Ralph Lauren (born October 14, 1939) is an American fashion designer and business executive; best known for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand.
Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz in The Bronx, New York, to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, from Pinsk, Belarus: Fraydl (née Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter.
Ralph attended the Salanter Academy Jewish Day School followed by MTA (now known as the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy), before eventually graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1957. 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. During the summer, Ralph attended Camp Roosevelt (Monticello).
At the age of 16, Ralph's brother Terry (who was his guardian) changed their last name to Lauren to avoid the unfortunate obscenity reference Lifshitz has in English (although Ralph's brother Lenny retained the name). Apparently Ralph was teased about it in school. “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 purchased the name from Hilton.