René Lacoste was a famous French tennis player who obtained fame in two areas: tennis and fashion. While winning the 1926 U.S. Open championship, René Lacoste of France wore something that he himself had created: a white, short-sleeve shirt made exclusively of a light knitted fabric called jersey petit piqué that served to wick away moisture due to heat, the very first version of performance clothing in sports. The shirt was a radical departure from tennis fashion of the day, which called for stiff, woven, long-sleeve oxfords. In 1927 during the Davis Cup, the American press nicknamed Lacoste “the Alligator” because of a bet made about an alligator-skin suitcase. With no cognate in his native tongue, the nickname was changed to le crocodile in French. The nickname stuck due to his tenacious behavior on the courts, never giving up his prey. Lacostes friend, Robert Geore, drew him a crocodile which Lacoste then embroidered on the blazer he wore on the courts.
After retiring from tennis, Lacoste founded La Societe 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 appliqué embroidered on the chest, serving as the first example of a brand name appearing on the outside of an article of clothing. 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.