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The history behind the iconic Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bear

The Polo Bear has become synonymous with the Ralph Lauren brand but not many know the story behind this iconic bear. Of course, that isn’t Ralph Lauren’s only quintessential piece; its horse silhouette is just as popular as the Nike’s Swoosh logo.

Having multiple appearances on Ralph Lauren’s apparel, the Polo Bear was designed by Richard Tahsin who worked in the art department for Ralph Lauren menswear from 1990 to 1996. Aside from that, Tahsin also created the artwork for other favourite Ralph Lauren pieces like the Roulette button up as well as the Ski 92 jacket. He spoke more about his designs as well as his time at Ralph Lauren in an interview with Grailed.

Polo Bear
The original Polo Bear sweater from Ralph Lauren. (Image: Ralph Lauren)

Tahsin was the original designer behind the collection after being assigned by Ralph Lauren’s brother, Jerry Lauren and Bobbi Renales, then design director for the brand’s menswear line. From 1991 to 1996, every Polo Bear art that ever featured was designed by Tahsin.

But what is it about the Polo Bear that made it into such a historic piece of clothing? For starters, this goes back to the brand’s infant years when it’s owner Ralph Lauren was gifted a plush teddy bar fitted in a Ralph Lauren outfit. Impressed by the attention to detail that was taken into fitting the bear with the same tailored materials, he felt the bear should be made available to customers as well.

Polo Bear
One of the many Ralph Lauren Polo Bear designs. (Image: Grailed)

Unfortunately, the cost of manufacturing the bear was too expensive; making it expensive to sell. This meant that only real enthusiasts would be interested in the collection. This saw the birth of the Polo Bear on various clothing pieces from sweatshirts and sweaters to caps and hoodies.

Polo Bear
Kanye West sporting the vintage Ralph Lauren Polo Bear sweater back in 2004. (Image: Getty Images)

The first sweater of the Polo Bear line came out in 1991 and continued all the way until 2001 when it was discontinued. However, 2013 saw its rebirth onto the same sweater when it was first introduced back in 1991.

Its revival is also attributed to pop culture, specifically hip-hop. One of its most iconic appearances goes to Kanye West back in the mid-2000s when he was spotted numerous times with various Polo Bear outfits. Its 2013 revival was a part of Ralph Lauren’s vintage ‘Bring it Back’ campaign where it picked up where it left off all those years ago.

For modern-day fashionistas, many may not know the significance the Polo Bear carries. With fashion focusing towards colour-blocking and more extravagant silhouettes, it may be hard to see how the preppy aesthetic of the Polo Bear will once again be mainstream.

Wi-Liam Teh
Senior Writer
Wi-Liam is a geek at heart with a penchant for tattoos. Never without a drink in hand (preferably whisky, gin, or Guinness), he is also a writer by day and a keyboard warrior by night. On his day off, he masquerades as a streetwear and sneakerhead enthusiast while his bank account says otherwise.