The Crocodile and going down the rabbit hole
René Lacoste with his father, Jean-Jules Lacoste, a successful French business man. 1927
Earlier this week, I shared this Meme below in my "Unleash Your Style" page on facebook. I thought I came across a cool piece of fashion history I did not know about:
"I bet you didn't know that the Lacoste polo shirt you've been wearing is the shirt of a Black man named René Lacoste, a French tennis player who was known by fans as the Crocodile, for his tenacity on the tennis court..." Well, I instantly was intrigued and thought "What perfect timing! Black History month starts this Friday."
So I start doing my research and come up with all these cool facts. I learned that the original "Polo Shirt" worn by British Polo players in India was nothing more than a classic dress shirt with a button down collar to prevent the collar from flying in the wind as they played.
Finding himself hindered by this uncomfortable starched shirts, René Lacoste came up with a shirt sleeved shirt with a soft collar made of pique cotton; which is both durable and breathable.
That wasn't his only claim to fame. Not only was he a gifted tennis player, he invented the tennis ball machine (because he wanted to work on his overhead), the first steel tennis racket, and he filed 20 new patents after retiring from tennis in 1932. Lacoste once said, “Inventor should be on my business cards. I’ve been inventing all my life!” I continue my research and here's when it starts to get complicated and the entire focus of my Fashion Friday takes a detour.
Turns out, there is controversy as to whether he is "black." His father was a wealthy French businessman. I found a bunch of photos of him, but when trying to research his mom, nothing comes up but her name. Some sources elude to the fact she was Jamaican, but I can't find anything to collaborate that. I then went down the rabbit hole which is the internet. Some say it's a deliberately kept secret and another example of Black history being deleted. Other's say, he's not black... that he just had the darker "Mediterranean" looks or that he was from the Maghreb who self identify as African, but Arabic. The speculations go on. Now, I'm not about to solve this mystery, but the question I kept asking myself: Does it matter!? Yes, I believe it does. Here's why: So much of history is written by the "victor," the people in power. We would not need an entire month dedicated to "Black History" if we honestly told the story of our past, because "Black History" is OUR history. Until we teach Juneteenth side by side with July 4th, until we come to terms that America's wealth and strength was built upon the backs of slaves, it matters. Didn't mean to get all heavy on you, but... that's where I'm at.
See you next Fashion Friday, I'll try to keep it lighter and as always, please share with friends and feel free to comment on my blog posts. denise
On June 30, 1930 he married golfing champion Simone de la Chaume
With French tennis player Henri Cochet shaking hands at the net.
Lacoste was sporting his signature crocodile on his blazer. (Check out those shoes!)
As a younger man
As an older man