From manufacturing tennis shirts to making luxury sportswear mainstream, Lacoste has come a long way. For 90 years, the brand has continued to expand its production line. Today, Lacoste produces perfumes, shoes, watches, leather accessories, and other consumer products consistent with the brand’s image.
What is this image? What makes the brand likable? Why is the crocodile on the Lacoste logo? The legend dates back to the brand’s first logo, fashioned in 1933. Over time, the imposing mascot has become its shining star.
Here’s the story of the Lacoste logo.
The evolution of the Lacoste logo through the years
The crocodile of the Lacoste logo reflects the personality and the nickname of its founder, René Lacoste. He was one of the best tennis stars in the world in the 1920s. The first representation of an actual crocodile appeared on a tennis polo shirt in 1926 and has stuck ever since.
1933 to 1984: Oh snap! A crocodile
The inaugural Lacoste logo was first introduced in 1933, featuring a highly detailed, sketched crocodile with its mouth ferociously open. It faced right, and the tail was mid-swish and towards the right.
The detailing in the sketch could have made the logo design challenging to replicate across different media today. Still, at the dawn of the digital era, the brand discontinued the original logo and opted for something more modern.
The first Lacoste logo was used for 51 years and is among the longest-standing logos for a clothing brand. The crocodile soon became the sole identifier for the brand, as there was no wordmark or lettering below the emblem.
1984 to 2002: Identity in a green crocodile
In all likelihood, the highly-detailed crocodile was not versatile towards the end of the 20th century. The brand decided to create a less-detailed, flatter version of the logo, which has remained the hallmark of the brand today.
To add more character to the bold, green silhouette, the designers highlighted the scutes with a white pattern that ran along the back and tail. The eyes and limbs were highlighted with white too. The crocodile's gaping mouth was filled with red, bringing a third brand color to the mix.
Under the refined logo was the first wordmark that Lacoste used. It was written in uppercase with an encircled “R” above the “E” to represent a registered trademark. The sans-serif font was bold and inscribed in black.
2002 to 2011: A polished redesign
Having served the brand for sixteen years, the 1984 logo was finally reworked to accommodate lesser details and look more minimal. In the heart of the computer age, the brand needed to create an identity that could be reflected across evolving media formats.
The left eye of the crocodile was now defined completely (the white fill in the previous logo blended in with the background), and the green-white-red balance on the image remained unchanged.
The wordmark changed significantly. While the logo font did not show much of a change, the kerning was increased, adding ample breathing room between the characters. The logo lost the encircled “R” and grew significantly larger than the crocodile emblem.
Reducing the white accents on the crocodile and increasing the sharpness around its edges made the Lacoste logo look more modern. A monochrome version of the same was created for all official purposes.
2011 to today: The logo we know and love
2011 saw the final edition of the logo. The emblem wasn’t changed to a great extent. It just got smaller than before. The font on the wordmark got thinner, retaining the same spacing between the now wider letters. The new format of the font is in line with the style followed by most clothing brands that lean on the premium side of things.
To this day, the 2011 logo continues to be used across branding and communication material.
What’s the story behind the crocodile?
In 1926, his artist friend, Robert George, drew a crocodile for him. René Lacoste loved it and embroidered it on the left-side pocket of his white blazer. He wore the blazer to all matches earning the emblem its outstanding recall value.
In 1933 Lacoste partnered with Andrea Gillier, a knitwear manufacturer, to establish La Chemise Lacoste. The idea of polo shirts (a Lacoste invention) earned a massive fanbase among players wearing long-sleeved shirts, which restricted motion. Each polo shirt had the crocodile logo on it.
Many argue that the emblem of Lacoste is an alligator, but contrary to popular belief, it is a crocodile. The detailing on the crocodile embroidery helps identify fakes easily as they aren’t easily replicable.
What makes the Lacoste logo work today?
Several factors have made the Lacoste logo a phenomenal success today. The brand has been wearing the crocodile on its sleeve (figuratively and sometimes literally) for nearly a century. This automatically makes customers associate the brand no sooner than they spot a crocodile embroidered on fabric.
Also, the crocodile is an animal with a strong personality. It’s cooler to sport a crocodile on your clothing than a pelican or a llama. People love animals and relate animals to different personalities. The assertive nature of the crocodile, especially the one on the Lacoste logo, represents the brand’s focus on values like tenacity and elegance.
The Lacoste logo gave the brand a unique opportunity to express itself. From 2018 to 2020, the brand introduced exclusive polo shirts where the crocodile was replaced with different endangered species. The campaign was developed to raise awareness about endangered creatures in a joint effort with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
A brief history of Lacoste
René Lacoste was a world No. 1 tennis player in 1926 and 1927, having won the French Open thrice and Wimbledon and US Open twice. He was nicknamed Le Crocodile. Various accounts try to unravel the reason for his moniker.
One states that he was promised a crocodile suitcase if he won a match, causing the name to stick, while another attributes his on-court skills to be like that of the dreaded predator.
Using a generic crocodile illustration as your brand mark can have challenges. There’s always at least one other brand that has already used it. Lacoste faced a legal conflict with Crocodile Garments, headquartered in Hong Kong.
The logo on the latter’s branding had the reptile facing left. After years of dispute, the Hong Kong company conceded to changing the appearance of the crocodile so as not to have it mixed up with Lacoste.
After sailing through branding difficulties, the baggage of a 51-year-old logo that needed to be updated to stay with the times, and litigation in a foreign market, Lacoste still thrives as one of the most sought-after sportswear brands.
With athleisure becoming a growing category, Lacoste’s polo shirts from decades ago can see their insurrection into popular culture again.
In a 1973 interview, René Lacoste reminisced about the impact of the crocodile on the brand’s growth story.
“I suppose you could say that if it had been a nice animal, something sympathetic, then maybe nothing would have happened. Suppose I had picked a rooster. Well, that’s French, but it doesn’t have the same impact.’’
Frequently asked questions about the Lacoste logo
What are some commonly asked questions about the Lacoste logo? Get your questions answered with these three FAQs.
1. Why does Lacoste have a crocodile logo?
René Lacoste, the company's creator, was nicknamed "the Alligator" by the American press after he promised his team captain an alligator-skin briefcase that he would win his match. His fierceness on the tennis court earned him the nickname "the Crocodile" from his French admirers.
2. Was Lacoste the first designer logo?
Lacoste didn’t have the first designer logo, but it was the first brand to design a logo to be placed on their apparel. He co-founded Lacoste with André Gillier in 1933, and it was the first apparel company to use a logo.
3. Is Lacoste a luxury brand?
Is Lacoste a high-end or luxury brand? Not at all. In terms of the fashion industry, Lacoste isn't even close to being considered haute couture or a luxury label. It's more of a casual, everyday-wear preppy brand, although some athletes still wear it for functional reasons.
This is testimony to the power of great branding. A crocodile has nothing to do with tennis shirts or sports merchandise. Still, when you clearly define a brand’s personality, the chances of customers buying into your narrative are much higher.