The History Of Lacoste

About René

René Lacoste. Tennis great or fashion icon? Perhaps both would be the correct answer. He claimed to be neither, just an inventor, he could invent shots that tricked his opponents and invent clothes that looked good.

Inspiration & Innovation

French-born René was at the peak of his game in around 1927, a time when sportswear wasn’t the most advanced. He found himself in search of a tennis outfit that would accommodate movement better. In 1979, talking to People magazine he said “One day I noticed my friend the Marquis of Cholmondeley wearing his polo shirt on the court,” remembers René. ” ‘A practical idea,’ I thought to myself.” It was so practical, in fact, that René commissioned an English tailor to whip up a few polo shirts in both cotton and wool. “Soon everyone was wearing them,”. This was true. After Lacoste was seen wearing a polo shirt and shorts on the court, almost no other athlete wore the blazer, cap and trousers outfit of old in future tournaments

Lacoste was once called “The Alligator” by the media at the American Open after he famously outbid the captain of the French Davis Cup team over a gator skin suitcase. His fans called him ‘The Crocodile’ instead, nobody is sure why they switched from alligator to crocodile, perhaps it’s because his European fanbase didn't want to endorse an American creature.

He loved the nickname and it suited him. His playstyle was full of vicious twists and turns and he was physically sizeable, as was his nose, much like his reptilian counterpart. The following season he returned in a blazer with an embroidered crocodile on the breast. This would go on to become the first ever personal brand for an athlete.

Expansion

In 1933, Lacoste began selling his own range of polo shirts to the European public. Although they weren’t the most profitable sellers as in that era, there was only a small segment of the population who could afford to spend big on a luxury polo shirt.

René began business in the States in 1952 after launching his first range of coloured shirts. In America, Lacoste partnered with an English manufacturer “Izod”. So the brand became known in America as “Izod Lacoste” or even just “Izod”. The polos had the same problem in the beginning as they struggled to win over the financial elite from the brands they already trusted. The shirts were sold for the equivalent of $75 in January 2018. After fearing bankruptcy, René’s partner, the CEO of Izod decided to pass some Lacoste shirts on to his good friends JFK and President Eisenhower. Once they were spotted wearing the shirts, popularity suddenly exploded and the shirts were on the shelves of most department stores. In a way, this was the birth of the preppy style of clothing as we know it today. Partnering a designer polo with formal trousers and shoes hadn’t been done before, creating a look that evoked the casual luxury enjoyed by the President.

In the 70s and 80s, Lacoste really blew up, school kids all over America were wearing monochrome polos, often with the collar popped. This was due to their low price, Lacoste shirts dropped in price massively in the late 70s and 80s for a reason that is said to be because of Izod. The brand wanted to cater to the mass market whereas Lacoste wanted to sell at a higher price point to the wealthy. Their disagreement led to the two firms splitting in 1993.

At the same time, across the pond in England, Lacoste was associated with a different crowd. Football casuals adopted the brand and it became a prestigious logo among the likes of Stone Island and Adidas. Lacoste's minimalist designs are still loved by the football community today.

Legacy

In 1996, René Lacoste passed away. His legacy continues to this day with Lacoste selling subtle shirts made from high-quality fibres. He changed tennis clothing forever, moving almost every player from trousers and sweatshirts to shorts and a polo shirt in a matter of 2 years. Tennis clothing arguably changed more in those 2 years than it has in the years since. Today, his classic polo and button-up shirts serve as a perfect option for both formal and casual attire.

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