René Lacoste – The man behind the crocodile


René Lacoste was not only a successful tennis player, but also an innovative fashion designer who revolutionized the world of sportswear. His most famous legacy is the Lacoste polo shirt with the green crocodile logo, which remains a symbol of elegance and style to this day. But how did a French athlete become a global fashion entrepreneur?

René Lacoste was born in Paris in 1904 and discovered his passion for tennis at an early age. He was a talented and ambitious player who was not constrained by the conventions of his time. He trained hard and developed an aggressive style of play that earned him the nickname “The Crocodile.” He won several Grand Slam tournaments, including the French Open three times, Wimbledon twice and the US Open twice. He was also part of the legendary “Four Musketeers” team that secured the Davis Cup for France six times.

But Lacoste was a pioneer not only on the tennis court, but also in the wardrobe. He was unhappy with the traditional white shirts and long pants worn by tennis players at the time. He felt they were too stiff, too warm, and too restrictive to his movements. He looked for an alternative that was more comfortable, breathable and practical. He took inspiration from a polo shirt he had seen at a polo match in England and designed his own in soft cotton pique fabric. He added a ribbed collar that he could fold up to protect his neck from the sun, as well as a short button placket and short sleeves. He embroidered the shirt with a small crocodile logo that reflected his nicknames.

Lacoste wore his polo shirt for the first time at the 1926 US Open, causing quite a stir. Not only did he win the tournament, but he also won the admiration of spectators and the press for his innovative look. He began distributing his polo shirt to his friends and colleagues, who also appreciated it. He realized the potential of his design and in 1933, together with his friend and business partner Andre Gillier, he founded the Lacoste company to mass produce and market his polo shirt.

Lacoste polo shirt quickly became a success and a must-have for every tennis player. But it was also worn by other athletes and celebrities who liked its casual and elegant style. It spread beyond the borders of France and conquered the markets in Europe and America. It was offered in different colors and sizes and featured different logos. It became a classic in sportswear and later in casual fashion.

After Lacoste retired from tennis, but remained active in the fashion industry. He invented other products, such as the first metal tennis racket. He was also involved in the development of perfume, leather goods, eyewear and watches. He managed his company until 1964, when he handed it over to his son Bernard. He died in 1996 at the age of 92. He left behind a brand that to this day stands for quality, innovation and elegance. He was the man behind the crocodile.

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