Ralph Lauren is partnering with Morehouse College and Spelman College for a historic collection that honors the legacy of Black collegiate style at HBCUs. The upcoming capsule looks back specifically on campus life from the ‘20s to ‘50s, and Black creatives spearheaded the project every step of the way, from its creation to its campaign.
While collegiate style is often associated with elite and predominantly white universities, HBCU students also carved out their own smart looks that can be seen in yearbooks, newsletters, and archival images used to inform the collaboration. Putting these pieces out into the world will hopefully help to more fully frame the narrative of what constitutes historical prep and who spurned its wider influence — but it also has the benefit of offering dapper looks to proud Morehouse and Spelman alumni.
“It was really important to steep this in history to show that this is not now,” James Jeter, director of concept design and special products for Ralph Lauren and a Morehouse College alum, told Women’s Wear Daily. “A lot of this project was really about changing ownership around how we think about clothing. So who owns three-piece suits. Who owns cable cardigans? Who owns the circle skirt, for instance?”
First dibs goes where it should — Tailored suiting, outerwear, dresses, footwear, accessories, and more all pay homage to Morehouse and Spelman in the early to mid-19th century. In some cases, this mean’s accurate recreations of the sort of garments students wore then, including a wool flannel blazer traditionally given to students on their first day. But the collection also imbues more direct school spirit by making use of the colleges’ historic iconography.
Boatneck sweaters come knit with the “M” and “S” of both respective colleges, while double-breasted blazers come adorned by their official crests. Cardigans, old-school football jerseys, and ties also join the wide range of apparel and accessories with the colors and letters of the two HBCUs, while the iconic Polo Bear will rock their scarves for the very first time.
“This collection expresses the spirited history, deep sense of community and legacy of timeless dressing at historically Black colleges and universities,” Ralph Lauren himself said in a release. “It’s so much more than a portrayal of a collegiate design sensibility. It’s about sharing a more complete and authentic portrait of American style and of the American dream — ensuring stories of Black life and experiences are embedded in the inspiration and aspiration of our brand.”
The Morehouse and Spelman collections will first be made available to students and faculty as part of a pre-sale. A global release will then follow on March 29 through Ralph Lauren’s website, the Polo app, both campus bookstores, and select Ralph stores. Prices will run for $20 to $2,500, which could easily be seen as an investment in a new heirloom.