History of Speedo Swimwear

Written by paul cartmell
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History of Speedo Swimwear
Speedo is an Australian swimwear brand. (Australia image by Stefano Maccari from Fotolia.com)

The Warnaco website reports that Speedo is the world's top selling swimwear brand. Speedo supplies swimwear to a number of the world's top swimmers such as Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Lochte. Speedo develops swimwear to increase a swimmer's speed and ability to move through the water.


The history of Speedo swimwear dates back to 1910 when Scottish entrepreneur Alexander MacRae emigrated to Australia and established the MacRae Hosiery Manufacturers company. The Speedo website reports that in 1914 MacRae formed a separate company, Fortitude, to manufacture swimwear. The name Speedo was not used until 1928 when a staff member, Captain Parsons, came up with the slogan "Speed on in your Speedos." The slogan was produced for the company's "Racerback" men's swimwear, the first swimwear to be created out of a material other than wool. The Racerback became the first item of clothing manufactured under the brand name Speedo in 1929. Speedo first sprang to international fame when Swedish swimmer Ann Borg broke a world record wearing a Speedo swimsuit.


The Speedo website reports that the popularity of the brand grew throughout the first half of the 20th century with many world-class swimmers wearing Speedo swimwear. In 1952 Speedo was incorporated onto the Sydney Stock Exchange. At the end of the 1950s Speedo expanded into worldwide markets with exports beginning to the USA, Japan and South America. In the European markets Speedo gained a foothold in 1959 with its acquisition of a 30-per cent stake in the Robert Shaw and Co. company of Nottingham, England to manufacture and distribute Speedo products.


The fame of Speedo is described by Warnaco as being linked with swimming events in the Olympic Games. At the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles Australian swimmer Clare Dennis won the 200 meters gold medal wearing Speedo. Almost as much attention was placed on her win because of her costume, which was accused of showing too much shoulder. Other victories came until the 1956 Olympics when the entire Australian swim team wore Speedo and won all eight available gold medals. In 2008, American swimmer Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics to achieve the best individual performance at an Olympics to date wearing Speedo.


The Warnaco website reports that Speedo has been responsible for some of the biggest leaps in swimwear technology. Speedo's innovations include the swimming short, nylon and chlorine-resistant materials. During the first decade of the 21st century, the Speedo website reports the introduction of Fastskin technology, a material based on shark skin that allowed 13 world records to be broken at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


In 2008 the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit was developed using technology created by the U.S. Space Agency NASA. The Speedo USA website reports the LZR technology was used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics where 40 world records were set by swimmers wearing the LZR Racer.

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