Lacoste — the luxe sportswear company — is celebrating the 85th anniversary of its polo shirt with a new “crocodile” (alias, brand ambassador) and new bedding inspired by the iconic shirt.
Tennis star Novak Djokovic, WAG’s August 2013 cover guy, is the new croc and looks, with his spiky hair worn a bit longer, every bit as elegant and sophisticated as René Lacoste (1904-96), the French-born founder of the eponymous brand who helped galvanize men’s tennis in the 1920s and early ’30s with his sparkling baseline game. From 1925 to ’29, he won Grand Slam titles at the American, French and British championships. He and countrymen Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon and Henri Cochet were known as the Four Musketeers of the court. Together, they brought the Davis Cup home to France in 1927 and ’28 (and were immortalized with a new stadium, Roland-Garros in Paris, in the process).
But Lacoste also had the spirit of an entrepreneur.
“Inventor should be on my business cards,” the Lacoste website quotes him as saying. “I’ve been inventing all my life.” And indeed, he invented the first tennis ball machine, the first metal racket and a new polyurethane driver for golf. (Wife Simone Thion de la Chaume and daughter Catherine were championship golfers.)
It was during a trip to Boston with the 1923 Davis Cup team that Lacoste noticed a crocodile suitcase. “If you win, I’ll buy it for you,” coach Alan Muhr joked before the match. A journalist for the Boston Evening Transcript got wind of the bet and dubbed Lacoste “the Alligator” — for the way he preyed on opponents — even though their snouts and those of crocs are differently shaped and crocs have the toothier grins.
Artist Robert George would create Lacoste’s now-famous logo in 1927. But the brand would not launch until six years later. Colored and striped versions of the white shirt — with its short sleeves and buttoned neckline — debuted in 1951, with an American launch a year later. In 1958, the children’s collection was born.
Perfume and leather goods would follow in the ’60s; sunglasses and tennis shoes in the ’80s.
The company keeps growing. The Lacoste Foundation is dedicated to helping vulnerable youngsters while Lacoste Live! — launched in 2011 — is a line targeting millennials with edgier designs that reflect the influence of creative head Felipe Oliveira Baptista, appointed in 2010.
Now the company has added bedding to its portfolio. The collection has the look and feel of the timeless polo shirt in a soft cotton piqué knit and is available in gray, navy and chili pepper (red).
It may not turn you into a tennis champion, but at least you’ll sleep like one.