TOP: Cotton Peak Lapel suit ($1,595) and dress shirt ($275), Ralph Lauren Black Label, and large rose-gold Stirrup timepiece ($23,000),Polo Ralph LaurenBal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-861-2059. Right: Cashmere sweater ($595), Ralph Lauren Black Label, and jeans ($95) and large rose-gold Stirrup watch ($23,000), Polo Ralph LaurenBal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-861-2059.Necklaces, Figueras’ own

Somewhere in the hills of Argentina, a young boy may be running around in quite the priceless polo shirt. “I’ve been looking for it like crazy,” says Ignacio Figueras, the renowned polo player best known by his nickname, Nacho. “But my mother, I know she likes to give things to church, the clothes we don’t wear anymore. So I’m sure a little boy somewhere is really using that shirt. It’s OK, he needs it more than me.”

Given to Figueras when he was just nine years old, the shirt in question was emerald green with white stripes and emblazoned with a logo that ultimately would play an integral role in this boy’s life: Polo Ralph Lauren. “My uncle lived in San Diego at the time and brought me this shirt, and it just became my favorite thing in the world,” Figueras remembers. “Because Ralph Lauren had adopted the polo player as his logo and I was already playing polo, I just thought that was the coolest thing. When I was a little older and had a little money, the first thing I bought was the classic Polo fragrance in the green bottle. I might have been a little too young to be wearing it, but I didn’t care.”

At 33, Nacho Figueras is enjoying the symmetry of that youthful adoration and his current role as the face of Lauren’s Polo fragrances. Partly thanks to the exposure afforded by this high-profile gig, Figueras is polo’s undeniable rock star, the “stud of steeds” in this sport of kings, albeit one with a lofty goal in mind: for you and me to think of polo not as a princely pursuit, but as a game for common folk to enjoy, as well. Notwithstanding the fact that he treks around the globe on the polo circuit and rubs elbows with Princes William and Harry, Figueras is bound and determined to shepherd polo into the mainstream. “People tend to think of polo as something unachievable, the idea of ‘I’m not invited.’ That’s an incredible myth,” he says. “I see it as a bridge between the classes. Look at me: I’m a middle-class kid from Argentina who plays with Prince Harry. So to me, polo is exactly what people don’t think it is: this perfect salad of class and race and women and kids and animals. It’s a fusion of things, no?”

Well, yes, though it doesn’t hurt that Figueras’ classic Latin looks, when combined with his athletic play, were noticed 11 years ago by Kelly Klein, who in turn introduced him to Bruce Weber, who knew Figueras was an ideal fit for the Lauren brand. “Nacho is the perfect image [for us],” affirms David Lauren, son of Ralph and a senior vice president of Polo Ralph Lauren. “He’s the real deal; you see him in the magazine, then playing on the polo field. He really captures your imagination and has not only helped bring the sport of polo to life, but also brings a spirit that resonates for our brands.”

The transition from polo player to model was not a difficult one thanks to Weber, Figueras says. “From day one he told me, ‘I’m photographing a polo player, so be yourself.’ Bruce has always been very clear that I should be who I am, so I don’t feel any different than when I’m on a horse,” he notes. “I give the most when I’m playing, and those same emotions and feelings going through my mind of ‘win this game’ are very similar when it’s time to take the picture. Then it’s, ‘Let’s show the world what this sport is all about.’ I like being an ambassador and representing the sport, and in my mind, it all connects together.”

Figueras was coming off a weekend of play in Wellington in early February as he discussed this philosophy. His Black Watch team, for which Figueras is captain, plays in Palm Beach during the winter and in Bridgehampton during the summer. “While Bridgehampton was a bit more ahead in terms of quality of play in the beginning, I think Palm Beach has caught up in recent years, and the level of play is very similar,” he says. “There are definitely more polo fields here in Palm Beach than in Bridgehampton. But you do see a lot of the same people.”

Indeed, you’ll also see more women at the matches since Figueras’ stature began to rise in the sport, but if his looks help drive polo, that’s fine by him, he says. Which isn’t to say that Nacho-mania is rooted in female fans: His official Black Watch shirt—adorned with the team’s St. Andrew’s seal and Figueras’ number, 2—is, at $125, a consistent best seller for the Polo brand (Lauren became an official sponsor of the Black Watch team in 2007). “I get pictures from people all over the world: a guy in Korea wearing the Black Watch shirt,” Figueras says. “A friend was at the Olympics in China and sent me a photo: ‘Look at this guy wearing Black Watch.’ I’m amazed by it and proud of it, also because the team shirt has changed very little in 14 years.”

Also unchanged is what Figueras likes to do in his off-hours. Given the white-hot attention that accompanies such a career, it would be too easy to hit all the requisite parties and red carpets—but such pursuits interest him little, he says. “We live in Wellington, an equestrian community; I don’t live on Worth Avenue,” says Figueras, who is married to former model Delfina Blaquier; the couple has three children: Hilario, Aurora and Artemio. “My barn is next door, and it’s a family community of polo players. We ride bicycles, we swim in the pool, sometimes Delfie takes the kids to the beach. If we go anywhere, it’s to our breeding farm in Argentina, about 45 minutes outside Buenos Aires. If we go into the city, there’s a good chance they’re looking at Delfie and not me.”

Likely it’s this grounded spirit that keeps Figueras focused not on putting himself into the spotlight, but rather the sport he loves so much. He’s planning a June 27 match on New York’s Governor’s Island, a repeat of an event with Prince Harry among the players as a benefit for the prince’s charity, Sentebale, which raises funds and awareness for the children of Lesotho in South Africa. “One side of the field will be VIP, but the other side will be general admission. Last year we had almost 5,000 people,” Figueras says. “I want to go back to the old days of thinking that polo is a fun thing to do with your family. I’m working on a similar event in LA, to bring polo right into Los Angeles, like it used to be in the 1920s.”

From there the goal is international: polo-for-the-people matches in Paris or Rio de Janeiro, Figueras says. And you believe him, just like you believe he’ll never stop looking for that longdiscarded shirt. “I’ve always believed that I looked for that relationship, for that perfect person who could help me take my sport to the next level,” Figueras says. “And who could have been better than Ralph Lauren? Things happen for a reason, right?”

TOP LEFT: Delfina and Nacho Figueras; BOTTOM: Nacho and Prince Harry

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