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 up, you need to know some of the common characteristics of Polo clothing, as it’s the items bearing these signatures that are most often counterfeited (polo shirts, dress shirts, casual pants and so on).
What are the characteristics of original Polo Ralph Lauren clothing?
The Polo Pony:
The most iconic signature of the Polo brand is the Polo Pony, embroidered onto the left chest of most top body garments, featured on accessories such as hats and often found on the outside of casual shorts and pants. As this is the most recognisable indicator of the brand, it’s often present on fakes. It’s also important to note that the Pony isn’t always featured on all of the brand’s legitimate garments. Sometimes items that would normally sport the Pony are absent of it, which usually boils down to a choice on the designer’s part.
The embroidery of the pony is a good place to start when examining your garment. The embroidery on legitimate garments is usually done very well, so if the quality of embroidery on your garment looks poor or sloppy, it’s a good indicator that you’re looking at a fake.
What do the Genuine Tags Look Like?
There are two types of tag styles mainly used on Polo clothing: the classic silver/grey writing on a blue background, and the more recent iteration featuring yellow writing on a blue background. Examples are below:
On shirts, the layout of the tag is almost always as seen in the 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. Note that some older shirts can simply say Polo, dropping Ralph’s name. Many counterfeits try to knock off that logo, as it’s easier to try and pass off. Be careful when looking at items with that label, but don’t write them off straight away, just do your homework before buying!
In casual 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?
The absence of tags isn’t much of a sign, depending on the source. 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 at retail.
Lastly, some entry level products – like the recent generations of PRL T-shirts – don’t have a tag stitched in but the label and production information is simply printed on the shirt’s yoke, 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 information including fabric composition and care instructions in one or more common languages. Some examples are below, note that any genuine garment’s tags should feature at least one of these fonts:
If your garment has a single, cheap, miniscule laundry tag with a few symbols and little more information than ‘100% Cotton’, you may be looking at a counterfeit item.
Note that the laundry tags aren’t always blue. Sometimes they are white; especially on women’s and children’s garments, though also on some vintage menswear and unisex. Post-2010 items also have a good chance of featuring white laundry tags, though the fonts used will always be the best sign to look for.
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:
Additionally, RL Corp has recently introduced QR code technology on tags for new garments that you can scan. Scanning the code should take you to the RL website, on a page for the garment you’re looking at, however do note that this depends where in the world you’re scanning from. For instance, if you try to visit the website from Australia you’ll be redirected to a site which is little more than a glorified landing page.
Looking to identify a garment from a different Ralph Lauren brand? Check out the guide to RL sub-brands.
What Materials and Construction are used in Genuine Polo Clothing?
Some might think this a no-brainer, but it’s important to double check the feel of the material used to construct the garment, and to check the construction itself. Polo’s clothes are made to a quite a high standard, impressive given the scale that they’re manufactured on. Fabrics are often custom made for the brand, and finishing quality is usually excellent. If you’re looking at something bearing a Polo label and it’s made from a fabric that feels like cheap rubbish, or the build quality of the garment looks shoddy, it might not be the real deal.
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, especially if the embossing or printing is either of poor quality and rubbing off, or contains spelling errors. See the section on examples of fakes near the end of the article for an example.
Construction and sizing is an easier one to gauge. Polo Ralph Lauren garments are usually true-to-size fits when it comes to menswear and unisex, sometimes on the slimmer side in garments made after 2010. Womenswear is often on the slimmer side historically.
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, while the pattern matching on genuine Polo items tends to be quite good (again, impressive given the scale of manufacture!). I have seen some fake Ralph Lauren polos that don’t feature the usual side vents at the hem used to make the shirt move better when the wearer walks and sits; 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 counterfeited Polo Ralph Lauren garments to avoid:
Here are two examples of tags used on fake Polo Ralph Lauren items. 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.
Bootleg with Printed Buttons, Incorrect Tags:
This one was a giveaway from the start; poor construction, low quality fabric. 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. It’s the kind of cheap plain polyester tag you’d expect to see on merchandise polos or uniforms.
Conclusion: Keep your eyes peeled!
Hopefully this article will help guide you in 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.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you wish to contact me directly regarding authentication of your item, please do not use the contact form on this website.
Send me a message on Instagram instead (please only do so if your item’s characteristics are VERY notably different from those shown in this guide).