Remember that Lacoste logo that came part and parcel with every polo shirt you purchased? They were designed by French tennis player René Lacoste. Did you ever wonder why a ‘crocodile’ was chosen by that superstar of the 1920’s — and why almost a hundred years later that famous crocodile is being preempted by ten other members of the animal kingdom?
That man’s a crocodile?
In 1926, René Lacoste first sported his iconic polo when he played in the U.S. Open in New York City. His rationale in designing such a shirt was to replace what he considered restrictive attire of the day.
Tennis whites back in the 20’s consisted of a white, long-sleeved button-down shirt, in addition to long pants and a tie. By today's standards, not only was the attire non-ergonomic, it certainly didn't make a fashionable statement.
Lacoste realized that. To counter, he created a shirt, which would be more accommodating for one's physical movements on the courts.
“One day I noticed my friend the Marquis of Cholmondeley wearing his polo shirt on the court,” remembers René. ” ‘A practical idea,’ I thought to myself.” It was so practical, in fact, that René commissioned an English tailor to whip up a few shirts in both cotton and wool. “Soon everyone was wearing them,” he noted with a smile on his face.
As far as the logo is concerned, for some time, Lacoste was dubbed “The Crocodile” by his fans. The reasons are somewhat speculative but many think it had something to do with somewhat pointy proboscis.
“The American press dubbed him the Alligator in ’27, after he wagered for an alligator-skin suitcase with the captain of the French Davis Cup team. When he returned to France, “alligator” became “crocodile,” and the rest was history.
U.S. Crocodiles Shed their Endangered Status
Florida's crocodiles have stepped back from the brink of extinction, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The government agency, which administers the country's endangered species list, has reclassified the Florida population of the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) from "endangered" to "threatened."
Usurping the Crocodile's Status
So, since the crocodile is no longer endangered in many states, the Lacoste organization came up with the creative idea to allow current endangered species to receive needed attention.
In an AdWeek release, they noted that for the next 3 years Lacoste is supporting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), alongside BETC Paris. This partnership has agreed to “the brand’s doing away with the grinning crocodile on a new line of its polos—to make way for animals that could use the visibility more.”
The shirts will individually appear in a series of limited-edition offerings. In total, 1,775 shirts will be produced. Which breaks down to 450 Anegada ground iguana, 350 Sumatran tiger, 250 Saola, 231 California condor, 157 Kakapo parrots, 150 Cao Vit gibbon, 67 Javan rhino, 50 Northern Sportive lemur, 40 Burmese Roofed turtle and 30 Vaquita.
Your Purchase is a Donation
The shirts launched during Lacoste’s runway show at Paris Fashion Week recently. You can purchase them up on their Save Our Species microsite, where they’re selling for 150€ each (about $183). Each sale becomes a donation in full toward the preservation of the specific species shirt you purchase.
Primary Source: Adweek: Lacoste's Iconic Crocodile