• Lacoste Polos

    Top Drawer | Prep Essentials  

    by Kiel James Patrick

    Jean René Lacoste was famous not only for his considerate achievements on the court, but off. The Frenchman found traditional tennis attire too bulky, stiff, and completely uncomfortable for the court.  He embarked on a mission to create the ideal shirt for the game in white loosely knit piqué cotton. Ironically, the true brilliance was the small, green smiling alligator stitched on the left breast.  What began as a joke from a ridiculous nickname* would soon become one of the world’s most recognized prep fashion logos of all time.

    Kiel James Patrick's vintage Lacoste polos

    In the 1950s, the polo shirt became a classic fashion staple when Lacoste partnered with Izod to expand from their classic "tennis white" and introduced an array of brightly colored shirts. The sport shirts were then exported to the United States in 1952 and advertised as "the status symbol of the competent sportsman," influencing what the debonair layman was wearing.  During the 60s, the iconic gator crawled onto chests of the rich and famous, including celebrities by the likes of JFK, Clint Eastwood, and Audrey Hepburn.  The brand reached its height of recognition throughout the U.S. in the late 70s/early 80s, garnering a notable mention in Lisa Birnbach's The Official Preppy Handbook while being heralded as an essential preppy accoutrement in the film Making the Grade of the same era.

    Today, Lacoste is no longer associated with Izod and produces a second-rate shirt that leaves most longing for the classic tennis tail, loosely-knit pique cotton, and particularly thick collar that we used to wear upturned to block the summer sun from burning our necks.

    *Lacoste later explained the origin of his nickname, “le Crocodile:” “The American press nicknamed me 'the Crocodile' after a bet that I made with the Captain of the French Davis Cup team. He had promised me a crocodile-skin suitcase if I won a match that was important for our team. The American public stuck to this nickname, which highlighted my tenacity on the tennis courts, never giving up my prey! So my friend Robert George drew me a crocodile which was embroidered on the blazer that I wore on the courts.”

    Aug 3, 2011 | Permalink (37) Total Comments

    Martine left a comment on 8/19/2015 at 7:02 AM:

    I never thought about them before, but recently, I have come to love them. In fact, I am getting quite a collection of Lacoste polos, and they are soft, comfy, and the quality is nice., i have no idea why people here have had such troubles, but I have not. Polos really are a better version of a t shirt. They go with anything from leather leggings, to a below the knee skirt. Can’t get enough of them, and Lacoste is the one that works best for me.

    Luciano Sircy left a comment on 6/19/2014 at 4:24 AM:

    Hi there all, new poster the following. Was an original member here way back in the day, the internet site looks to possess changed a bit given that then.

    Alex left a comment on 9/8/2013 at 1:56 PM:

    The quality of Lacoste products in last few years is really horrible. I´m having about 12 Lacoste polo shirts. The polos from last 2-3 years are very thin and after few washes they look really 20 % - 30 % worse and it is no problem to find holes at the collar after few months. Also the quality of shoes is terrific, after few days of wearing all of them are hardly damaged. Bye, Lacoste. Ever never

    Joseph S left a comment on 5/22/2013 at 8:27 PM:

    I too have been recently disappointed, and horrified, but the specularly poor quality of Lacoste tennis shirts. But I’ve found a great alternative. A shop called Massimo Dutti at 689 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I’m in no way affiliated with the store, but there tennis shirts have amazing tailoring, beautiful colors and are only $39US. Made in Turkey. Bye, bye Lacoste.

    Kenny Cook left a comment on 5/1/2013 at 9:31 PM:

    I want the Izod shirts from the late 70s / early eighties!  The ones with the long tail.  I loved them!

    Mike left a comment on 2/15/2013 at 10:39 PM:

    I agree with everyone else that the current Lacoste polo is a joke. They neither look nor feel of quality.

    It came down to Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers for me. I recently ordered my first BB polo and found it to fit much larger than a RL in the same size. That doesn’t work for me, so I’ll stick with RL.

    I find most of the vintage Lacostes on eBay are fakes made in China.

