It was the decade when...
The crocodile got cool again.
I know what you're thinking. Lacoste? How is Lacoste, the original casual athletic shirt, a trend of the Aughts? OK, it's true that the company was formed in 1933 by tennis player Renee Lacoste, (le crocodile was his courtside sobriquet) who designed the shirt out of dissatisfaction with the cumbersome clothes he was wearing on the court (the term "polo shirt" is something of a misnomer), and it's also true that the crocodile-d shirt has since become a classic of American (well, French, if truth be told) fashion. The reptile emblazoned polo has long been the chemise of choice for yacht-club millionaires and yuppie douche-bags on casual Friday. And Lacoste has been through periods of swollen popularity before - take a look back at those Brat Pack movies or early 80's slasher pics; they're everywhere. Lacoste and prep have long been synonymous. So, I concede the point that the Lacoste-look is not the sole province of any particular era. But what happened in the middle of this decade was ridiculous.
Displaying the kind of groupthink that comes only from inflated fashion trends or Stalinist-level propaganda decimation, the Lacoste shirt dominated the polo market this decade. Hell, during part of 2005, Lacoste dominated the shirt market entirely, or so one might surmise were they to stroll down the the streets of Soho on a Sunday afternoon. A person wearing a polo without the status symbol, I mean, lacoste logo became the exception, not the rule. Don't believe me? Check the numbers. The company saw sales grow 800% in just 3 years. In 2005 Lacoste sold over 50 million products. TIME magazine was jizzing all over the company in a 2005 article that read like copy from Lacoste's publicity department. In the heat of the moment, and radiating insecurity, I too succumbed to the pressure, forking over $80 for, essentially, an inch long alligator cartoon.
None of this was an accident of course. Lacoste, divorced in 1993 from it's longtime partner in prep, IZOD, was in the doldrums for the rest of that decade, reduced to selling their shirts at WAL-MART. But when former Levi-Strauss designer Robert Siegel was hired to run the company 2002 he had a brilliant business plan: restore Lacoste's status as the choice attire of would-be privileged fey country club WASP's everywhere. Oh, and paying tennis dreamboat Andy Roddick 5 million a year to wear the brand on the court didn't hurt. In Pavlovian droves the public bought the product with ferocious alacrity; shirts flew off the shelves like a new Harry Potter book, the outrageous price tag only reinforcing the impression that the Lacoste shirt was something special. Sure every store and every designer makes a polo shirt, but only one brand has a Croc on it! Lacoste's renewed success was such a punch to the solar-plexus at Team Ralph Lauren, all they could summon up as a riposte was making their little polo man, hee-hee, BIGGER.
The real secret to Lacoste's success? Woody Allen found the answer:
And it came to pass that the man who sold shirts was smitten by hard times. Neither did any of his merchandise move nor did he prosper. And he prayed and said, "Lord, why hast thou left me to suffer thus? All mine enemies sell their goods except I. And it's the height of the season. My shirts are good shirts. Take a look at this Rayon. I got button downs, flare-collars, nothing sells. Yet have kept thy commandments. Why can I not earn a living when my younger brother cleans up in children's ready-to-wear?" And the Lord heard the man and said, "About thy shirts..." "Yes, Lord," the man said, falling to his knees. "Put an alligator over the pocket." "Pardon me, Lord?" "Just do what I'm telling you. You won't be sorry." And the man sewed onto all his shirts a small alligator symbol and lo and behold, suddenly his merchandise moves like gangbusters, and there was much rejoicing while amongst his enemies there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, and one said, "The Lord is merciful. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. The problem is, I can't get up."
What a croc of shirt!
You AUGHT to remember.