Where the Iconic croc came from
Officially founded in 1933 by René Lacoste world number one Tennis player at the time, finding sport attire at the time restrictive he came up with an idea, which has revolutionised not just sports but fashion as a whole.
Some believe that he came up with the idea of the iconic shirt based on English Polo players (hence the name ‘Polo shirt’) emulated by John Brookes, origionally called Tennis shirts around the same time René was nicknamed the alligator by both fans and the media alike, although the reasons for this are speculative some saying it was his tenacity on court, a bet or even his famously pointy nose he took the nickname with pride embroiding the reptile on his blazer, this truly was personal branding before the concept existed.
Searching for more practical and suitable attire he told people magazine in 1979:
“One day I noticed my friend the Marquis of Cholmondeley wearing his polo shirt on the court – ‘A practical idea,’ I thought to myself. Soon everyone was wearing them.”
Upon his retirement René founded La Chemise Lacoste with an old friend André Gillier president of the largest French knitwear company at the time, producing and selling Crocodile embroidered shirts to thousands within their first few years notably down to their use of the innovative pique’ cotton which adds breathability while playing without the sacrifice of strength things such as seersucker give, in 1952 they expanded and entered the US in partnership with Izod becoming Izod Lacoste.
Initially the brand was a flop in America, with a smaller number of people who knew who Lacoste were and an even smaller number of people in early 50s America willing to buy an expensive Polo shirt with a Crocodile on the chest.
Vincet De Paul Draddy came up with one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history for the brand, he provided free Izod Lacoste clothing to all the most famous people of the era including president Eisenhower, JFK and Bing Cosby the shirts begun flying out of stores, with everyone wanting to emulate their favourite stars.
In the 70s & 80s the brand spanned all age groups, especially growing in popularity among the young the ‘preppy’ look took hold popping the collar and assuming the Biff and Muffy look the shirts were featured prominently in the Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach for more information on how the Izod Shirt was key in achieving the look look to Three 6 Mafias “poppin’ my collar”
By the 90s the trend of Preppy popped collar kids had waned, the two partners went their separate ways with Izod ditching the crocodile and Lacoste moving more upscale as a brand.
Over the years there have been many admirers, copies and those taking inspiration from the iconic lifestyle clothing brand, many companies now embroidered animals on their shirts including the horse (Ralph Lauren), Eagle (American Eagle) and the penguin (Original penguin) cementing the brands status in fashion history as one of the true trend setters.
(An example of some of the brands known to imitate Lacoste)
Where is sits now
As one of the iconic heretic brands still producing only high quality garments under the management of the children of René among others the brands history still influences its present marketing and production, with every garment still using high quality 100% cotton and mother of pearl buttons on their classic polo they retain that quality expected from the premium manufacturers.
Since French designer Christophe Lemaire began his work the brand has surged in popularity selling over 50 million products in 110 different countries the brand has sought to capture the modern trend of colourful but minimal clothing, gaining partnerships with many world famous sports stars including Swiss gold medallist Stanislas Wawrinka.
Endorsing a number of celebrities in its time, such as Tennis star Aqndy Roddick and Richard Gasquet the polo has become the staple of a modern man’s wardrobe shooting up in popularity with Daniel Craig wearing one as James Bond in Spectre – strengthening the suave, elegant aesthetic that comes only with a Lacoste original.
In 2017 tennis player Novak Djokovic was named their brand ambassador appearing in several tv advertisements.
In Working with over 15 charitable foundations the Lacoste foundation has used its massive brand profile to support over 60,000 young people though sports and other activities to try and get them on the right path.