René Lacoste founded La Chemise Lacoste in 1933 with André Gillier, the owner and president of the largest French knitwear manufacturing firm at the time. They began to produce the revolutionary tennis shirt Lacoste had designed and worn on the tennis courts with the crocodile logo embroidered on the chest. In addition to tennis shirts, Lacoste produced shirts for golf and sailing.
In 1951, the company began to expand as it branched from “tennis white” and introduced color shirts. In 1952, the shirts were exported to the United States and advertised as “the status symbol of the competent sportsman,” influencing the clothing choices of the upper-class. Lacoste was sold at Brooks Brothers until the late 1960s. It is still one of the most popular brands in the United States.
In 1963, Bernard Lacoste took over the management of the company from his father René. The Lacoste brand reached its height of popularity in the US during the late 1970s and became the signature 1980s “preppy” wardrobe item, even getting mentioned in Lisa Birnbach’s Official Preppy Handbook of 1980.
The company also began to introduce other products into their line including shorts, perfume, optical and sunglasses, tennis shoes, deck shoes, walking shoes, watches, and various leather goods.
More recently, Lacoste’s popularity has surged due to French designer Christophe Lemaire’s work to create a more modern, upscale look. Its visibility has increased due to the contracts between Lacoste and several young tennis players, including American tennis stars Andy Roddick and John Isner, French rising young prospect Richard Gasquet, and Swiss Olympic gold medalist Stanislas Wawrinka.
Lacoste has also begun to increase its presence in the golf world, where noted two time Masters Tournament champion José María Olazábal and Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie have been seen sporting Lacoste shirts in tournaments.