Ralph Lauren is not an “exciting” brand (look at its fussy "lifestyle" photo spreads, or the models in Ralph Lauren fashion ads…stiff, overly groomed, mostly expressionless, wearing tight, armor-like clothes (even the clothes are photoshopped). When Ralph Lauren described its new men’s cologne, Polo Red* (not to be confused with Big Pony No. 2, also in a red bottle), as a “fiery blend” that “ignites the thrill seeker in every man” I chuckled.
I often wonder why Ralph Lauren, the king of aspirational EVERYthing (clothing, jewelry, even decorating — bedding, bathroom towels, glassware, furniture, paint), hasn’t released an ‘exclusive’ range of fragrances like other design houses (Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels); if ever there was a brand in need of some higher-quality perfumes to match its other expensive merch, it’s Ralph Lauren.
In Polo Red descriptions, Ralph Lauren stresses three fragrance notes: vibrant RED grapefruit, RED saffron (are saffron threads any other color?) and RED wood. If just those three notes were spectacular, or even “very good”…this could have been a pleasant cologne. But each of these notes is wan: the “grapefruit” is talc-y, bland citrus (you could just as easily call it "bergamot" or “lemon” or “lime” or “orange”) and must cost pennies per gallon; saffron is missing in action, or added (such a STRANGE note!) in a tiny amount (artificial, natch); and red wood/redwood is laughable — this “wood” is transparent, not red. Whatever notes are in Polo Red blend to create a generic clean/fresh, annoy-nobody fragrance (there are more interesting Axe body sprays out there).
Even the Polo Red ads, print and video, are boring, with a business-as-usual, poker-faced Nacho Figueras, the Argentine polo player-model, starring — and staring out at us dully as he has in Polo ads year after year. Can’t a photographer rouse him? Maybe toss a ball towards him right before taking a photo…will that animate him? Certainly, if Figueras loves perfume, the Ralph Lauren selections he represents won’t keep him awake; they’ll make him forget the year, where he is and what he’s plugging — they smell so much alike.
I recently got the chance to sniff some of the Ralph Lauren home collection candles; they’re more interesting than the Ralph Lauren perfumes; maybe I’ll give a few of them a try and report back to you.
Ralph Lauren Polo Red Eau de Toilette is available in 125 ($76), 75 ($61) or 45 ml ($44) and in a 170 g body spray (à la Axe) for $20.
* Perfumer: Olivier Gillotin; listed notes of red grapefruit, cranberry, lemon, red saffron, red-root sage, lavender, coffee, amber and red cedar.