IZOD and Lacoste: What's the Difference?

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Note from Jason: My wife gave me a very nice Lacoste watch for my birthday, which led to a 'What's the difference between IZOD & Lacoste?' discussion. If your significant other gives you a very nice Lacoste watch on your birthday and the conversation takes a similar path, here's what you need to know.

Picture 51.pngThe Dilemma: You want to look preppy. But how?

People You Can Impress: Polo players, Republicans, everyone at the club

The Quick Trick: Get a Lacoste shirt and you'll have the best of both worlds.

The Explanation:

As it turns out, Lacoste is a subbrand of IZOD. As Aristotle would put it: All Lacostes are IZODs, but not all IZODs are Lacostes. These days, both brands are owned by the garment giant Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, so the difference between Lacoste IZODs and non-Lacoste IZODs is primarily marketing. But the difference between the men behind IZOD and Lacoste is vast indeed.

Jack Izod owned a tailoring shop in London, and billed himself as the "Shirtmaker to the King." Indeed, he made shirts for King George VI (1895"“1951) in the 1930s. One day in the late '30s, a women's apparel magnate named Vin Draddy visited IZOD's tailoring shop. Looking to start a line of men's clothing, Draddy recognized that his own last name would make a poor name for a clothing line, but he quite liked the ring of IZOD. So he bought the rights to the IZOD's name and began making clothes under the IZOD moniker. Oddly enough, the brand's namesake, Jack Izod, never designed a single item for the company.

Picture 62.pngRené Lacoste, on the other hand, really did design the famous shirts named for him, which is all the more remarkable because he was not a tailor. He was a professional tennis player.Between 1925 and 1928, Lacoste won seven Grand Slam events, and might have won more had he not become ridiculously rich by inventing the world's first good tennis shirt. In the 1920s, tennis players wore long-sleeved, heavily starched dress shirts (often with ties!). Lacoste grew weary of the outfits, and by 1929, he'd designed a short-sleeved shirt with a longer shirttail in the back and a flat collar. Further proving he was ahead of his time, Lacoste generally played the game with his collar turned up, though it was more to block out the sun than anything else. But back to the shirts! Light and comfortable, Lacoste's garments were an immediate hit when he began mass-producing them in 1933. By 1951, he'd sold the brand to IZOD.

Lacoste's other significant contribution to fashion has to do with the iconic crocodile (it's not an alligator—see below) on his shirts. Known as "Le Crocodile" for his on-court tenacity, Lacoste added the crocodile to his shirts in the mid-1930s—the first time a logo is known to have appeared on the outside of a shirt. Not a bad fashion record for a guy who mostly just wanted to win tennis tournaments.

Alligator vs. Crocodile

So how can you tell the Lacoste symbol is a crocodile not an alligator? You can't, really, unless you know the story of Le Crocodile. But a real alligator and crocodile have many differences. For starters, crocodiles are much more likely to kill you. But also: Crocodiles have a narrower, almost pointy snout. A crocodile's lower teeth are always visible; an alligator's disappear when its mouth is closed. Alligators are usually gray; crocodiles, a light brown.

Excerpted from the book What's the Difference?, which is available in our store.

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July 30, 2009 - 8:15am
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