Rugby is a gritty sport. Full contact, no face masks or plastic body armor, and the games are continuous play without stopping for huddles and such. Some have speculated that those are all factors that work against rugby becoming more popular in the states. They think we should wrap everyone in pads and blow the whistle whenever someone falls down. Oh wait….America already has that sport…..
But seriously, rugby is gritty but it is definitely a gentleman’s sport. You may think it is a game of the rough and uneducated masses, but actually soccer (aka, football) is the sport of the common man in England. The preppies are the ones who play rugby. And no one knows this better than clothing mogul Ralph Lauren. From the mind of Ralph Lauren, who brought you the line of sportswear named Polo and sold on Polo.com, comes a line of exclusive youth clothing dubbed simply Rugby which is aimed at the college-aged young adult and is sold in exclusive high-end stores and on Rugby.com. Polo and rugby — both preppy sports, but both are dangerous and can seriously mess you up.
I’ve been feeling collegiate lately, so I stopped by the Rugby Ralph Lauren store in University Village in Seattle. I’ve been yearning for my alma mater. Well, both alma maters actually. At 32, it’s been 5 years since grad school at Washington and almost 10 years since my undergrad at Brigham Young. So I’ve been getting messages about reunions and get-togethers, and autumn always makes me think about heading back to school anyway. The leaves, the grass, and rainy football games waiting for the first snows and the signs that ski season is approaching. So when I stopped in at the Rugby Ralph Lauren store, I was already feeling nostalgic.
Then I saw all the rugby jerseys — real quality rugby jerseys — and I knew I’d have to pick one up for old times’ sake. I played a bit in college and for clubs, and I’ve had brothers & friends that have won national rugby championships and played for the US team. It’s always had a really special spot for me. So I looked with a discerning eye, and yes these rugby jerseys are play-able —– not just fashion pieces. Sure, they are lined up right next to wool sweaters and pique polo shirts. But the rugby jerseys really are solid. Never mind that many of the big teams now play in non-collared, fitted jerseys. I suppose Rugby by Ralph Lauren is more about the whole ivy league vibe, of which Rugby is a big part — so I guess that vibe & nostalgia are the reasons they went with the classic rugby jersey style.
And I guess I’m just glad that this is one more small step to making rugby more mainstream in the US.
The only downfall to all of this: some of the models in the Rugby by Ralph Lauren ads don’t know how to get in a scrum. So it’s a little embarrassing to watch the promo videos where they are trying so seriously, but then pretend to get in a huddle and act like it’s a scrum (obviously influenced by American football). But oh well — in America most rugby players come from a football or soccer background and have to re-learn some things anyway….so the embarrassment is minimal and it’s a small price to pay to have rugby become just that much more mainstream in the public eye. I hope that Rugby by Ralph Lauren just crushes all the Abercrombie-type stores out there, because at least Rugby by Ralph Lauren is trying to be true to the strong heritage of all the great prep sports like rugby, field hockey, and lacrosse. They are getting it right, in my opinion — not just image-conscious youngsters who are wearing Abercrombie and pretending to be cool. Real athletes are always cooler than pretend athletes.