From Depop to Ebay, it’s never been easier to find vintage clothing online and, as with sales in regular brick and mortar stores, it’s the bigger-name brands which tend to be the most popular. However, one of the most difficult things to determine, especially when buying from individual sellers rather than established stores, is whether or not the items you’re interested in are actually authentic.

Big names in vintage clothing are often faked by sellers looking to make an easy buck, whether by switching labels or craftily stitching new logos onto off-brand garments. Even the most distinctive labels and items have been forged in a way that would be unrecognisable to the untrained eye, and thanks to its simple design, Ralph Lauren is one of the most popular brands with fraudsters.


Genuine Ralph Lauren label

Genuine Ralph Lauren label

Here, we’ll go through some of the key ways to tell an authentic Ralph Lauren garment from a fake.

Know the history of your favourite brands

This doesn’t exactly mean that you should be able to recall the names of designers and company CEOs like you used to learn kings and queens in history class. However, having a rough idea of when the label and designs you like first went on sale can immediately help you spot a few red flags. In the case of identifying vintage Ralph Lauren clothing, remember, for example, that the iconic polo logo was first introduced in 1971 and that the polo shirt came out the following year. This will immediately save you the risk of buying anything purporting to be “authentic” sixties Ralph Lauren clothing.

Inspect the polo player

Of course, the quality of the stitching for the brand’s polo pony logo should be second to none — after all, it’s the one mark that will distinguish your vintage shirt as a true Ralph Lauren. Over time, though, forgers have become far more adept at recreating it, and often hope to show off their skills by applying it to every item of fake Ralph Lauren clothing that they can. This in itself is a giveaway, as the horse typically shows up on tops and shirts more frequently than shorts, trousers, and jackets.

The quality of the stitching on the logo is also essential to consider. If it looks shoddy on the outside, it’s almost certainly a fake, but even those which seem perfectly-stitched at first glance need closer inspection. The inside of your garment will prove the truest test and if there are a few too many loose threads or lumps in the stitching for your liking, follow your instinct and stay away.


Fake Ralph Lauren label

Fake Ralph Lauren label

Always read the label

Often, fake labels will have been carelessly stitched onto existing non-branded clothing, so be mindful of how they appear when you’re trying to identify vintage Ralph Lauren clothing. The real labels fall into one of two categories — grey on blue for older items, and gold on blue for newer ones — and will either be displayed as tags sewn onto the neck, or in the case of some makes of t-shirt, printed on in the same colours. Any other Rycolour scheme should be an immediate warning sign. The label should be sewn onto the clothing with the same colour thread as the garment itself, which is also how the buttons should be attached.

However, it isn’t just the style, but the information on the label that will indicate whether or not your vintage Ralph Lauren clothing is authentic. The size will either be displayed on a separate tag next to the main label, or stitched in right next to it with a factory number printed nearby. If the label has been cut — and vintage Ralph Lauren retailers often have legitimate reasons for doing this, mainly to prevent canny shoppers from buying second hand and trying to return them to a retail store — the laundry tag will provide a final clue. These laundry tags are generally informative, offering relatively detailed guides on how to care for your garment. If the information is sparse, then so are the chances of your Ralph Lauren clothing being authentic.

Hemming and hawing

A final giveaway for spotting a fake Ralph Lauren polo shirt is the hem of the item. Unlike other brands of polo shirt, Ralph Lauren will always have a slightly shorter hem at the back than they do at the front, with a split at the sides. This is because when the brand first introduced these shirts to the market, they were designed to be tucked into the front of the wearer’s trousers or shorts. No split hem, or an even hem, means that the garment you're looking at isn’t the real deal and should be avoided at all costs.

December 18, 2020 — Ryan Fidell