It’s funny to think how time and word-of-mouth stories change so much of actual facts. History is often build on assumptions and suggestions, either to give it a punch for future generations or to sweeten its bitter taste. In the case of polo shirts, it was a simple confusion.
What we name today polo shirts, referring mostly to Lacoste shirts, are actually tennis shirts. In the 20s, Lewis Lacy and Rene Lacoste revolutionized sportswear, in similar ways, but with different emblemas. Lacy’s was a simple polo player, while Rene’s was, the now famous crocodile. Why did the French Grand Slam tennis champion chose this animal to represent the civilised “white sport”?
He didn’t do it. At all. It was a friend’s idea. While we have to thank Lacoste for the shirts’ design – short sleeves, loosely knit, originally with a longer shirt-tail at the back -, it was Robert George who sew the first croc from the series, on his buddy’s blazer. It was a sassy nod to Lacoste’s playing style – aggressive and tenacious, feared by many American tennis players.
Rene loved it so much that he placed it later on the left breast of his shirts. This would soon become his lucky charm, as celebrities and atheletes started demanding more of his creations. While Lacoste didn’t have a fashion education, he knew exactly what players needed on the court – flat collar that could be popped in the back to protect the neck, short sleeves and thinner cloth to make it easy for jumps and rash movements during game.
The croc became a famous logo, his name, a brand and his clothes, with the help of Andre Gillier, the base for a successful company. More than that, his shirts became part of the preppy wardrobe, something any college student would later wear.