There was a moment in the 1980s when Lacoste polo shirts transcended from just an item of clothing that people wore on tennis courts and became a global icon. Almost overnight, there crocodile-adorned shirts wherever you looked. In America, the Lacoste polo shirt became the standard for the preppy look, the New England WASP, the country club member who has a bit of old money in the family and has an Ivy League college on their CV. Across the pond in Britain, it was the mark of the football casual – that sub-set of society that dressed up on the terraces.
It had reached popularity in the cold, wet stands of football ground with fans that had got hold of them while away following their teams in Europe. By any means necessary. But via two hugely different ways the cult of the Lacoste shirts had spread, but whether from American country clubs or a few scallies on tour in Paris, the shirts with the crocodile logo became huge – and unlike other trends, it retained its class and has had it ever since. Some brands are fashion proof – they never go out of style despite what’s currently going up and down the catwalks of London, Milan, Paris or New York. The Lacoste polo shirt is one of them, and despite being ripped off by counterfeiters from Kingston to Karama the brand has retained a cachet of unimpeachable cool.
It all started in 1927 when René Lacoste designed cotton shirts in a comfortable aired mesh to absorb perspiration, in order to better support the heat on the American tennis courts. In 1933, they were commercial available (with the crocodile logo) thus giving birth to the Lacoste polo shirt. It was the first time that a brand name appeared on the outside of an article of clothing. Over three-quarters of a century later, those polo shirts still stand out among the thousands of branded items as something with a little bit of history and a dash of class. As casual wear goes, they’re a fine investment.