The Man Behind the Lacoste Crocodile

By Heather Taylor, Editor-in-Chief, PopIcon

If you were out shopping and saw a green crocodile logo stitched on a tennis shirt or embedded in the dial of a watch, could you name the brand associated with it? Fashionista or not, odds are good that most could instantly recognize this crocodile as the signature logo of French fashion company Lacoste.

How does a crocodile, stylish as he may be, become the ubiquitous icon of a luxury brand? The answer is a bit different than what we’re used to seeing in the advertising industry where so many brand mascots are born out of cute illustrations and “Eureka!” ideas. It traces back to businessman René Lacoste and the game of tennis.

“The Crocodile”

Before René Lacoste founded Lacoste, he was a tennis champion. According to the Lacoste website, Lacoste’s team captain made a bet with him in 1923. If Lacoste was able to win an upcoming tennis match, the team captain would buy him a crocodile leather suitcase.

Lacoste, who had previously admired this suitcase in a store window, agreed to the bet.

While he didn’t win the match, the bet was widely reported in American newspapers highlighting his determination on the court. Lacoste quickly became associated with the nickname “The Crocodile.”

Shortly afterward, the crocodile logo itself was also born. An obituary for Bernard Lacoste published by The New York Times in 2006 stated a friend of Lacoste’s embroidered a crocodile on a blazer which René wore on the tennis courts.

A Fashion Icon Is Born

Remember Lacoste’s friend who embroidered the crocodile on his blazer? The credit for this embroidery goes to Robert George, a French ice hockey player and the crocodile’s designer.

Not much is mentioned about George on the Lacoste website, although he does have a small mention in Lacoste’s 90th anniversary press release. In the release, it says Lacoste asked George to design a crocodile for him in 1926 inspired by his own nickname.

A fascinating biography footnote on the website tells another story about George. If what the biography written says is true, it was George, not a team captain, who made the bet with Lacoste to win a tennis match. In this version of the story, the crocodile suitcase belonged to George. Because Lacoste lost and wouldn’t receive the suitcase, George was said to have embroidered the crocodile on Lacoste’s clothing.

The legend of the Crocodile aside, a landmark first did occur when the crocodile was embroidered onto clothing. The Crocodile’s placement, over the heart, allowed Lacoste to break ground as the first brand that had a visible logo displayed on its apparel.

From 1933 to today, the Crocodile would evolve across decades of advertising campaigns.

The Lacoste Crocodile at 91 Years Young

On May 3, 2023, the Lacoste Crocodile celebrated his 90th birthday alongside Lacoste’s 90th anniversary.

What moves the Crocodile, now 91? It’s all about the unique energy surrounding the Crocodile. He celebrates getting the people moving — on the court and growing from sport to street — alongside Lacoste’s communities. They also infuse the brand with their spirit and help move the Crocodile.

Image credits: Lacoste Archives

About the Author

Heather Taylor is the senior writer and editor-in-chief of PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog about brand mascots. Got a pitch on brand mascots or want to wax nostalgic about characters? Drop her a line at