The Timeless Evolution: How Lacoste Polo Shirts Transformed Fashion Over 90 Years

The history of Lacoste polo shirts is a tale of innovation, rebellion against tradition, and the enduring influence of a French tennis legend, René Lacoste. In 1933, Lacoste introduced a revolutionary polo shirt that challenged the conventional attire of tennis players. This flexible, lightweight garment, crafted from "petit piqué" cotton, not only transformed the tennis court but also laid the foundation for a brand that would become a pioneer in the fashion world.

Lacoste's Innovation

Origins of the Polo Shirt

The roots of the polo shirt can be traced to British soldiers engaging in polo matches in India during the 19th century. Initially, polo shirts were long-sleeved, thick cotton garments buttoned up to the neck, hindering movement on horseback. The transformation of the polo shirt began in the 1920s when tennis player Jean Rene Lacoste sought to create a more comfortable and practical alternative for athletes.

In the 1920s, René Lacoste pioneered the creation of his tennis shirt, drawing inspiration from polo shirts. Departing from the traditional tennis sweaters worn during that era, Lacoste made significant modifications by eliminating the long sleeves and buttons. Instead, he opted for his shirts' lightweight and breathable piqué material, addressing the impracticality and heat associated with tennis sweaters. This innovation marked a pivotal moment in sportswear, paving the way for the iconic Lacoste tennis shirt design.

René Lacoste earned the nickname "The Crocodile," so it seemed only fitting to adopt the crocodile as his logo. The origins of this peculiar moniker are somewhat elusive. Some accounts suggest that Lacoste acquired the nickname after wagering a crocodile leather bag on the outcome of a match. Alternatively, it has been proposed that Lacoste's long nose might have contributed to its association with a crocodile. The exact reason remains uncertain, adding a touch of mystery to the legendary connection between René Lacoste and the iconic crocodile logo.

Lacoste's Innovation

Jean Rene Lacoste's vision for a comfortable and functional polo shirt led to the creation of a design featuring cotton petit piqué, short sleeves, an unstarched traditional polo collar, and two buttons at the neckline. The shirt gained rapid popularity among tennis players, prompting Lacoste to establish his "Le Chemise Lacoste" clothing line in 1933. This marked the birth of the iconic Lacoste polo shirt, appreciated for its functionality, comfort, and style.

Lacoste adheres to a traditional two-needle knitting technique in their manufacturing process, emphasizing a commitment to quality. They assert the use of long-staple cotton for the thread, aiming to enhance the overall durability of their polo shirts. While specific details about the thread strength and manufacturing processes are not extensively disclosed, Lacoste focuses on conveying the essence of their brand rather than delving into intricate details about the composition of the polo shirt. The emphasis is on the enduring quality of the product and the brand's reputation.

Jean Rene Lacoste's Legacy

Jean Rene Lacoste, a distinguished French tennis player, revolutionized athletic wear and left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. Despite a successful tennis career, Lacoste retired at 29 due to health issues but continued contributing to sports and fashion. His legacy includes founding Le Chemise Lacoste and serving as the president of the International Tennis Federation. 

The Crocodile Logo

Lacoste pioneered the concept of featuring a distinct logo on polo shirts, debuting the iconic green crocodile. This trend was later adopted by brands like Fred Perry, who incorporated a wreath, and Ralph Lauren, known for the horse icon, establishing it as a standard in smart-casual wear. The choice of a crocodile as Lacoste's emblem was inspired by René Lacoste's on-court persona – renowned for his aggression and tenacity, he earned the nickname 'alligator,' which later transformed into 'crocodile.' The legendary crocodile logo, born from a bet and a cartoon, became synonymous with both Lacoste's brand and their timeless polo shirts.

Expansion and Partnerships

Le Chemise Lacoste expanded its product line beyond polo shirts, introducing shorts, skirts, dresses, and accessories. The brand's association with tennis players, including Bill Tilden and Novak Djokovic, elevated Lacoste to a symbol of elegance and sophistication in athletic apparel. The collaboration with tennis tournaments like Wimbledon further solidified Lacoste's status as a top sporting brand.

Evolution of Lacoste Fashion

Lacoste's fashion evolved beyond sports, becoming a versatile staple in wardrobes worldwide. The brand's commitment to timeless and classic designs and sustainability practices contributed to its enduring popularity. Lacoste Men's Matching Sets, polo shirts, dresses, skirts, trousers, shorts, and accessories cater to a diverse audience of all ages.

The Lacoste Polo: A Timeless Classic

The Lacoste polo, introduced in 1933, is unparalleled in design and functionality. Unlike many fashion trends that fade, the Lacoste polo has retained its charm for over 90 years. The petit piqué cotton used in crafting the shirts withstands daily use, making them durable and comfortable. Lacoste's ability to balance tradition with modernity has led to collaborations with contemporary brands, reaffirming the polo shirt's cool and versatile status.
Collaborations with brands like Sporty & Rich have redefined the polo shirt's appeal, again making it fashionable. Lacoste's rich history, combined with its commitment to quality, positions the brand at the intersection of tradition and contemporary style.

Styling Lacoste Polo Shirts

The ideal approach to styling a Lacoste polo shirt for a sophisticated and timeless look is smart-casual, aligning with its original design intent. This season, consider a classic ensemble by pairing your Lacoste polo with a lightweight blazer and complementing it with dark-wash jeans. Opt for a colorway in red, white, or green to enhance this ensemble's refined and versatile appeal.

The Lacoste polo shirt is a testament to the marriage of innovation, functionality, and enduring style. René Lacoste's rebellious spirit and commitment to creating sportswear transcending the court have shaped the fashion landscape for nearly a century. The Lacoste polo's timeless design, iconic logo, and versatility continue to make it a wardrobe staple, proving that some things only get better with age. As Lacoste remains at the forefront of the fashion industry, it invites individuals to rediscover the classic appeal of the polo shirt and embrace its enduring coolness.

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About the Author

Stella Cooter

Journalist, traveller and mother, Stella writes about fashion and style, luxury and adventure.

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