In October of 1997, a new spacecraft—the Cassini-Huygens probe, to be precise—rocketed off the ground in Cape Canaveral and toward Saturn for a 20-year observation mission. It was one of two influential launches that month. The other was a white, down-filled winter jacket designed by Ralph Lauren and inspired by the pressure suits worn on space missions throughout the late 20th century.
Accented with red and blue and bearing the Polo Jeans logo, it made for an eye-catching—and exceptionally warm—spin on the bold, graphic style that defined Ralph Lauren’s highly coveted ’90s designs. It sold out quickly, and became one of the most collected pieces from the era. Lately, vintage versions have been spotted on the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Drake, and what few appear on secondary markets sell for four-figure sums.
Now, for 2019, Ralph Lauren has created a spiritual successor to the legendary style with a nearly one-to-one design—with a few key upgrades.
The Polo 11’s fit is true to the original’s oversize cut but with some slight streamlining to improve the silhouette. The body fabric uses the same type of coated, water-repellent ripstop as the original but with a tighter micro-weave that has been custom-made for Ralph Lauren. And the clear zipper teeth along the left sleeve and body—making the jacket easier to pull on and off—now open at the jacket’s hem rather than at the sleeve. The central hand-warmer pocket is still lined in a brushed tricot fabric, and the interior collar uses the exact same soft fleece fabric as the original coat. Custom pull tabs mirror the original iteration, updated to read “Polo Ralph Lauren,” and the red webbing tape on the arms and hood use an identical material, but with a modern dye to create a better hand and color fastness to keep them brighter for longer.
What’s most different, though, isn’t something you see—it’s something you feel. The original white interior has been replaced by a heat-dispersive silver lining, warmed by a heating system powered by a slim Mophie battery, with warmth levels that can be controlled via Bluetooth through a mobile app. The construction is an evolution of the warming outerwear technology first developed by Ralph Lauren for the 2016 Olympic Games, using highly advanced, heat-conductive carbon and silver ink.
Like the jackets worn by the Olympic athletes in PyeongChang, the jacket was made in collaboration with several innovative American companies. Manufacturing stalwart DuPont created the conductive ink—a clever new approach to heated garments that sidestepped the weight and stiff wires of previous attempts at the technology—while indie manufacturers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania aided in high-precision screen-printing and bonding processes.
The Polo 11 is complemented by the new Polo Glacier jacket, a parka that combines the same technology with a clean, modern design and sleek navy and silver colorways. And while the high-quality, high-fill down in each jacket provides a powerful insulation on its own, the additional cutting-edge heat technology will keep you warm no matter what the winter weather brings—whether you’re headed to the depths of space or just down the block.
Andrew Craig is the men’s concept editor for Ralph Lauren.
- © Ralph Lauren Corporation