The Shoe Inspired By A Shirt

Lacoste L 12 12The new Lacoste L.12.12 premium leather sneaker. Photo: Jim Sim

For so many sportsmen and not-so-sporty individuals, the Lacoste polo shirt is an iconic garment. Having crossed the backlines and sidelines of a court to live large in every corner of our urban spaces, the Lacoste polo shirt is no longer restricted to the game of tennis for which it was designed to be worn. Despite its many reiteration and fits and the staggering plethora of fabrications, the original polo shirt, born in 1933 and code-named L.12.12, remains one of the most popular in the brand’s selection of sport tops.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Lacoste would create a shoe inspired by the shirt that has placed the brand on the world’s fashion map. The L.12.12 as footwear is every bit as sleek as the polo shirt, with a purity of design that articulates the same sense of what is logical and practical in terms of wearability. There are no superfluous elements in the shoe. From the padded collar (surprisingly sans pull-tab) to the PU insole (unsurprisingly moulded for extra comfort and cushioning) to the 5-hole perforation at the top of the toe box (to improve internal ventilation), every detail serves a specific purpose.

Lacoste’s introduction of the L.12.12’s is, to some, a little belated, since Adidas’s Stan Smith has staked out a huge chunk of the tennis-shoe-as-fashionable-footwear market of the past three years (not to mention every other luxury brand’s take, including the near-facsimile of those by Saint Laurent). Still, we’re partial to Lacoste’s refined version in monochromatic washes of very handsome hues (there are six colourways, but only five are available in Singapore). The silhouette, with a toe box that’s neither too rounded or pointy, is flattering on wide Asian feet and the Derby construction—characterised by quarters with eyelets for shoelaces sewn atop the vamp—lends the shoe an elegance that can easily make the scene outside the tennis court.

L 12 12 shirt and shoeThe classic L.12.12 polo shirt and the shoe that is named after it. Photos: Lacoste

The L.12.12, interestingly, is not just a style number. L, as you guessed it, is for Lacoste. The 1 “represents the uniqueness of the petit pique material used for the polo” and the 2 is the code for short sleeves. The following 12 (rather than 1 and 2) is the number of prototypes developed before the version we see today is designated for sale. The L.12.12 has spawned not just a pair of shoes, but eau de toilette too.

For those with a penchant for details, a kick may be derived from the knowledge that the shoe is lined with a piqué that is akin to that used in the polo shirt. The piqué is a weaving style—usually used with cotton yarn—woven lengthwise with raised yarns or what fabric technologists call ‘ribbing’. The result is a fairly loose weave that makes the fabric ‘breathable’. Lacoste’s piqué was originally developed with Andre Gillier, the co-founder of La Chemise Lacoste. Mr Gillier was France’s largest owner–manufacturer of knitwear at that time; who had, prior to Lacoste, produced his country’s first men’s underwear label Jil, known for its slip kangourou (or kangaroo slip, a pouch-crotched brief).

For sure, Rene Lacoste, whose last name is now sometimes used as synonym for the polo shirt, was a far bigger legend. However, not many people these days know or remember that Mr Lacoste was a tennis player and a world-famous one too. The ignorance is understandable since France no longer dominates the world of tennis. But in the Twenties, specifically 1925, the sport was roaring with the triumphs of the then 20-year-old Rene Lacoste’s win of the French Open and Wimbledon just a month apart. Within a mere four years, he would claim seven major singles titles together with three doubles championships, securing the status as France’s most eminent tennis star.

As for the crocodile association, let’s leave that to another post. The reptile, however, is definitely sported on the L.12.12 shoe.

Lacoste L.12.12 premium leather sneakers, SGD199, is available in black, white, grey, red, and dark green at Lacoste Wisma Atria

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