1910’s – The Origins
Speedo originated in 1914 under the brand name ‘Fortitude’, which was taken from the motto on the clan MacRae crest. It didn’t become known by its now famous brand name until 1928. The company was started by a young Scot called Alexander MacRae, who migrated to Australia in 1910, and set up an underwear manufacture business called MacRae Hosiery manufacturers. In response to the growing beach culture in Australia, MacRae quickly expanded his operations to include swimwear and changed the company name to MacRae Knitting Mills.
1920’s – Creating a Classic
During the 1920’s the swimwear market grew rapidly, thanks to the acceptance of swimming as a sport and a more liberal attitude towards mixed bathing. In 1928 MacRae introduced the classic, figure-hugging “Racerback” costume, which permitted greater freedom of movement, allowing wearers to swim faster. This inspired staff member Captain Parsons to coin the slogan ‘Speed on in your Speedos’ and the Speedo name was born in 1928. By 1929 this year the first Speedo swimsuits were being produced. The newly-named brand soon established itself in the hearts and minds of the swimmers and the general public, thanks in part to Swedish swimmer Arne Borg, who set a world record in Speedo swimwear.
1930’s – Style and Performance
Swimwear fashions changed constantly throughout the 1930’s, and Speedo products began to make the headlines for their style and performance. In 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Australian Claire Dennis took gold in the 200m breaststroke, but caused controversy in her Speedo swimsuit that “showed too much shoulder”. Four years later, the 1936 Berlin Games saw an Australian Men’s swim team all wearing Speedo, including a daring, bare-chested swimming shorts design. Alexander McRae also formed strong links with the Surf Life Saving Association, which continues up to the current day.
1940’s – War and a 2-Piece
The Second World War saw the brand dedicate over 90% of its capacity to supplying vital equipment to the armed forces. After the war, Speedo quickly re-established itself, even opening a new factory to cope with increased demand for swimsuits – spearheaded by the bikini. Two-piece swimsuits for women had first appeared just before the war, but were not yet commonly regarded as decent – in fact, the Speedo bikini was banned by Australian beach inspectors! Speedo continued to dominate competitive swimming, with an increasing number of athletes choosing to endorse the Speedo brand.
1950’s – Shore to Shore Expansion
The foundations for expansion were laid in 1951 when Speedo Knitting Mills (Holdings) Ltd was incorporated and became a publicly traded company on the Sydney Stock exchange. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, Speedo’s sponsorship of the entire Australian team transformed Speedo into a world famous brand when the team swept the board with 8 gold medals. Speedo began exporting to the USA in 1959, and formed a new International Division to monitor the New Zealand, Japanese and South African markets. Speedo also moved into Europe, buying a 30% share of Robert Shaw and Company Ltd. in Nottingham, England.
1960’s – The Sky’s the Limit
The global growth of the brand continued during the 1960s. The Speedo (Europe) subsidiary was established in London, England, and Speedo swimwear manufacture and distribution licenses were granted to corporations in Japan and South Africa. The Mexico Olympics of 1968 saw some brilliant performances, with 27 of the 29 gold medallists wearing Speedo suits. In addition, 22 out of the 23 world records set at the Games went to swimmers wearing Speedo.
1970’s – Ripple Effect
Speedo is the first company to start producing swimwear made of nylon/elastane which is still the most popular swimwear fabric today. Meanwhile, Speedo’s international presence expanded significantly. New ventures were launched in Eastern Europe, Brazil and Mexico, while the Japanese licensing deal was renewed, and Speedo Canada was established. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, a staggering 21 out of the 22 world records were broken by swimmers wearing Speedo. 52 out of the 58 nations competing in the pool were wearing Speedo. Speedo was also the official swimwear licensee for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where 52 out of 54 countries wore their swimsuits
1980’s – Faster than the Wave
A historic agreement is signed between China and Speedo, providing the Chinese team with training and equipment, allowing them to return to Olympic competition after an absence of 40 years. Companies in Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are all licensed to have Speedo products manufactured and distributed. By now, the Speedo trademark is protected in 112 countries. Breaking new ground again, Speedo became the first ever official sponsor of the Australian Institute of Sport.
1990’s – On the Shoulders of Giants
Speedo International Ltd. The Pentland Group also took ownership of Speedo in this decade. In 1992 Speedo launched S2000 15% less drag than conventional swimwear fabric. At the Barcelona Olympics 53% of all swimming medals won were by swimmers competing in Speedo S2000 . In 1994 Speedo launched Endurance, the world’s first chlorine resistant fabric. Two years later in 1996 Speedo launched AQUABLADE 8% lower surface resistance than S2000. At the Atlanta Olympics 77% of all swimming medals won were worn by swimmers competing in Speedo AQUABLADE swimsuits.
2000’s – Unleash Confidence
Speedo kicked off the 21st century in style, launching the revolutionary FASTSKIN swimsuit. Its award winning sharkskin-based design was eagerly received by swimmers like Grant Hackett, Michael Klim, Inge de Bruijn and Lenny Krayzelburg. The 2000 Sydney Olympics saw 13 of the 15 World Records broken in the suit and 83% of medals won by swimmers. In 2013 Speedo celebrates its 85th Anniversary and launches ‘Get Speedo Fit’, a new campaign aimed at helping people to reach their optimum fitness through swimming.