    Arcangelo left a comment on 7/14/2012 at 8:51 PM:

    Big fan of Lacoste polos until few years ago.
    I still have one made in France, coral red 16 years old.
    In perfect shape. I purchased some in Las Vegas two years ago and they look awful.
    No more wasting my money with that crap.
    Lacoste bye bye, let us know when you will go back to the quality of the one Made in France.

    RCH left a comment on 11/28/2011 at 2:07 AM:

    Many that are quick to disassociate Lacoste from the Izod brand should remember the Izod-era produced the style and quality we fondly remember Lacoste for.

    Dave left a comment on 11/6/2011 at 2:45 PM:

    I am very disappointed in the current quality of Lacoste polo shirts.  I was elated when they finally disengaged from Izod a few years back and returned to the US market.  The initial product which sold primarily through ultra high-end retailers was similar to the classic polos of the 1950s through the early ‘70s.  The shirts were substantial with longer tails, and heavier cotton material that wore well.  The current shirts however do not even compare with some generic outlet polos.  The material is very thin, shrinks and starts to fall apart after a few washings.  I am sure Lacoste has done their homework and perhaps the 40+ year old market is not where they want to be.  However if they made a line of true “Classic” heavier Lacoste polo shirts that reprised the quality of the early ones they would have a winner.

    Tom left a comment on 10/21/2011 at 5:20 PM:

    Should polos be hung or folded? Great post by the way!

    DB left a comment on 9/6/2011 at 9:41 PM:

    That is an amazing collection of vintage lacoste polos. Where are the best places to find those? Sure I’ve seen one here and there at thrift stores but never the right size… How do you have so many?

    Dave left a comment on 9/4/2011 at 10:38 PM:

    Although I like the Lacostes I have, I’d prefer Ralph Lauren.

    Andy M. left a comment on 8/5/2011 at 6:31 PM:

    I too am glad to see others having the same issues with Lacoste as I have.  They look great initially but after a few wearings the circumference of the shirt bottom seems to grow by 20%, leaving me with a shirt that fits fine up top but balloons out at the bottom and just looks silly. 

    All in all I’m still happiest with my Polo polo shirts.

    Kenneth left a comment on 8/5/2011 at 6:03 PM:

    Glad to see others mention the poor quality of current Lacoste polos. I get them as gifts all the time (of which I am still grateful), but the quality is horrible. The collars are flimsy and after multiple washings begin to look very worn. I am buying/ wearing/ and encouraging gifts to be Vinyard Vines polos. I like the fit, the quality is great, and the VV people are great! I also grabbed a few BB polos this summer which fit great and so far are wearing well.

    Josh left a comment on 8/4/2011 at 8:57 PM:

    Great article Kiel, and a lovely spectrum of vintage Lacoste shirts in your collection.
    I love how the colours dull with age, that beaten in look. Fresh ones just seem too bright.


    sharon left a comment on 8/4/2011 at 7:01 PM:

    i never knew the quality has changed so dramatically, though i have noticed that it depends on the style of polo. i have their original one and one that’s styled to be more fitted. the original is made better than the fitted ones.

    Kionon left a comment on 8/4/2011 at 5:44 PM:

    I have a vintage Lacoste polo made in France. I also have one from a few years ago. The difference is quite noticeable.

    Big Boy left a comment on 8/4/2011 at 12:33 AM:

    The alligator is dope, bitches.

    Laguna Beach Fogey left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 10:44 PM:

    Almost forgot…

    If you’re interested in brand heritage, I recommend the superb history of Lacoste in images published by Assouline:


    I picked up the Classic Green copy from my local Assouline shop.


    Laguna Beach Fogey left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 10:39 PM:

    I love Lacoste polo shirts and still wear them. They fit well and frame my chest and biceps like no other shirt. But, I’ve noticed the tails are a bit short—a definite problem for taller chaps such as moi.

    The Penguin brand should not even be mentioned in the same sentence as the classic brand under review, IMO. No comparison.

    Brooks Brothers polo shirts are a f*cking joke.

    I did wear a lot of Polo polo shirts when I was younger, and am considering going back to try Polo again after all these years.

    Fred Perry is another polo shirt brand I used to wear back in the 1980s, and maybe it’s worth another visit.

