Alligator Shirts

Alligator Shirts

Prep School students had enough spare cash to buy a whole rainbow of “alligator shirts” back in the 80s, but they probably should have paid a little more attention in biology class. Then, maybe someone would have eventually realized that the emblem adorning their chests was actually a crocodile. A minor mistake, and not that it mattered – whatever the critter was, students of all ages still bought millions of alligator shirts.

This history of this iconic shirt, created by Izod in 1934, owes its design to French tennis star Rene Lacoste, whose uniquely-shaped nose, coupled with his aggressive style of play, had earned him the nickname “le crocodile.” As a result, he had an emblem of the reptile embroidered on the breast of his tennis whites and the style caught on among his affluent fans. And for the next 50 years, the style remained unchanged until a new generation embraced the style of their ancestors, if not the name.

Throughout prep schools across the country, the alligator shirt became the accepted uniform of teens, usually untucked, with collar flipped up, and worn with a pair of khaki slacks. And with this particular fashion statement, the term “preppy” was born.

Eventually, the preppies even began wearing two different colored shirts at the same time, one layered over the other. Taking such bold fashion risks required a well-stocked closet, filled with as many colors as one could get their studious little hands on. Thankfully, with dozens of shades to choose from, the possibilities for mixing and matching were endless.

Like any iconic fashion, the imitators quickly followed with a menagerie of other critters to set them apart. J.C. Penny introduced the Fox, Gloria Vanderbilt unleashed the Swan, and Hunter’s Run trotted out the Horse. But prep school fashion isn’t quite as inclusive as Noah’s Ark, and if one wasn’t wearing the real deal, scorn and ridicule quickly followed. Making matters more complicated, there were plenty of counterfeit shirts sold at a fraction of the price, but a keen eye could spot them a mile away.

While not as popular as they once were, alligator shirts still play a prominent role in prep schools around the land. They are a timeless fashion that our brightest students continue to embrace. Although, you would think that one of their biology teachers might have pointed out the naming discrepancy by now. Crocodile, folks … Crocodile!

Did your closet contain a few alligator shirts back in the day. Did you have a rainbow assortment of colors, or just a select few. Share your memories with us in our comments section as we remember this classic fashion from yesteryear.

2 Responses to “Alligator Shirts”

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  1. I resisted wearing these at first, all the kids had them….finally got one, now joining the crowd!

  2. Angie Meade says:

    I would still like to have one. Anyone know where I can get one?

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