Image Credit: Agence de presse Meurisse / Public domain
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, tennis players ordinarily wore “tennis whites”.
These Tennis whites consisting of long-sleeved white button-up shirts (worn with the sleeves rolled up), flannel trousers, and ties. This attire presented problems for ease of play and comfort.
René Lacoste, the French seven-time Grand Slam tennis champion, felt that the stiff tennis attire was too cumbersome and uncomfortable. He designed a white, short-sleeved, loosely-knit piqué cotton (he called the cotton weave jersey petit piqué) shirt with an unstarched, flat, protruding collar, a buttoned placket, and a shirt-tail longer in the back than in front (known today as a “tennis tail”; see below), which he first wore at the 1926 U.S. Open championship.
Beginning in 1927, Lacoste placed a crocodile emblem on the left breast of his shirts, as the American press had begun to refer to him as “The Crocodile”, a nickname which he embraced.