For some people, the 1980s was all about punk and rebelliousness. But the decade was also marked by the reign of anti-labor leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, when nighttime soap operas such as Dallas and Falcon Crest ruled the TV airwaves along with semi-documentary shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Now this was the world in which the Lacoste Shirts fit right in. With the collars carelessly popped up, this was the signature look of the preppies, along with the sweater draped around the shoulders and of course, who can forget the boat shoes?
Part of the charm of the Lacoste Shirt is its history, which just about every true-blue preppie is familiar with (or at least pretends to be). René Lacoste ruled the tennis world back in the 1920s, ranking #1 in 1926 and 1927. His career included 7 Grand Slam championships.
At the time, the polo shirt was already in existence. It was actually used by British polo players in India, and the name “polo shirt” stuck when John Brooks, who was the grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers, saw the shirts back in the late 1800s and brought the style to the US.
According to an interview in People Magazine, Lacoste noticed his friend the Marquis of Cholmondeley wearing a polo shirt on the tennis court. He realized that the notion was quite practical, so he had an English tailor produce a few polo shirts in both wool and cotton. He wore the polo shirt for the first time in the 1926 US Open in New York City.
In 1927, the US media called him an Alligator, not just because of his athletic courage but also because he was athletically brave. When he went back to France, it was translated as “Crocodile” and that became his nickname. Lacoste embraced the nickname so much that the image of the Crocodile became his own personal brand.
He had the logo placed on his shirts, and then after he retired from tennis he marketed the shirt as “the status symbol of the competent sportsman”.
So why did it become so famous back in the 1980s? Lacoste had been around for decades before it reached its height of popularity when it began showing up regularly in 80s TV shows and movies. It wasn’t just because James Spader was wearing the preppie look in many movies. Movie legends like Clint Eastwood had long rocked Lacoste as a top choice of polo, however in the 80s things finally began to kick up into full throttle.