Handy tips for checking the authenticity of your Polo shirts, jackets, trousers and more.
Polo Ralph Lauren is an iconic brand that has enjoyed popularity for decades. As such, with the success of any clothing brand a legion of counterfeit garments pop up posing as the real thing; and for the bargain hunter looking to pick up a good deal on Polo merchandise the sea of clothing is rife with fakes.
So, how do you know whether your next prospective buy is the real deal?
First, you need to know the characteristics of Polo clothing.
What are the characteristics of original Polo Ralph Lauren clothing?
The Polo Pony:
Perhaps the most iconic giveaway of the Polo brand is the signature Polo Pony, embroidered onto the chest of most torso garments (such as the one in the cover photo), featured on accessories such as hats and sometimes found on the outside of shorts and pants. A warning: as this is the most recognisable indicator of the brand, it is always present on fakes. It is also not always featured on all of the brand’s legitimate garments, such as the blue plaid shirt featured in the gallery below:
The embroidery of the pony is a good place to start when examining your garment. Ralph Lauren always ensures the quality of the embroidery on legitimate garments is top notch, so if the quality of embroidery on your garment looks poor it’s a good indicator of a fake.
What do the Genuine Tags Look Like?
There are two types of tag styles mainly used on Polo clothing: the classic grey writing on blue background, and the more recent yellow writing on blue background. Examples are below:
On shirts, the layout of the tag is almost always as seen in the right-hand picture above. The main logo, with a small tag protruding to the right containing the size; with any additional tag concerning the style of cut sewn in below the main tag. In the example on the right, this is a formal shirt hence the three different measurements being on the tag.
In shorts and pants, the size tag is usually separate to the main tag (often in the zipper fly area) and will have both the imperial and metric waist size measurements listed on it.
Sweaters usually have a similar tag layout to the polo shirts, as visible below.
What if there are no Tags?
This isn’t a giveaway of legitimacy or a sign of a fake, unfortunately. Some charity shops are known to cut the tags off of garments to deter people from buying them to resell at a profit.
Some retail stores will also cut the tags in this manner before donating, in order to reduce the possibility of people buying an item from a thrift store and trying to return it to the retail store under the guise of having bought it there.
Lastly, some entry level products – like the recent generations of PRL T-shirts – don’t have a tag stitched in but it is simply printed on the shirt, like this:
These type of labels wear off with time and washing, which can result in them disappearing eventually.
Regardless of whether these top tags or labels are missing, there is still one sure-fire way of authenticating your Polo Ralph Lauren garment; checking the laundry tags.
What do the Genuine Laundry Tags Look Like?
Genuine Polo items often have a number of laundry tags attached, with fabric composition and care instructions in several common languages. Some examples are below, note the common fonts used:
If your garment has a single small laundry tag with a few symbols and little more information than ‘100% Cotton’, be warned that you are likely in possession of a counterfeit item.
What do the Genuine Retail Tags Look Like?
Throughout time, Polo’s retail tags have undergone changes. Here are some examples of recent genuine retail tags:
Looking to identify a garment from a different Ralph Lauren brand? Check out this guide to RL sub-brands.
What Materials and Construction are used in Genuine Polo Clothing?
Some might think this a no-brainer, but it is important to double check the feel of the material used to construct the garment, and to check the construction itself. Though some argue the material used in the entry-level Ralph polo shirts is not the best feeling nowadays, the quality of material used in the counterfeits is often worse. If possible, compare the texture and feel of the material with that of a legitimate Polo garment either from your own collection or a friend’s. Warning: do not assume from materials alone the legitimacy of the garment as some fakes are made from good material as well.
Buttons on genuine Polo garments are usually plain mother of pearl style round buttons, well sewn with little to no excess thread. These buttons are almost never embossed or printed on; while some genuine items may have embossed buttons, if the garment in question has buttons with imagery or words printed on them there is a high chance of the item being fake. See the section on examples of fakes near the end of the article for an example.
Construction is an easier one to gauge. Polo Ralph Lauren garments are usually true-to-size fits, sometimes on the slimmer side. If you normally take a Size S and the item in question is a supposed size S but fits like a parachute over a treetop, it’s likely a counterfeit. If the whole garment features the same print or pattern, check to see whether there has been any attempt at aligning the patterns where the seams lie; a lower quality counterfeit will not bother doing this. Also, I have seen some fake Ralph Lauren polos that do not feature the usual split at the lower hem used to make the shirt fit better when the wearer is seated; if the seam is sealed right to the bottom of the garment this is a sign of poor construction and a likely sign of a fake!
Some examples of fake Polo Ralph Lauren garments:
Here are two examples of tags used on fake Polo Ralph Lauren items. I have seen a suspiciously large quantity of counterfeits bearing the tags of the left image in Savers stores recently. Both of the polos above featured good replications of the Polo Pony on the chest, and decent quality material; the giveaway was in these tags, the laundry tags (vague ones with few symbols and no more information than ‘100% Cotton’ as I spoke of earlier!) and the sizing.
Fake with Printed Buttons, Incorrect Tags:
This counterfeit was a giveaway from the start; poor construction, low quality fabric. But the biggest giveaways can be seen in the above images; compare this tag to the examples of correct tags shown previously, and note the cheap looking printed buttons with excess thread protruding from them.
Fake with Bad Tags, Cheap Buttons:
Note the cheap clear plastic buttons used, along with the standout tag. Not even the right colour!
Conclusion: Keep your eyes peeled!
Hopefully this article will help you authenticate your prospective purchases. Make sure you double check when buying second hand or thrifting, avoid dubious looking items, and you can have the peace of mind that you have just scored an authentic piece of Polo clothing!
If you would prefer not to run the risk, you can always buy new! You can often pick up bargains on Polo clothing through genuine online retailers or at outlet stores.