In the 80s, Ralph Lauren had a target market and they were good at targeting that market: the preppy country club types (the ones that might actually play polo). In 1988 though a group of kids from New York would turn all that on its head by targeting Ralph Lauren instead. The United Shoplifters Association and Ralphie’s Kids were two gangs who would unite to become the infamous Lo Lifes.
The Lo Lifes were obsessed with Ralph Lauren, probably more than the white preppy 5th Avenue buyers. But the Lo Lifes were no buyers, they were boosters. You knew if a kid from the projects was dressing in nothing but Polo, chances were they hadn’t popped to the Ralph Lauren store with a gold Amex card.
80s New York was wild, the crime rate was out of control. There was nothing out of the ordinary about stealing; the Lo Lifes were born out of poverty. They had what they needed but never what they wanted, so they took it. Coming back to the projects covered in Ralph Lauren made you somebody. If you weren’t somebody in the hood then someone would take it from you.
The Lo Life was about being somebody. Having something. Togetherness. But as original Lo. Life Big Vic Lo puts it: “The same reason people love you, will make others hate you”. The Lo Lifes were loved in the hood, they were known. But being known can be dangerous because there’s always someone there ready to take it from you. Very quickly the fun would soon become deadly.
Jealousy and poverty meant that pretty soon the Lo Lifes were getting robbed, beaten, and killed for their love of Polo. Members of the gang were dying and gang life was taking over. What started out as love was quickly turning to hate. There’s no real victims in boosting from massive stores but now people were being targeted.
Today Big Vic Lo is a musician and still spreads the word of the Lo Lifes. This along with a wider hip hop audience moved Ralph Lauren out of the country clubs and out into the streets. The Lo Lifes can be held responsible for at least a small portion of Ralph Lauren’s popularity in hip hop, in the streets, and across the globe.