The origin of the Lacoste crocodile

October 18, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

FORTUNE -- The Lacoste crocodile logo originated with a dead alligator. René Lacoste, the brand's founder and a tennis star circa 1925, was walking the streets of Boston when he became transfixed by an alligator-skin suitcase in a store window. The French Davis Cup team captain promised he would buy Lacoste the bag if he won an upcoming match. He didn't win, but the story and his fierce play earned him the nickname "the Crocodile" in the press, which apparently couldn't keep its reptiles straight. In 1933 he put the logo on short-sleeved tennis shirts, which eventually replaced the standard long-sleeved ones. Today the preppy Parisian fashion house, which just revamped its flagship Fifth Avenue store, is launching a marketing blitz to reconnect the brand with Lacoste's legacy. --Anne VanderMey

This article is from the October 17, 2011 issue of Fortune.
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