Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz, October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive, best known for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand. After dropping out of college where he had been studying business, he ultimately established a highly successful, international corporation producing billions in revenues. In later years, he became well-known for his collection of rare automobiles, some of which have been displayed in museum exhibits.
Ralph Lauren (pronounced loren) was born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx, New York, to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, from Pinsk, Poland (now Belarus): Fraydl (née Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter.
Lauren attended the John Jay College Jewish Day School followed by MTA (now known as the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy), before eventually graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957. Ralph Lauren also had other, strong childhood heroes, such as John F. Kennedy and James Stewart, hoping to acquire a "movie star" type of personality. In MTA Lauren was known by his classmates for selling ties to his fellow students. In a moment of spontaneity, when asked what he wanted to do in his Clinton yearbook he stated under his picture that he wanted to be a millionaire.
Ralph Lauren's family name was originally Lifschitz, but his father changed it to Lauren when Ralph was 15 years old. “My given name has the word shit in it,” he told Oprah Winfrey. “When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That's why I decided to change it. Then people said, "Did you change your name because you don't want to be Jewish?" I said, "Absolutely not. That's not what it's about. My cousins who lived in California had changed their last name to Lawrence. So I just thought, "I'm going to pick a nice last name"—it wasn't particularly connected to anything or anyone."
He went to Baruch College where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army. He did not attend fashion school, but worked for Brooks Brothers as a salesman. In 1967, with the financial backing of Manhattan clothing manufacturer Norman Hilton, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label "Polo." He later received the rights to use the trademark Polo from Brooks Brothers. In 1971, he expanded his line and opened a Polo boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.