For this season, Ralph Lauren's Polo collection shelved the cinematic fantasy of seasons past in favor of an idealized vintage Americana. Hard not to interpret that as a comment on the present state of the nation. There was also an unambiguous masculinity to the clothes, which was only reinforced by the absence of the little twists that usually illuminate Polo (unless the Leopold and Loeb vibe of the Roaring Twenties college boys counted). This season, those twists could be found at the other end of the Lauren spectrum, in the top-of-the-line Purple Label, with its flamboyant color scheme (to wit : fuchsia herringbone, a strawberry blazer, and radical orange cords). This was Ralph’s Edwardian gentleman at work and play : high, cutaway collars and fob chains for the city; Fair Isles and plaids for a Highland hike. Sitting somewhere in the mid-Atlantic between Polo and Purple is the Black Label, with its lean, linear international look. Black indeed, except Fall 2008 brought some hard-core flourishes : a little military detailing in a camouflage puffer and slim-line combats, or a red cashmere sweater embroidered with Chinese characters spelling “warrior”. How’s that for an artful recognition of new market realities ?