    Tom Bosché left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 10:33 PM:

    FEC - Never have liked small cats - keep ‘em in the bag ...

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 8:39 PM:

    @Tom Bosché—We can’t let the cat out of the bag on that one just yet.

    Tom Bosché left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 8:12 PM:

    Kiel - Nice post.  Le Crocodile was a truly talented athlete and businessman.  As long as you and Fred are switching roles, it will be interesting to see how well FEC can design and make belts, bracelets, ties, etc. Next step, Fred?

    wrj left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 4:10 PM:

    Lacostes are still great. But they absolutely need to be broken in before the pique tightens and the collar gets a little stiffer. The process of getting them to that point, however, is frustrating. But this may be why vintage are preferred. I have Lacostes I bought 13 years ago and Lacostes I bought this year, and the quality seems the same to me.

    Clay left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 3:25 PM:

    My 7th grade yearbook shows homeroom 7E, 28 kids in the class, and on picture day, 5 kids had on black Lacoste polo shirts on.  They were very very popular in 1982.

    Kyle left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 3:11 PM:

    I still love a Lacoste shirt…before I accidentally slip one in the dryer. My brand of choice for polo shirts had quickly become Faconable - fits well, washes well and feels great.

    Emily left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 2:12 PM:

    The colors are always great on Lacoste. They are always my go-to polo brand. Nice post!

    -Emily (www.urbanadventurer.com/blog)

    cam left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 2:04 PM:

    nice collection KJP. it’s either vintage lacoste or ralph lauren for me no exceptions

    Don left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 1:57 PM:

    When I was in college, at a Big-10 school from 1976-1980, the Lacoste shirts were all the rage among the Greek crowd.
    In the 1970s,  Penguin shirts (I think it was a Munsingwear brand then) were considered to be a middle-tier brand, at best. They were part of the polyester-clad uniform of the professional golfer. I think Chi Chi Rodriguez wore them.

    Joey Dee left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 1:28 PM:

    @AHD depending on how you feel toward thrift shops, you can score vintage izod lacoste for much cheaper than ebay.
    Lacost is not the polo I remember wearing when i was a kid, and have opted for other polo brands. Polos by RL, are the standard for quality and longevity. If you are near a Dillards, their Roundtree & York Gold Lable line of polos are a personal favorite, because they are well made, wash better than most, ready to wear out of dryer, and the best part is they are logoless.
    Another great polo with heritage happens to be Fred Perry, an English tennis and table tennis champ, with their laurel logo. These are good because of the cut, fit, and the quality is better. I can’t get enough of them. I agree about penguin, its ok, not exceptional.

    AHD left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 12:04 PM:

    Where could one pick up vintage lacoste polos other than on the occasional ebay posting?

    NWR left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 9:33 AM:

    @GLG - Great idea. It is a quintessential American brand and was formed to battle Lacoste in the 1950s. Although it is more seen on hipsters, the Penguin can be just as classic as the crocodile or the polo player if it’s worn right.

    GLG left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 9:13 AM:

    @NWR Original Penguin is a great brand, definitely unsung among current preps.  I always get a compliment on my Penguin clothes, they’re high quality and can often be acquired for next to nothing at an outlet.  I recently picked up a lambswool sweater for $20 - a real steal. Fred should do a highlight of the company on the blog.

    NWR left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 8:34 AM:

    Right on. I ditched my Lacoste polos because they didn’t fit well at all and are completely overpriced for the quality. Personally, I’ll take an Original Penguin polo any day, despite their lack of presence in the preppy handbook. The Penguin was Lacoste’s American rival, after all.

    desmond k left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 7:26 AM:

    Question…..just outta curiousity, which polos do u prefer: Lacoste or Ralph Lauren?

    Raulston left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 7:24 AM:

    These colors are exceptional! You are so very right the quality and craftsmanship has left the crocodile. Solution? Shoot for vintage. Great post. (auniversitygent @ blogspot)

    Andreas left a comment on 8/3/2011 at 7:16 AM:

    I agree, the collars on recent Lacoste polos are ridiculously thin.