Ralph Lauren was born as Ralph Rueben Lifshitz in The Bronx, New York to Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Belarus: Fraydl (Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter. From a young age he started working after school to earn money to buy suits.
Ralph Lifshitz 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 his Clinton yearbook he stated under his picture that he wanted to be a millionaire. At the age of 16, Ralph's brother Jerry changed their last name from Lifshitz to Lauren (although Ralph's brother Lenny retained the name Lifshitz). In the summertime Ralph Lifshitz attended Camp Roosevelt (Monticello)
He went to the Baruch School of Business and Civic Administration of the City College of New York (now known as Baruch College) where he studied business, although he dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964 he served in the United States Army. After his discharge in 1968, he married Ricky Low-Beer. He did not attend fashion school, but worked for Brooks Brothers as a salesman. In 1967, with the financial backing of 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.
Ralph Lauren really must have been a cool guy.