AKA: tennis collar, polo collar
How to say it:
- unstarched, flat, protruding collar
- traditionally the collar is made from ribbed cotton
- placket with buttons at centre front
- worn flat, or upturned (popped) to provide sun protection
- when closed, the neckline is quite high
…of the style: The Lacoste or Polo collar was invented by Rene Lacoste who was a multiple grand-slam winning French tennis player in the early 20th century. At the time, tennis players wore long-sleeved, button-up shirts with stiff, upturned collars and ties. These shirts were hot and restrictive and the long sleeves that were worn rolled up often fell dow, so in 1926 Lacoste designed a loose, short-sleeved tennis shirt in a cotton knit fabric called jersey petit pique. The design had a soft, ribbed collar that was worn flat but could be ‘popped’ to provide the player with sun protection on the back of the neck – the Lacoste collar.
In 1927 Lacoste added the now iconic Crocodile logo and in 1933 teamed up with Andre Gillier (owner of the largest French knitwear manufacturer at the time) to begin mass production of the new tennis shirt. Once it hit the market the polo players of the world, who also played in restrictive shirts button-up shirts, discovered the new Lacoste tennis shirt and adopted it into their uniform and by the 1950s the ‘tennis shirt’ had become known as the ‘polo shirt’ – perhaps because of the higher status of Polo as a sport or maybe polo just made the style more visible in the public eye. Either way the style was picked up by Ralph Lauren in the 1970s, who included it in his original Polo line and the name stuck.
Nowadays almost every brand from Chanel to Target produces a version of the tennis/polo shirt. But while the fabrics and brands vary, the style has stayed the same.
…of the name: The collar is called the Lacoste collar after its inventor, Rene Lacoste.
- the use of the crocodile logo on the outside of the original Lacoste tennis shirts in 1933 was the first time a brand was displayed on the outside of a garment.
- the crocodile logo was used by Lacoste as it was a nickname given to him by the American press. The story goes that in 1923 the captain of the French Davis Cup Team promised Lacoste a crocodile-skin suitcase if he won his match. The press heard the story and his was nicknamed ‘the crocodile’. The name stuck.
- the now famously preppy ‘popped collar’ originated on the tennis courts with Lacoste and his fellow players who upturned their collars to protect the backs of their necks from the sun. It was an anti-sunburn manoeuver, and had nothing to do with being cool.
21st Century Lacoste Collars
Lacoste collars can be seen everywhere – from the golf course to the local hardware store. It is a smart, comfortable and versatile style that anyone can wear and as such, almost every brand at every price point produces a ‘polo shirt’, or ‘polo dress’, almost every Spring/Summer season.
Ralph Lauren Blue Label, Tory Burch