The name René Lacoste evokes images of timeless tennis style and of an era when tradition and history were revered as norms rather than as nostalgia for a bygone era. But Lacoste is more than just a logo or brand.
In the early days of tennis, standard attire was not unlike what many people would now wear to an office or even a more rarified social gathering. Think: long sleeve collared shirts, ties, and flannel pants. Rene Lacoste decided that there had to be a better way to dress for athletic pursuits. Though he had worn a shirt with a collar and extended back from around 1926 in the belief that tennis wear of the time was restrictive and stifling to wear, they were not made for the public. Lacoste founded Chemise Lacoste with partner André Gillier in 1933 after he had retired from the professional circuit. The shirt he designed became known as the tennis shirt as well as the “polo” shirt. In terms of design, the shirt was revolutionary in many ways. The piqué weave was more breathable, the collar could flip up to protect from sun damage, the sleeves would not roll down and the tennis tail would not come untucked. The crocodile embroidered on the shirts was a reference to Lacoste’s nickname on the tennis circuit. Often assumed to be an alligator, it is a cultural icon and globally recognized and imitated.
The Lacoste legacy isn’t only in clothing. 1961 marked the gradual beginning of the end for wood tennis racquets. Lacoste debuted a revolutionary new design in the first tubular steel racquet. While it bore the Lacoste brand in Europe, in America it was licensed and sold by Wilson Sporting Goods as the Wilson T-2000 and was most famously used by Jimmy Connors.
Currently, Lacoste is a global brand that sponsors many top tennis pros, outfitting them with their timeless and classic sporting wear. Novak Djokovic, Roberto Bautista Agut, Benoit Paire, Pablo Cuevas, and Jeremy Chardy all hit the courts in designs that carry on Rene Lacoste’s legacy of great style and clean lines.