Heritage — 08.17.2015

The story of the crocodile

How a simple bet in the streets of Boston shaped the history of tennis and fashion ?

Nicknamed 'The Crocodile' as a result of a bet with his tennis team captain, René Lacoste made this unique animal the iconic logo of his brand. And, the symbol of a new style of sport chic: combining elegance and casual style.

René Lacoste in London, 1925 © Ullstein Bild

A winning bet

As with so many great stories, the story of the crocodile begins with a little anecdote.

Boston, 1923. René Lacoste was strolling through the city's streets with his tennis team's captain, Alan Muhr, before the afternoon's upcoming game. In a store's window display, an elegant crocodile skin suitcase caught his eye. Time for a bet: if René won the match, Alan would buy him the suitcase. As it turned out, René didn't win, but journalist George Carens heard the story and mentioned it in his article in the Boston Evening Transcript: “The young Lacoste has not won his crocodile skin suitcase but he fought like a true crocodile.

After Jean Borotra (The Leaping Basque), Henri Cochet (The Magician) and Jacques Brugnon (Toto), the fourth musketeer had now found his own nickname.

Creating the croc

The crocodile illustration was drawn by Robert George – René Lacoste's friend – who had it embroidered in colour on the pocket of the white blazer he wore before each match.

The crocodile illustration by Robert George © RR

“The Crocodile” - René Lacoste owes his nickname to the power and persistence of his game, along with his consistency and calm.

Portrait of René Lacoste wearing his embroidered crocodile on a white blazer ©RR

René Lacoste wore his embroidered crocodile before each match, Wimbledon, 1932 © Getty Images

Wearing the crocodile

In the world of the early 20th century, the marriage of sports and fashion began with the crocodile.

René's friend, Robert George a stylist and skilled hockey player – managed a business manufacturing ties and scarves based in the Place Vendôme in Paris. Amused by his friend's nickname, he drew the famous crocodile which quickly became Lacoste's symbol. Pleased by the the visual representation of his international success, René had the crocodile embroidered on a white blazer which he wore for the first time on the tennis courts in 1927. The new logo didn't go unnoticed – and René couldn't resist wearing the blazer before each match.

Both on and off the tennis courts, René Lacoste was a sportsman with style. This new and innovative approach to sports fashion – combining elegance and casual style – made Lacoste a true pioneer in the development of 20th century sportswear.

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