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Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren Hardcover – January 21, 2003

20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like his previous book, Model, Gross's new work will undoubtedly be mined for the more gossipy nuggets embedded in his meticulous research and artful prose. This is a shame, because the crackerjack journalist simultaneously tells a compelling story and gives it meat enough to be satisfying. It does help, however, that his subject is intriguing enough to fill multiple volumes. Lauren (ne Lifshitz) embodied a certain kind of American dream from early childhood, a kid who didn't just want to be rich, but to be of the rich, a Jay Gatsby made manifest who didn't have a penny, but fantasized about expensive cars, lush vacation spots and preppy girls in loafers. Gross details Lauren's story chronologically, and with a resolute pace: the icon's tale of ambition and meteoric rise unfolds smoothly as the awkward Jewish boy grows into the personification of grim determination. Gross provides surprisingly little commentary, given the book's slightly bitter introduction about Lauren's ping-ponging relationship to the project. What Gross does offer is a rich portrait not just of Lauren, but of the Bronx in the early and mid-20th century, the type of class clash that transcends time or place and the effects of ambition on a teenager who hates his name and burns with desire whenever a Rolls-Royce cruises by. There are passages that will delight the celebrity-obsessed, but the full story is much richer. Most importantly, and delightfully, Gross delivers a portrait of a man who's constructed a flawless image, but whose real self is far more fascinating and deeply human. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The author of Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women explains how little Ralphie Lifshitz came to create the ultimate in WASP stylishness.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060199040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060199043
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Gross is one of America's most provocative non-fiction writers. A contributing editor of Travel + Leisure and columnist for Avenue, he's written for Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Town & Country,the New York Times and New York, and authored twelve books--novels, biographies and social histories--among them, Unreal Estate, a social history of the estate district of Los Angelesow in development as an HBO series, Rogues' Gallery, a history and expose of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the critically-acclaimed best-sellers Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women and 740 Park. He's just finished his next book, House of Outrageous Fortune, the story of 15 Central Park West and its residents. Atria Books will publish it next year.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 76 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Clearly, people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were." That's a quote that always appeared at the front of the J. Peterman catalogue--the one that was immortalized on "Seinfeld." It's an excellent piece of marketing advice, and Ralph Lauren understood it and capitalized on it. I'm stating the obvious.
First, I'll give credit to Ralph (Lifschitz) Lauren for being so clever as to repackage the classics and build an empire based on the Great WASP way of life--the one that so many people aspire to. It was brilliant, and if I had been the one to pull it off, I would smile all the way to the bank.
Secondly, I give well-deserved credit to Michael Gross for sweeping away the pixie dust and writing about what is actually behind this purveyor of "lifestyle goods." I wouldn't say that there are a great number of surprises; rather, the story he tells confirms (in detail) what most of us already know--that the fashion industry is so much smoke and mirrors, and why would Ralph be any different? He hasn't been innovative and shocking in the way that you see styles emerge from other designers, but he chose to reinvent himself and at the same time, package it all quite nicely and ready-to-consume by the insecure masses.
Michael Gross reveals that the real money in the Lauren company is made on khakis and polo shirts and that Ralph may be out of touch with who his customer really is. That polo shirt with the pony logo shows up on the backs of so many beefy, paunchy, male members of the corportate bourgeousie (middle class strivers) as opposed to those of the old Blue Book families for whom L.L. Bean is just fine, thank you.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Baird Jones on January 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have now read all of Michael Gross' books and each has been a pleasure - all I can ask is, "What next?" All the hallmarks of Gross' style are here, incredibly readable, covering a wide range of topics in a comfortable manner and with a sweeping sense of the history of the subject. Gross is equally at home in the technical details of the garment business, the sociocultural aspects of growing up Jewish in the Bronx and the aesthetics of high fashion photography and his tone is never shrill or polemic. I would have liked to have known more about Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein but at 369 pages the book is already weighty, and I absolutely loved every page on Lauren's childhood. I could have used a bit less business writing. But this is my bias. Who knows maybe there is another Gross book about to spring upon us about Hilfiger, whom Lauren repeatedly mispronounced Hilfinger early on, a perfect example of Gross' eye for the exquisite detail. Gross is a master at his trade and this book is a gem.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elena Marie on May 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew Ralph Lauren's Father and Mother in 1979. They were the sweetest most wonderful people. I met them in my Banking career.
Ralph's father Frank, was my customer and said he wanted to do something for me because he liked me. I told him I was
the one who appreciated him and Freida.He asked if I would accept a painting he was going to do for me. He brought me
in the most beautiful framed landscape painting. I was so shocked and humbled by the experience. It enhanced the decor of my home.
It was constant reminder of him. They moved back to New York and we use to keep in touch. Then I didn't hear from them anymore.
I was searching the internet to find anything I could to about them. I found this book "Genuine Authentic" by Michael Gross.
After reading some of the pages on Amazon I was hooked. I love this book because I am finding out what a truly amazing family
Ralph had. It's about how they struggled to survive in a difficult time. But how they valued their family. It takes place in the Bronx.
Michael Gross did a wonderful job of writing this book. It was a real challenge since he had his hands tied trying to interview Ralph's
family who tried to protect Ralph. Yet I could see how Ralph was born with a sense of style. He was driven. It was his passion.
It's no wonder how he became so successful.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
I agree with other reviewers who complained that there were not enough pictures and that one could hardly avoid getting confused about all of the different names in Gross's book. It probably is not Gross's fault but to write about Lauren without plentiful photographs is a disservice to any reader. Gotta give it to Gross though. His report is thorough. He deserves 4 stars. His publisher deserves 2 stars.
The book is well worth reading for the education it gives the reader about the clothing business and "designer" labels as well as the telling insights into RL himself. In short, RL has cashed in on the preppy WASP persona but, to this day, doesn't really "get it" himself. Upon being questioned about art in his "WASP" designed house, he cannot identify artists on his wall and brags that he just goes by "feel." Clearly, he doesn't understand that the way of life he imitates includes education and culture, neither of which he has to this very day.
The book is also a wonderful education for the clothes buyer. You know those outlet bargains? I guess they are not, since a whole line goes straight from the factory to the outlet. Did you think that you were the only one who did not buy the $100 blouse at the department store? Looks like no one else buys much either. The money gets made from those pique shirts. Buyer beware.
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