Nestled next to the River Eske in Donegal, Ireland, lies the family-owned Magee mill, founded by John Magee in 1866. Now run by his grand-nephew Lynn Temple, Magee has for generations produced some of the world’s finest tweeds, many of which were developed exclusively in partnership with Ralph Lauren over a relationship that spans five decades, back to the very early days of Polo. Every fabric Magee has produced for Ralph Lauren is special, but one stands apart.
A timeless wool herringbone, it combines the hard-wearing character of the finest Irish tweeds with a perfect medium weight and an unexpected suppleness. It’s a beautiful fabric, made even more special by the garment it was developed for: the RL67 sport coat, new for Fall 2018. With its traditional baffle pockets, 3¼-inch lapels, center vent, throat latch, and tartan undercollar, the American-made RL67 is the essential tweed jacket—and it is directly modeled after one of Ralph Lauren’s own all-time favorite wardrobe items, which he has worn regularly since he acquired it back in 1971.
The iconic New York photo of Ralph in jeans, cowboy boots, a denim shirt, and a tweed jacket, which appeared in ads launching the Polo fragrance in 1978? That’s the jacket. It was in a Today show appearance that same year, when Ralph wore a similar outfit for an interview with Tom Brokaw, who commented on the unexpectedness of a man wearing cowboy boots and denim with traditional tweed. Brokaw never went very far as a fashion critic, but he did have a point: The pairing of Western and English influences was a daring style move at the time—and one that says everything about Ralph’s inventive and unswerving approach to personal style.
That original jacket also spoke to Ralph’s long-standing commitment to quality. “It’s about 7 years old and looks as good today as it did years ago,” he told Brokaw. “Things get better as they get older, and have a little bit of character and spirit.” The jacket “was a real statement about what Ralph believed clothes should be, about personal expression of style and not about the fashion of the moment,” says Buffy Birrittella, who has worked alongside Ralph for decades as an executive in design and advertising. “That’s the longevity of the jacket.”
- Magee and Donegal, Ireland Photos by Michael Williams
- Ralph Lauren in 1978 by Les Goldberg