Newsweek: Preppy Look is Racist, Classist

Sameer Reddy, Newsweek | NewsBusters.orgLeave it to the liberal print media to find some way to kill everyone's Olympics buzz.

For instance, did you know that the choice by the U.S. Olympic Committee to have Ralph Lauren stitch the threads for Team USA's opening ceremonies uniform was an unfortunate nod to racism and classism and a futile, nostalgic clinging to America's waning WASP empire? That according to Sameer Reddy (pictured at right, photo via Newsweek) in an August 20 online exclusive for Newsweek (emphasis mine):

The biggest sports-related news stateside has been the redesign of the U.S. uniforms by Ralph Lauren, who took the reins from Canadian company Roots. Lauren has built an empire by becoming the unofficial outfitter of the American Dream, marketing an idealized image of America's former ruling class to the nation at large. However, the WASP aesthetic he sells-think of characters from "The Great Gatsby," clothed in tennis whites and delicate tea dresses-has come to represent a classist and racist set of ideals, hardly representative of the current multicultural social fabric of the United States. A strange choice then, to redefine the U.S. team's visual identity in this way, even as it marches further away from the 20th century, when WASP power reached its peak. But if one stops to consider America's shaky status as the world's preeminent superpower, Lauren's nostalgic, retro creations begin to make more sense.

It gets better. Reddy anticipates "social conservatives" and other rubes would "probably fail" to see the coded political messages Ralph Lauren's clothing line brings to the Olympics. For good measure Reddy also accuses Lauren of being a traitor of sorts to his roots as a Jewish boy from the Bronx (emphasis mine):

Social conservatives would probably fail to read anything insidious into these outfits-after all, at least the U.S. team looked pulled-together and semi-formal-but the clothes, in and of themselves, are not the problem. The issue is that the Polo brand is built upon an aesthetic intended to communicate to the world, the wearer's successful assimilation into the traditional institutions of upwardly-mobile American culture-the elitist world of typically WASP-only country clubs, prep schools and cotillions. (Never mind that Ralph Lauren, née Lifshitz, was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants who most certainly would not have been allowed into the country clubs that many of his designs seem destined for.)

Perhaps Reddy's problem is more that Ralph Lauren doesn't buy into Reddy's bitter America-phobic rhetoric. But I guess as a social conservative I'm just too dumb to see that clothes really do make "The Man."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters