Jean René Lacoste (July 2, 1904 - October 12, 1996) was a French tennis player and businessman. He was nicknamed "the Crocodile" by fans because of his tenacity on the court; he is also known worldwide as the creator of the Lacostetennis shirt, which he introduced in 1929.
In 1933, Lacoste founded La Société Chemise Lacoste with André Gillier. The company produced the tennis shirt which Lacoste often wore when he was playing, which had a crocodile (often thought to be an alligator) embroidered on the chest.
In 1963, Lacoste created a sensation in racquet technology by patenting the first tubular steel tennis racquet. Until then, racquets had almost always been made of wood. This new racquet's strings were attached to the frame by a series of wires, which wrapped around the racquet head. The racquet was marketed in Europe under the Lacoste brand, but in the United States it was marketed by Wilson Sporting Goods and achieved critical acclaim and huge popularity as the Wilson T-2000, used by American tennis great Jimmy Connors.
In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, included Lacoste in his list of the 21 greatest players of all time.[a]
There are numerous explanations of why Lacoste was originally nicknamed the Crocodile. A 2006 New York Times obituary about Lacoste's son, Bernard, provides an apparently authoritative one. In the 1920s, supposedly, Lacoste made a bet with his team captain about whether he would win a certain match. The stakes were a suitcase he had seen in a Boston store; it was made of crocodile (or alligator) skin. Later, René Lacoste's friend Robert George embroidered a crocodile onto a blazer that Lacoste wore for his matches.
The week of his death, French Advertising agency Publicis, who had been managing the account for decades, published a print ad with the Lacoste logo and the English words "See you later...", reinforcing the idea that the animal was perhaps an alligator.