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René Lacoste, Rennaissance Man

International tennis champion, ingenious inventor and the man who inspired a whole new lifestyle. Discover the many faces of René Lacoste.
Portrait of René Lacoste. © Underwood & Underwood - Lacoste Archives / © Studio Piaz

Determined Champion

How René Lacoste followed his dream and forged his career.

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Will of Steel

René Lacoste was not predestined for a sporting career. Yet aged 18, he made the crucial decision to focus entirely on his passion for tennis, training tirelessly to hone his strength, precision and concentration. Willing himself to be “as perfect as possible”. Never defeated, he transformed every loss into a win for his technique. An approach that proved effective: he won seven major singles tournaments, and played on the French team who took the Davis Cup in 1927 and 1928.
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Foolproof Technique

René Lacoste's unflagging determination served his winning technique: study the game and his opponents to better exhaust and beat them. Hit the ball, push back whatever happens, perfect the smash with a tensed, bent arm. A perfectionist, he noted down his every move, which led to his 1928 book, Tennis. A veritable handbook for victory.
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US Championship in Forest Hills, 1927. © Lacoste Family Archives. Catherine Lacoste Collection

The creator of the polo

How René Lacoste revolutionized fashion and the tennis lifestyle in the 1920s.

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Stroke of Genius

Before Lacoste, tennis meant long-sleeve shirts, pleated trousers and belted waists. René Lacoste put comfort front and centre; early on he understood the need for clothing adapted to the task. Defying conventions, he shortened the sleeves of a typical tennis shirt to create the first comfortable polo. For the first time designs were embroidered with a signature crocodile, making them instantly recognizable.
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The Start of the Sporting Lifestyle

Soon, René Lacoste was dressing friends and family in the polo shirt during international matches. Well ahead of his time, he designed the modern wardrobe: light, adaptable and highly desirable. The Lacoste fundamentals were firmly established.
1933, René Lacoste, captain of the French team, advises Jacques Brugnon and Jean Borotra. © All rights reserved

The man behind the metal racket

How René Lacoste brought his ideas vividly to life.

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A 360° Thinker

His mantra? Never give up. René Lacoste had a million ideas to improve his game and make practice more comfortable – and it’s these that made him such a unique player. Ideas like reshaping the handle of a racket or covering it with surgical tape to get a better grip.
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The restless inventor

The more he practiced, the more the ideas gushed forth. He continued to innovate, filing more than thirty patents over his lifetime. Some of his famous inventions? A machine that fires tennis balls to help a player practice alone, or a metal racket that's lightweight and easy to handle. Inventions that improved his game as well as that of the generations of tennis players that followed.
René Lacoste invented the tennis ball launcher machine in 1927. © Keystone

Want to find out more?

Everything you always wanted to know about Lacoste but were afraid to ask.
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Once Upon a Crocodile

Discover his story