The Story of Ralph Lauren’s ‘Preppy Bear’

Ralph Lauren Polo Bear Embroidered Logo

The Ralph Lauren Polo Bear, one of fashion’s most well-known mascots, actually started out as a joke. Jerry Lauren, Ralph’s brother and the company’s creative director, was known to have an extensive collection of Steiff teddy bears in the early 90s. So, as a result of this stitch-up, colleagues decided to give both brothers teddy bears dressed to look like them for their birthdays. The Laurens sensed an opportunity.

The first limited run of 200 Steiff-made, Ralph Lauren-designed bears sold out from the company’s Madison Avenue flagship store in a single weekend. ‘Preppy Bear’, as the teddy was aptly named, quickly returned on t-shirts, dress shirts, denim jackets, and ties before making its debut appearance on the iconic Polo sweater a year later. The bear would go on to pop up in various stylish guises throughout the 90s on both apparel and in print ads, proving to be actions that would only add to the nostalgic pull of garments that the bear appears on today.

By 2001 Ralph Lauren had ended its collaboration with Stieff and halted the production of their coveted teddies. Following a resurgence in demand during the mid-2000s for Polo Ralph Lauren items that featured this unique mascot, collectors would search high and wide for highly sought-after vintage pieces that were perhaps the strongest signifiers of the brand’s identity in the modern world.

The Polo Bear range finally returned in 2013 as part of Ralph Lauren’s Bring it Back campaign as the brand increasingly focused on its popular nostalgic collections, and ‘Preppy Bear’ has continued to be a fan favourite for a wide number of age groups and demographics ever since. What started as a joke has now translated into unintentionally self-aware clothing, with the bear encompassing the various traits of both the brand itself and its wearers.

As the company’s creative director was recorded saying,  “Who doesn’t love a teddy bear?”.