Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about tennis and whether they are true or false.
TENNIS URBAN LEGEND: René Lacoste created a line of sport apparel using a crocodile for a logo.
René Lacoste was a legendary French tennis player of the 1920s and 1930s, but however great of a tennis player he was, he was an even greater innovator of the game.
Lacoste invented the tubular tennis racket, which replaced wooden tennis rackets as the racket of choice for tennis players in the 1960s and ever since (although, of course, modern technology has replaced the original steel tubing with various other material, such as aluminum or graphite).
But Lacoste is best known as something that is fairly odd for a professional athlete to be known for (especially one such as Lacoste, who won the French Open three times, the British Open twice and Wimbledon twice – this guy was a major player) – he is known as a fashion icon!
Lacoste had developed a shirt that he wore when he was playing tennis, and his tennis shirt soon became popular enough that Lacoste co-founded a company, La Société Chemise Lacoste, just to create his tennis shirts.
Lacoste shirts are known for the logo that is sewn onto the breast of the shirt…
Now here’s the “false” aspect of the legend – that’s an alligator on the logo, not a crocodile.
Obviously, in effect, it really doesn’t matter, as alligator/crocodile, they both basically look the same, and they don’t work the name of the animal into the production of the clothes.
However, it IS an alligator, and people always refer to it as a crocodile.
As the story goes (this is the official Lacoste version of the story):
In 1927 [Lacoste] made a bet with the captain of the French Davis Cup team, after they both saw a suitcase made from alligator skin in a Boston storefront. His captain promised to buy it for [him] if he won the next day’s match for the French team. René didn’t win the match, but in reporting it one newspaper said something like: “Young Lacoste didn’t win the game or the alligator-skin suitcase, but he certainly fought like an alligator.”
And thus the name stuck!
When Lacoste died, the advertising agency that handled Lacoste accounts devoted a full-page ad to say goodbye to the man, and they wrote “See you later…,” further showing that the animal in the logo is an alligator.
The legend is…
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is [email protected]