By  on February 9, 2013

It might have begun with a shirt, but René Lacoste and his family formed the foundation of the company that is still a major player today.

The revolutionary polo that made Lacoste’s name resonate around the world was born from a personal frustration with the long-sleeve attire the tennis champion was forced to wear on the courts, driving him to design the breathable, short-sleeve L.12.12 shirt that remains a classic.

The rare mix of sports and engineering that carved the company’s identity harked from further back: René Lacoste’s father made his fortune in electronics for the automotive and aerospace industries, but was also a keen sportsman. He wanted his only son, born in 1904, to study engineering, but René preferred to play tennis. He persuaded his father to allow him to go professional, and in the Twenties went on to win the French Open three times, Wimbledon twice and the U.S. National Championships twice — the first Frenchman to win the American competition.

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