There aren't many guys who get to claim icon status in two different fields, but René Lacoste is one of them. The ferocious French tennis player dominated the game in the '20s and early '30s-winning seven Grand Slam titles and the nickname "the Crocodile"-but he was also the inventor of his now-universally recognized Lacoste polo way back in 1933. (And if you didn't know why your shirt has a croc on chest, now you know.)
Today, the French brand announced a new player taking up the legacy that René began nearly a century ago. Novak Djokovic-a 12-time Grand Slam winner and inarguably one of the greatest tennis players in the world-is joining on as Lacoste's style ambassador. He's been dubbed the "New Crocodile" as an homage to René Lacoste, and he's getting his own line of on-the-court performance gear and a starring role in a new campaign that launches today.
It's one in a series of major shifts for Djokovic, who recently parted ways with longtime coach Boris Becker and announced just yesterday that he's picked Andre Agassi to be his coach at the French Open. And then there's his decision to move on from a five-year partnership with Uniqlo. "It was an interesting, and very successful, relationship that I had in partnership with them," he explained today at a press conference in Monaco, which he calls home. "But of course, as a tennis player, you kind of relate yourself more to the brand that comes from your own field of life."
The closely guarded switch happened fast. "Yesterday I finished the match in Uniqlo, so today is the first Lacoste outfit that I'm wearing," he laughed. Of course, when he says it's the first time he's wearing Lacoste, he's only speaking in the professional sense. Djokovic has a longstanding personal relationship with the brand.
"I know my father and mother have been wearing Lacoste for their entire lives," he said. "I remember opening a closet of my father's and seeing different colors of Lacoste. So I was wearing that when I was younger, before I started having more commitments in terms of sponsorships. I'm glad to revisit my father's closet and to update it and upgrade it a little bit more."
Central to that update is the line of performance wear developed for Djokovic by the Lacoste team, which will make its debut at the French Open. "I care about what I wear on the court. I think it's important," he said. "It's not just the way you feel in the clothes, but the way you look, the way you carry that on the court, the way you're related to the brand. You can just sense that different feel, that different energy and aura around the player when that player is completely aligned with the values of that brand. I feel very close to Lacoste at the moment, and I'm sure I'll feel great in whatever I wear."
He's careful to note, though, that it's not just about sportswear. He is, after all, the face of Lacoste's casual gear as well. "It's not only a sports brand-it extends to fashion," he said. "And it has this very unique, special, and recognizable look, design, and feel. I think it stands alone, in a way, in that kind of spirit it has created."
It's a spirit that started with René Lacoste, and one that Djokovic hopes to carry on. Lacoste famously said, "Without style, playing and winning are not enough." Djokovic agrees, but he's quick to note that it's about more than just clothes. "I think he was not referring only to style in terms of clothing," he explained. "He was referring to that, of course, but also style and character and respectful behavior on the court. And that's something that I agree with and relate to."
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