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A Brief History of Speedo Swimwear

Very few companies have been able to weather the turbulent economy of recent as well as Speedo. Since it was founded near the white sands of Bondi Beach, Australia by a young Scottish immigrant way back in 1914 (under the brand name 'Fortitude', it didn't become the famous name we now know until 1928), the company has been instrumental in the swimwear industry. It’s been so influential that their brand name is often used to refer to a single product: “Did you bring your Speedos?” It’s an honour that precious few companies have earned, but it’s one that Speedo truly deserves. S02_C_MF_Lazer_Elite2_Jam_288_v1

The Racer-Back Costume

Speedo’s long history of quality swimwear products began with a single garment, known as the racer-back costume. In 1927, the company’s founder, Alexander McRae, had found success providing the Australian army with socks during the First World War. He invested this good fortune back into the company, and branched out into swimwear. The racer-back costume was the result. The brand name followed soon after when a slogan competition within the business produced the tagline: “Speed on in your Speedos”. The business gained worldwide recognition by sponsoring events such as the Olympics in 1932 and 1936.

The Post-War World

Speedo’s swimming trunks continued to dominate the market all the way through until World War II. Once again, Speedo chose to funnel much of its funds into the war effort – giving the brand yet more recognition. But it wasn’t until the 1956 Melbourne Summer Games that the ‘classic’ men’s swimming briefs made their first appearance. The new swimming trunks were made of nylon for the first time, and were worn proudly by the Australian swimming team, who took home eight gold medals. This exposure solidified Speedo’s hold over the market. At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, 27 of the 29 gold medallists wore Speedo swimwear, further establishing them as the industry leader.

The 1970s and Beyond

By the mid-seventies, Speedo had a number of subsidiaries, including its now headquarters in Nottingham, England. Its product line expanded to include not only men’s and women’s swimwear, but also general sportswear. One key development during the 1970s was the company’s pioneering use of elastane, also known as spandex. This paved the way for all new styles of swim and sportswear, and is still used in many of Speedo’s products to this day. Also, at the 1972 Munich Olympics, 21 of the 22 world records set were made by swimmers wearing Speedo swimwear. S215_SF_Rback

The Modern Age

Speedo has never been a company to drag its feet, especially in regard to technology. Following a majority acquisition from British sportswear company Pentland Group in the early 90s, the company shifted its focus somewhat. It began to produce more fashion-oriented pieces for the everyday swimmer and even collaborated with designers Melissa Odabash and Commes des Garcons for certain collections. It also started to specialise in low-resistance swim suits, such as the S2000. Its Aquablade line of swimsuits was a favourite amongst Olympians, and the company even developed chlorine-resistant garments through the Endurance range. Speedo has also ventured into the world of sports technology, with an ever-growing range of water-resistant digital watches, as well as its own take on MP3 players with the Aquabeat line of digital music devices. In 2000 they launched the first ever range of Fastskin swimsuits which has been developed over the years to become one of the top racing suits in the world. Back in 2010 the TriathELITE range was released for triathlons and in 2013 Speedo celebrated its 85th anniversary. Looking forward into 2016 and beyond, Speedo continues to be a force to be reckoned with; not only due to its over 100-year history, but also its track record for trying new things and pushing new sports technologies.   Do you own any Speedo swimwear?