Tuesday 30 June 2015

Lacoste & The U.S. Open 1926

Realizing that the polo shirt could have multiple uses, especially due to its wind resistant collar, tennis great Rene Lacoste designed the modern polo shirt as we know it today. He realized that one benefit it could have was removing the sleeves; an idea he got from rolling up the starched sleeves of his long-sleeved white tennis shirt. He also wanted a shirt without buttons as the tennis shirts of the 1920s commonly had, so he removed those and was left with a short sleeved shirt that could be slipped on over the head. To make the shirt easier to wear, he invented the tennis tail which allowed the back of the shirt to be slightly longer than the front and therefore more comfortable to tuck in and keep in place during a heated match. He also adopted an innovative knit called pique cotton that allowed the shirt to be machine-knitted which made it far more durable and lightweight. Despite not creating this technology, it is that added benefit that caused the Lacoste line of polo shirts to become instantly famous. Trying to figure out a logo to allow his brand to become easily recognizable, he took advantage of his nickname “The Crocodile” which he got from his unusually long nose. He created the Lacoste crocodile logo and placed a small ironed-on logo on each shirt. Wearing his shirt proudly to the 1926 US Open, he won it and immediately the shirt became a staple in tennis wear and active wear around the world. Immediately the polo world took notice and adopted the same shirts for use in their game. Paying homage to where Lacoste got the idea, he opted to name them polo shirts rather than tennis shirts. The button down collar was no more, and polo players liked the woven shirts because the comfortable, yet sturdy collar could be popped up allowing them more protection from sunburns.

French tennis players Rene Lacoste and Suzanne Lenglen in play during the mixed doubles.

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