar offers a unique perspective on what makes these garments: not just clothing but cherished pieces of fashion history.
Manuel, how long have you been collecting vintage and Polo Ralph Lauren items? Could you describe some of the most prized pieces in your collection?
Like any Spanish kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I was greatly influenced by all the cultural and fashion trends from the United States. Without knowing it, this forged the foundations of what years later would become my passion. Back in the early 2000s, on one of my first trips to NY, I walked into a Ralph Lauren flagship store, and my life changed forever. The atmosphere, the music, those perfectly dressed staff and vintage props made me feel like I was in a movie… The World of Ralph Lauren.
From that point, I embarked on a journey to study and research American vintage. My eye began to educate itself by analysing the decorations of Ralph Lauren stores, showrooms, and advertisements and getting in touch with some of their store´s staff, creatives and executives.
In the picture below, I'm wearing a Langlitz from the late 50s, the same model and possibly year as Ralph Lauren's favourite leather jacket. It is a ‘Langlitz cascade’ with smooth pads, hard to find since they were made to measure and frequently used in motorcycle races, so finding one in good condition is almost impossible. After a long negotiation with the Langlitz Leathers general manager, I got it as it belonged to the company's archive.
I love everything related to cowboys and indians, historic period Navajo jewelry such as belts and bracelets are an important part of my collection and I feel a special attraction for anything with arrows and thunderbirds stamped on it.
Also, I would like to highlight some sport coats from the 70s by Polo Ralph Lauren with the Bloomingdale's Polo store tag on them. The craftsmanship, fabrics, wide lapels, big shoulder pads… That air of the 70s is amazing. I'm always looking for those early pieces of the company.
Has any particular moment or event been a highlight in your journey as a collector?
In 2017 I embarked on a trip to California and had the good fortune to meet one of the precursors of the vintage business. With a career that spans thirty-plus years and has worked both in Japan and with top US fashion brands, his experience and friendship have been formative in helping to build my collection. Later in 2020, thanks to my influence in the Ralph Lauren world through my Instagram account @Orenim, a Ralph Lauren creative producer contacted and interviewed me for The Polo App as a vintage collector and Ralph Lauren enthusiast. Thanks to him, I am currently collaborating with them on The Polo Gazette, giving content ideas and my point of view.
Can you discuss any notable trends or iconic pieces from Polo Ralph Lauren in the 90s? How has Polo Ralph Lauren influenced fashion and culture, particularly in the 90s?
The Polo Country collection from the 1990s encapsulated an enduring sense of classic American style infused with elements of outdoor exploration and rugged refinement. Its influence can still be seen in contemporary fashion trends that draw inspiration from heritage aesthetics and a love for the great outdoors. One of the most iconic pieces from that era is the flag sweater, which has been around for decades. It’s a statement piece that will turn heads and start conversations. Over the years, the sweater has undergone several updates and revisions, but the core design has remained the same. Like the polo shirt, the flag sweater has become a timeless icon.
The brand played a pivotal role in popularising the preppy aesthetic during the 90s. The use of timeless pieces such as oxford shirts, cable-knit sweaters, chinos, and blazers helped define the preppy look that became synonymous with the decade — and also made a significant impact on sportswear during that era. Polo Sport sought to capitalise on the urban popularity of its parent label by producing more of their casual sports staples like rugbys, down jackets and baseball caps in bolder colour combinations with an emphasis on spell-out logos and club crest iconography. It’s one of many ways New York street style and Ralph Lauren are intertwined, both sides taking and learning from each other.
Polo Ralph Lauren’s influence was further amplified by its popularity among celebrities in the 90s and expanded its presence globally, introducing its distinct American style to international markets. I remember watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it was ‘those shirts with the little horse’ that would be called upon whenever Will or Carlton needed to dress to impress.
Do you think the brand has maintained its cultural significance today?
Of course, even after more than five decades since its inception, the brand has managed to stay relevant and influence contemporary culture, thanks to its timeless designs, high-quality craftsmanship, and commitment to excellence. At Hollywood’s biggest events, stars regularly don Ralph Lauren outfits. At the largest of sporting occasions, including Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and the Olympics, his influence is always present.
We are experiencing the resurgence of vintage clothing, and Ralph Lauren has contributed to that, making it relevant and appealing to contemporary audiences. A unique and authentic way of expressing oneself through clothing.