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Jean René Lacoste was a French tennis player and also businessman. Nicknamed “Le Crocodile,” he was the inventor of the original Lacoste polo shirt and also co-founder that the Lacoste garments company. He was born on July 2nd, 1904 and died top top October 12th, 1996 at the age of ninety-two. 

Family History

René was the child of Jean-Jules Lacoste and also Jeanne-Marie Magdeleine Larrieu-Let. He was born in Paris at 28 Rue Albouy in the city’s 10th Arrondissement. His father, Jean-Jules to be a champion rower (he winner the French location in 1890), and also an enthusiasm inventor, something i m sorry René would also become. Jean-Jules was the founder that the auto manufacturer J. Lacoste & Co., later known as Lacoste et Battmann. Again, his example as an businessman would additionally be essential for his son’s later on career. In addition to his own company, Jean-Jules tackled the affairs of the much bigger Hispano-Suiza auto firm which had actually opened a factory in ~ Levallois-Perret, in 1911, to it is in close to the profitable markets the Paris. It was Jean-Jules’ connection with Hispano-Suiza that eventually led come René’s meeting through his Lacoste cofounder André Gillier.

René Lacoste to be married come Simone Thion de la Chaume, a French amateur golf champion ~ above June 30th, 1930. They had three children: one daughter and two sons. Their daughter Catherine Lacoste was a champion golfer and chairman of the Golf society Chantaco, established by her mother, at a few kilometers from St. Jean-de-Luz. She also won the US open in the 1960s. His sons, Bernard and also Michel ~ above the other hand, were not outstanding athletes.

Tennis Career

Lacoste was not initially interested in tennis and did no play a video game until he was fifteen, but a pilgrimage with his father to England where he saw a tennis match ignited his interest. His father, though, had planned come enroll the in a call French engineering school, so once René insisted on playing tennis, he gave him one ultimatum: come to be a world champion within 5 years or else he would certainly decide his future. Lacoste comment by dedicating himself to tennis in a way couple of other people could have, and became a height player within 3 years.

Lacoste to be one of The four Musketeers, a group of French tennis stars who dominated the video game in the 1920s and also early 1930s. He winner seven Grand Slam singles title in the French, American, and also British championships, however never made the long sea trip to Australia to play in their championships. René was the world number one player because that both 1926 and also 1927. In all, Lacoste winner eleven majors (seven singles, four doubles), and is considered by countless to be the best of the 4 French players who consisted of the 4 Musketeers.

In the indigenous of the Tennis room of Fame come which he was chosen in 1976:

Though not blessed with superstar-like athletic talent, Lacoste tho had terrific skills, and he turn himself into a human being champion the old fashioned way: with determination, training, fitness, and a newspaper of copious notes the he maintained on each of his opponents. Lacoste preferred playing indigenous the baseline, wherein he can employ strategic transforms in pace. He would hit short, and also mix in a pinpoint lob with precise passing shots.(1)

In the videos the Lacoste play tennis ~ above YouTube, his tactics can be plainly seen. In 1928, René released a book called Lacoste on Tennis the outlined his methodical strategy to the game. You have the right to still find used, albeit really expensive, copies on Amazon.

Crocodile Nickname

René was nicknamed “Le Crocodile” by pan although the factors for this nickname have been disputed. Some sources say that was due to the fact that of his tenacity on the court, while rather say it was after a crocodile-skin suitcase that took v him ~ above tour. It’s likewise been asserted that Lacoste and also the captain of the French Davis Cup team had actually a bet through the winner receiving one alligator skin suitcase. In 2018, a nephew of George Carens, a sportswriter because that the Boston Herald Traveller in the 1920s, stated that it was Carens who had given Lacoste his nickname ~ hearing the story of the suitcase. In the grandson’s words:

began calling the ‘The Crocodile.’ Over the years, he provided to write many articles about him. And the name stuck. … He basically said that ‘The Crocodile’ defined him perfect … Tenacious top top his grip, flashing an omnivorous, toothy grin. He was relentless, and also chewed increase his opponents slowly. But, without a doubt, the valise to be the genesis the it. (2)

Whatever the source, Lacoste adopted the nickname, saying “the nickname emphasize my tenacity top top the tennis courts, never providing up my prey.” In honor of his nickname, René Lacoste’s girlfriend Robert George embroidered a crocodile onto a blazer the Lacoste wore because that his matches.


