Lacoste – a global clothing brand born in 1933, on the tennis court
Worth $1 billion, Lacoste is a high-end men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing brand with a legacy extending over 88 years.
Originating in France, the prestigious brand has almost 1,100 stores around the world, including more than 500 in Asia and the Asia Pacific (Statista).
Lacoste was founded by René Lacoste, a 29-year old French tennis player nicknamed The Crocodile.
This is his story.
René Lacoste, the best tennis player in the world (1927-1928)
A gifted student at the Polytechnic School in Paris, René is very passionate about tennis, spending almost all his time playing tennis.
His passion finally led him to abandon his studies and work hard on achieving his dream – becoming the best tennis player in the world.
René is not particularly talented. But what he lacks in talent, he makes up for in strategy.
A brilliant mind, René studies the game and his opponents to find game strategies to wear them out and beat them on the court. His undeterred determination and will of steel give him an ace up his sleeve in all his matches.
Playing against the US national tennis champion Bill Tilden, René returns all his shots implacably. After losing to Lacoste in 1927, Tilden remarked, “I never played better. That Frenchman is a machine.”
Training tirelessly to hone his strength, precision and concentration, René went on to win seven major singles tournaments and achieve his dream. He was part of The Four Musketeers, the winning French team that took the Davis Cup in 1927 and 1928.
I was not incredibly talented or very robust, but I was an inventor and I could invent shots that bothered my opponents.
The Lacoste crocodile was born on the tennis court
In 1923, René was a young tennis prodigy, only 19. He was playing for Team France at the Davis Cup competition which was held in Boston, USA. An American sports journalist watched René playing on the tennis court. His style made a big impression on the journalist: he was tenacious, relentless and “chewed up his opponents slowly”, just like a crocodile.
René liked the nickname so much, starting in 1927, he had it embroidered on his blazers and tennis shirts.
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René Lacoste designed the comfortable polo shirt
Before Lacoste, tennis meant long-sleeve shirts, pleated trousers and belted waists. In his effort to optimize his game and be the best he could be on the court, he defied the conventional tennis attire and designed a new polo shirt.
René’s polo shirt had short sleeves and was made of Petit Piqué, a finely honeycombed fabric that enables air to circulate freely. Breathable and lightweight, this fabric ensures comfort, ease of movement and elegance.
Inventor of the tennis ball machine and the steel tennis racket
Training hard to become the best in the world, René was looking for ways to improve his game and techniques. So he invents the tennis ball machine, a device that fires tennis balls with calibrated force to help a player practice alone. Eighty years later, tennis players still use the tennis ball machine to train.
The metal tennis racket is also one of René’s famous inventions. In his time, tennis players played with wooden rackets. Unsatisfied with his racket, René sculpted the handle and covered it with surgical tape to get a better grip.
As a true visionary, he patented a shock absorber inserted between the strings on rackets in 1960, followed by a steel racket in 1963. The steel tennis racquet was bought by Wilson and went on to win 46 Grand Slam titles between 1966 and 1978. He continued to innovate, filing more than thirty patents over his lifetime.
Inventor! If I had to print a title on my business card, this would be it. I have been inventing all my life.
From international tennis player to a brilliant brand builder
In 1929, and at the age of just 24, Lacoste was forced to hang up his racket due to respiratory disease. He couldn’t play tennis any longer, but that was okay because his greatest asset was not his talent, but his mind.
Four years later, he founded Lacoste Company with André Gillier and brought his polo shirt from the tennis court to high street shops.
The Lacoste polo shirt was instantly recognizable by the crocodile embroidered above the heart which makes Lacoste the first brand to display a visible logo on an article of clothing.
Lacoste in 2021 – innovation marks the return of the crocodile
This year, Lacoste introduced AG-LT21 Ultra, an innovative shoe designed to promote speed, stability and agility on the court. The shoe is based on technologies developed by the House which ensure stability and energy return, rebound to support all the movements and Goodyear rubber for optimal grip on all surfaces.
With this performance shoe, Lacoste is renewing its historic commitment to top-level athletes and the production of high-performance footwear.