But beyond these many, clever inventions – he filed around thirty patents in all – which enabled him to develop and improve his game, the Alligator’s real stroke of genius was when he created his famous, timeless and iconic polo shirt!
Way beyond a simple wardrobe item, René Lacoste invented sportswear as a style in itself, one that crossed over into everyday life and is still worn on the courts to this day! Fed up with the strict tennis uniform – comprised of a long-sleeved shirt, cufflinks, pleated trousers and a belted waist – René Lacoste dreamt of wearing less restrictive, more stylish clothes. Defying convention, he had a short-sleeved shirt made up and embroidered with the now-famous alligator logo and called it the L.12.12. Eighty-eight years after this first piqué cotton shirt was created, it is still a must-have item in the tennis wardrobe, without aging a day.
In 1933, René Lacoste retired from tennis and moved into the textile industry by joining forces with André Gillier, inventor of the famous petit piqué fabric: the Lacoste empire was born.