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Signature style: 4 simple tips to achieve the creative Ralph Lauren look

Ralph Lauren embraced his Creative Style Archetype to change men's fashion

Ralph Lauren walking on the beach
Courtesy of HBO

The Style Archetypes give a lot of guidelines for us to follow to be some of the most stylish men in the room. There are so many rules in the world that sometimes we need a little chaos to give us a break, however counterintuitive that may seem.

While there are some places in life where you must follow the rules, like, say, following the law, the definition of creativity is coloring outside the lines. When it comes to style, there are some basic rules that men are taught from day one that can feel like they box us in, making us want to break out. And one man has figured out the perfect way.

The Creative colors outside the lines of the rules of men’s apparel. They blaze their own path and set their own trends by finding boundaries and pushing past them. One of the most critical aspects of breaking the rules is first knowing them. One of the most remarkable trailblazers in style, someone who can break the limitations with the best of them, is legendary fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

While working for a tie manufacturer in the mid-1960s, Lauren convinced the owner to allow him to start his own line. Shortly after, he began selling his own ties. He named his first line Polo and became the first designer ever to get an in-store boutique in Bloomingdale’s. And then 60 years later, the designer has one of the largest and most prestigious brands in all of fashion, and he continues to prove that he knows and understands the world of style. Here are three ways you can emulate the creative style of Ralph Lauren.

Disregard the rules

Here’s the thing: The rules of men’s fashion are in place because most of us need a guide when we start. Men are logical and systematic. Clear and concise rules of what shoes go with what pants, what pants go with what shirt, and what shirt goes with what jacket are the best way for us to learn how to dress. Of course, it’s also a mindless way to get dressed every day and go about our business changing the world. 

However, once you’ve learned the rules and have them down pat, you can start pushing the boundaries and bending, sometimes even breaking, those rules. For instance, for a long time, it was considered a fashion misstep to wear black shoes with a black shoes with a navy suit, and yet Tom Ford dressed James Bond in that combination for the opening scene of Spectre. He pulled that off by ensuring the suit was a bright navy, creating a contrast in the color that made the entire ensemble look intentional. 

Ralph Lauren shirks the rules of fashion every time he’s on the red carpet for the launch of one of his seasonal lines. While other designers are dressed to the nines in their best formal attire, Lauren dons his best western-inspired gear. When wearing his double-breasted sports coat and tie, he swaps out the dress pants and dark dress denim for his light-wash jeans. He swaps out his dress shoes for cowboy boots. Once you know the rules, you can break them. Once you learn how to break the rules, you can blaze a trail of new trends. 

Ralph Lauren walking the Milan fashion show
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Be playful

Fashion can be really uptight. The rules keep us boxed into stuffy and bland outfits that look the same as everyone else. Getting playful with your outfits by adding pops of color or accessories can fundamentally alter every look. You will stand out, catch attention, and rise above the rest.

Ralph Lauren often stays with his Western look by embracing denim looks, pairing denim shirts and jeans for an all-denim ensemble that is often frowned upon, but he somehow pulls it off. He also loves to channel his Western vibe by wearing a bandana around his neck, mimicking every cowboy in old movies. The only difference is he wears them more like an English ascot, giving him just enough separation from the old West. Of course, let’s not forget his infamous belt buckles.

If you want to be playful like Ralph Lauren, embrace colors and some out-of-the-box ideas. Play with a few here and there, but don’t forget to put your own spin on them. Quick tip: Less is more. When you first start breaking the rules, it’s best not to break all of them at once, and it’s best to be subtle with your playfulness at first.

Ralph Lauren standing in front of a palace in a suit
Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

Read the room

One of the most important things to learn when breaking the rules is knowing when not to. Of course, you can look great in a suit that is in an unconventional color, or in a tie with a striking pattern. However, wearing these items to a job interview means losing the interviewer’s focus. They stop focusing on what you can do for them as an employee and start focusing on what you’re hiding under your flashy look.

No matter how much fun Ralph Lauren has when dressing for his seasonal line launches, he knows how to dress more conservatively. He reads the room and seems to never overdress or underdress.

Blaze your own path

Following the rules will keep you from standing out to ridicule for having the audacity to wear something no one else is wearing. But it will also keep you from standing out to praise when you do something truly unique. Trailblazers like Ralph Lauren don’t often do what everyone else does; it’s in the name. They blaze their own path, and others follow because what they do resonates with others.

Learn the rules, but once you have learned the basics of men’s style and you have figured out how to push the boundaries, find a way to break the rules, and create your own unique look for others to follow and to emulate.

Think about the last time you were in a Ralph Lauren store. The dark wood and leather give a classic and elegant vibe, while the pops of color like the yellow, red, green, and orange chinos and socks keep the store from feeling stuffy and overpriced. Treat your wardrobe the same way, and you will emerge as a trailblazer of men’s style living the life of the Creative Archetype.

Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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