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For those not familiar, the Lo-Lifes are a gang in Brooklyn that only dress in Polo Ralph Lauren. The Guardian has an interview with Brayden Olson, a photographer who's been documenting the gang for the past few months. Embedded in the story is also a trailer from a 2007 Lo-Life documentary, which introduces them like this: "In 1988, a gang of Brooklyn youths formed around Lauren's POLO brand. Their goal was accumulation, by any means necessary, of POLO clothes and accessories."
In it, hip-hop artist Thirstin Howl III says that before the Lo-Lifes, there were groups of "Polo cliques" and "Ralphie's Kids." And unlike other gangs who have chosen to just narrow in on one color, the Lo-Lifes (which, if you haven't deduced, is a shortening of the word "polo") have chosen a brand. Just one, and they had to wear a lot of it. The Guardian states that "it was not sufficient just to wear one Ralph Lauren item; Lo-Lifes had to be dressed head-to-toe in the brand."
From the interview:
What was the most extravagant outfit you saw on a member of the gang?
I would have to say the full-body Yellow Rain Suit just because it is completely ridiculous. It's like high-end fishing gear.
Did they take you out clothes shopping while you were with them?
No, but I did get to browse some personal collections. They keep most of their items in zip lock bags and plastic protective covers – it's pretty intense. One day when I was shooting it was super hot and they didn't want to wear certain pieces because they were afraid they might sweat and ruin them. I have been getting texts from a few of these guys complaining to me that they ruined some valuable pieces while shooting.
But it seems that it's not just all about flash. Olson says that their favorite collections are from "the late 80s early 90s because that's when they were really getting down to collect as much gear as they could. I would say that's the most sentimental era for them."
· The New York gang that only wears Ralph Lauren [Guardian UK]
· Lo-Lifes Documentary Trailer [YouTube]