Between his Black and Purple labels and Polo, Ralph Lauren is aiming to dress all ages of men in all corners of the globe. If such a goal threatens mainstream blandness in theory, it's anything but in practice. That's partly because Lauren's collections for men are so cinematic in their scope that they're high on entertainment value, and partly because they're so artfully abreast of current notions that they're equally high on fashion. Black Label's spring suits, for instance, have a sleeker, leaner silhouette, and color is introduced in the shirtings and knitwear. The top-of-the-range Purple Label also trims the silhouette, with a skinnier pant and a shorter jacket. Even if the fabrics used are heavily luxurious, there's a light touch in the way a white shantung evening jacket, say, is paired with a tuxedo shirt whose front is striped as well as more conventionally pleated.

But if Lauren is catering to the professional with Black and the connoisseur with Purple, Polo is like a pop-up book of playful possibilities. One group, called "Loden and White," is the designer's revisionist take on classic safari: Again, the shorter lengths, higher armhole, and slightly shrunken proportions, but these clothes also look like they've been across the Sahara and back. One jacket is frayed, with madras lining showing through the tatters. Another, in oilcloth, is cropped short like a pilot's. The group labeled "Savannah" features a suit in cream herringbone linen. Pair it with the pique waistcoat, and you've got an outfit that begs for Big Daddy and a julep. And we haven't even got to "Vineyard's" (as in Martha's) patchwork madras pants, multicolored gingham shirts, and bee-embroidered chinos.