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Real Lo-Lifes know the story, but most people are probably not up on the history of what is probably the most famous unofficial mascot of a brand ever: the Polo Bear. As a part of their "It's Vintage" series, the folks over at The Cut looked into the origins of the popular symbol to see how something as simple (and meta) as a stuffed animal wearing a sweater on a sweater became the holy grail for collectors and posers everywhere.
According to The Cut, Ralph Lauren received a Steiff teddy bear as a birthday gift in the late '80s from his design team. The bear was wearing a tiny Polo outfit, and Ralph liked it so much that he started selling the gifts in his stores. In 1991, the designer decided to add the image of the bear to a sweater because the actual bears had become so popular. Over the years there were more and more Polo Bear sweaters, and the style Gods of the streets bought them and elevated the pieces to the top of swag totem pole.
"The Polo Bear is iconic hood gear because irony is NEVER wasted on people really from the 'hood (working class people)," Polo aficionado Dallas Penn told Complex. "The level of swag being accomplished by rocking an executive bear knit while wearing Levi's 501s and Air Max 95s is an all-time official 'Fit." We asked Dallas to list the best Polo Bear sweaters of all time and he didn't hesitate. "Executive Bear, Cool Bear, #2 Jockey Bear, the red 1992 Sit Down, and the twin G.O.A.T.s, the Tuxedo Cashmere and the RL2000 Ski Bear."
Adding to the legend of the Bear is the myth that there is a sweater that features a Polo Bear wearing a Polo Bear, wearing a Polo Bear, and it goes on forever. "Guys will swear they have three of those but they never bring it out, never rock it for flicks, but supposedly it’s there," Queens rapper and one of the biggest 'Lo heads Meyhem Lauren told VICE. Vintage clothing expert Brian Procell told The Cut that an infinite Polo Bear is impossible, at least in sweater form. "It's too complex to render as a knit; it would be too abstract...It's possible that there might be some limited samples of that bear on fine china floating around out there. Maybe even a silk scarf or tie, possibly made for the Japanese market."
If you're reading this and you have a legit infinite bear sweater, we need to talk.