René retired from competitive tennis in 1929 in ~ the period of twenty-five, ~ winning the French Open, because his health and game had declined due to a respiratory disease, supposedly Tuberculosis. Succeeding to his retirement, he offered as Captain that the French Davis Cup Team from 1931 to 1933, to win the cup in both 1931 and also 1932.

Lacoste Shirt and also Company

The Lacoste shirt to be launched practically by chance. Follow to one interview, René gave to human being Magazine in 1979:

In the late 1920s René constantly played in the typical white pants and also starched shirt with collar and cuffs. “One day i noticed my girlfriend the Marquis of Cholmondeley wearing his polo shirts on the court,” remembers René. ” ‘A valuable idea,’ I believed to myself.” It was so practical, in fact, that René i was delegated an English tailor come whip up a few shirts in both cotton and wool. “Soon anyone was wearing them,” that smiles.(3)

It to be at the 1926 US open up that René debuted the first version the his tennis shirt. At the time, many players wore plain long-sleeved white shirts through the sleeves rolled up, but Lacoste showed up on court wearing a shirt he had actually designed himself – a white short-sleeved “chemise” made out of a light knitted, breathable jersey cloth called “petit pique.”

In 1933, René founded La Société Chemise Lacoste with André Gillier. The company produced a version of the tennis shirt which Lacoste had worn as soon as he was playing, which had a crocodile logo embroidered on the chest. The shirt was recognized as the L.12.12, because it had forced 12 versions prior to Lacoste to be satisfied (For more on the history of Lacoste, check out The history of Lacoste). René led Lacoste till 1963 as soon as he turn the firm over come his son, boy name Lacoste.


Other Inventions and also Patents

René Lacoste to be a prolific inventor transparent his life, and once said, “Inventor need to be ~ above my company cards. I’ve been inventing all my life. In the 1920s, in ~ the period of 24, he invented the tennis ball an equipment to assist him exercise his overhead swing. You can see 1920s Newsreel footage of Lacoste’s maker on Youtube. Early on, he also patented the distinct collar of the Lacoste polo shirt. In 1961, Lacoste created modern technology in tennis rackets by designing the an initial tubular stole tennis racket. He likewise developed a brand-new polyurethane golf driver, which helped start the sport’s transition to composite material-based clubs.

In his later on years, Lacoste ongoing to create inventions. In 1973, that patented a tennis racket with a integrated vibration damper.(4) In 1975, René patented a new type of tennis ball.(5) In 1979, Lacoste filed a patent for easy-to-carry luggage especially designed for carrying tennis rackets.(6)


In 1989, René filed a patent because that an improved tennis racket with more uniform elasticity which boosted control.(7) In 1991, Lacoste filed a patent for reducing the load of molded golf society heads by consisting of cavities within them.(8) Overall, throughout his life, the is declared that René filed more than thirty patents, consisting of twenty or so in between 1960 and also 2000.

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Later Life

Over the last numerous years of his life, René Lacoste combated health issues. He endured from prostate cancer and also in at an early stage October 1996 had surgery ~ above a broken leg. René passed away in his sleep indigenous heart failure just 4 days ~ the procedure, ~ above October 14, 1996, in St. Jean-de-Luz, France. That is hidden in the Saint Joseph de Saint Jean de Luz Cemetery, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Departement des Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France.(9). His wife, who passed away at the period of 92 in 2001 is buried in the very same cemetery.(10)

Was René Lacoste Black?

In 2016, an internet meme surfaced claiming that René Lacoste was Black due to his mother having actually Jamaican ancestry. It is typically agreed that this claim is incorrect, yet numerous articles on society media, favor this one, keep the rumors alive. His mother’s family was in reality from Monein, in South-West France. Her family members genealogy has been traced together far ago as the 1700s, and shows no Jamaican ancestors. You deserve to see his mother’s genealogy online in ~ Geneastar. Back many people in France have actually North afri ancestors, this would generally be taken into consideration Arab rather than black ancestry. In any event, Monein is component of the Béarn region in France and historically it was populated by people of Basque origin. Genetic evaluation of the Basque people show that they have an ext genes from aboriginal hunter-gatherers 보다 their close to neighbors in Spain and France, but less north African ancestry.(11). In conclusion, the proof for René Lacoste being black color is basically non-existent.