swimming costumes for competition and leisure
Just like a barnacle-covered boat, a swimmer in a loose, absorbent costume is slowed down by water drag. In 1927 McRae Knitting Mills introduced a one-piece cotton 'racing back' costume for men which exposed their shoulders and back like a singlet. It was considered to be daring and was banned on some beaches, but it was very 'fast' in the water. 'Speed on in your speedo' won a slogan contest in 1928 and the name stuck.
From 1952 to 1991, Gloria Smythe increased Speedo's reputation for fast swimwear. She researched the hydrodynamics (movement through water) of garments and made several innovations in the quest for speed and fashion.
She was the first to use nylon, lycra and 'paper' (lycra/nylon) fabrics, remove modesty skirts from men and women's costumes, make men's briefs briefer and raise the hipline and neckline of women's swimwear.
She introduced fashion to competitive swimming by printing onto nylon and using patterns and colours on Olympic team swimwear. By the 1970s, 73% of Olympic swimming medals were won wearing Speedo and this became their focus for advertising in the fitness and body conscious 1980s and 1990s.
In 1996 Speedo introduced a new fabric called aqua-blade with rough and smooth stripes. These create tiny channels of fast and slow moving water.
In 1999 they improved on the aqua-blade with the Fastskin? suit. The fabric was inspired by shark skin. It has V-shaped ridges which decrease drag and turbulence around the body. The suit is full length covering the arms, legs and body. Panels of the suit were designed to enhance the movement of muscles. Australian Olympic athletes were involved in the testing of the suits and after some controversy wore the suits in competition at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Who Did It?
Speedo Holdings Ltd : design, manufacture
Alexander McRae : company founder
Gloria Smythe : designer
The Aussie cossie
The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 January 1994, p 6.
Speedo.com Info and video about
the Fastskin suit
History of Speedo
Controversy. ABC News