In 2013, Lacoste would be celebrating its 80th founding anniversary. Yes, the top French designer clothing company would be eight decades old.
That is eight decades of providing us high-end designer clothing. In all this time, Lacoste clothing has been synonymous to style, comfort, and elite fashion.
Rene Lacoste: Founder
Rene Lacoste was a French tennis player who came up with the idea of creating Lacoste shirts. At first, it was not much about coming up with men's designer clothing, but about a need that Lacoste had on the courts: more comfortable tennis shirts that would help players withstand the heat. Six years before founding Lacoste, the tennis player created a batch of shirts that was made of mesh and completely absorbed sweat. It was all for his use.
These shirts also allowed the player to move more freely and gracefully while playing. The shirts also had a collar, making it look good even under sweaters and blazers. It caused such a sensation that it quickly replaced the woven, long-sleeved tennis shirts that were popular back then.
It was only in 1933 that Rene Lacoste teamed up with Andre Gillier to create "La Chemise Lacoste," a brand name that would soon be known for its men's designer clothing and other items.
Gillier was the owner of one of the oldest and biggest hosier factories in Troyes, France. It helped that Gillier's factory specialized in mesh.
The crocodile logo on Lacoste shirts is a tribute to Rene Lacoste, who was nicknamed "The Crocodile" by tennis fans. Indeed, aside from coming up with Lacoste menswear, Rene was known to be one of the best tennis players during his time, winning seven Grand Slam titles and was the No. 1 tennis player in the world in 1926 and 1927.
So is it any wonder why Lacoste shirts became a hit on tennis courts?
Over the years, Lacoste menswear went beyond tennis shirts and soon introduced a line of sailing and golf shirts. It was in the early 1950s that they started offering colored Lacoste clothing in addition to the iconic white shirts.
It was also around this time that the French company exported its products to the United States and gained the status as designer clothing that appealed to America's elites and sportsmen, with the appropriate tagline, "The Status Symbol of the Competent Sportsman."
After 30 years in operation, Rene Lacoste stepped down and handed the company's management to his son, Bernard Lacoste, in 1963. The older Lacoste, however, did not stop designing and creating until shortly before his death in 1996. At 92, he was still creating Lacoste clothing that were innovative, stylish and comfortable.
Lacoste became the brand of choice for preppy yuppies in the 1970s and the 1980s when it reached the height of its popularity.
That is not to say that Lacoste has been idling. Thanks to Christophe Lemaire, the company was able to appeal to a younger set of fashionistas with his more modern stance in design and brand philosophy.
With an iconic brand and a distinguished logo, it soon became apparent that they would become successful in other markets selling products other than designer menswear. Soon, the company offered shorts, sunglasses, eyewear and even perfumes alongside its Lacoste shirts.
However, that does not mean Lacoste has lost its focus on coming up with top-of-the-line designer menswear. Continuing the push to make the Lacoste brand more appealing to the younger set, the company launched Lacoste Live! Lacoste Live! is targeted at young people, featuring a new collection with "a new state of mind." The company says that Lacoste Live! brings together that vintage Lacoste brand characteristic and combines it with street art, making it perfect for those who are looking for preppy clothes that are also edgy. Lacoste Live describes itself as always unconventional and chic.
The history of Lacoste in creating designer menswear has always been a story of innovation. It is heartwarming to see that eight decades down the line, that spirit of innovation and breaking the norms is still there.