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Speedo Heritage

The Speedo Story

From fabric world-firsts to iconic sporting moments, our journey to international swimwear brand is rich in history and innovation. Discover how it all began with a young Scotsman in 1910

Explore our History

  1. 1910

    The Story Begins

    Alexander MacRae, a young scot, emigrates to Australia to seek his fortune.

    1910

    1912

    Johnny Weissmuller becomes the first man to break the one minute barrier in the 100 m freestyle.

    At the Stockholm Olympic Games, women swam competitively for the first time.

    1914

    The first factory opens

    MacRae sets up a knitwear factory in Sydney’s Regent Street, using the name ‘Fortitude’, taken from the family crest.

    Fortitude makes socks for the Australian army during World War 1.

    1910
  2. 1924

    Lane dividers made of cork are used for the first time at the Paris Olympics, and lines on the pool bottom aid orientation.

    1928

    Speed on in Your Speedos

    Jim Parsons wins a competition to name the new swimwear with his entry “Speed on in your Speedos”. The Speedo name is born.

    The world’s first non-wool suit

    Fortitude launches the world’s first non-wool swimsuit in the figure-hugging ‘Racerback’ style, freeing wearers to swim faster.

    1929

    Swimmer Arne Borg sets a world record wearing Speedo

    The Swedish swimmer’s world record achievement establishes Speedo in the hearts and minds of swimmers and the general public.

    First Speedo branded swimsuits produced

    1920
  3. 1930

    The first heated swimming pools are introduced.

    1932

    Medal winner Claire Dennis’ Speedo suit deemed controversial

    Despite her medal and world record, Claire Dennis’s Speedo swimsuit causes controversy for showing ‘too much shoulder’.

    Olympic success for Australia and Speedo

    Los Angeles Olympics: Speedo-wearing Claire Dennis becomes the first Australian woman to set a swimming world record and win a gold medal.

    1934

    [1934-1935] Butterfly becomes established

    Americans David Armbruster and Jack Sieg invent the double over-the-water arm recovery and dolphin kick respectively, forming the ‘butterfly’.

    1930

    1935

    First topless men’s swimsuits are worn in America.

    1930

    1936

    Speedo forges links with the life-saving community

    McRae forms strong links with Australia’s Surf Life Saving Association, an association which continues to this day.

    Bare chests and Speedos for the Berlin Olympic Games

    Speedo’s popularity continues. Australia’s men’s swimming team wear Speedo, including a daring, bare-chested swim shorts design.

    1939

    [1939-1945] Speedo dedicates manufacturing to the war effort

    During World War Two, over 90% of output is given to the war effort, making knitwear, underwear, mosquito nets and signal flags.

  4. 1946

    The bikini is invented in Paris.

    1940

    1947

    Demands for bikinis sees sales soar

    After the war, Speedo opens a new factory to cope with increased demand for swimsuits – spearheaded by the bikini.

    1940

    1947

    The new two-piece is banned on Aussie beaches

    Not yet commonly regarded as decent, the bikini is banned by Australian beach inspectors.

    1940
  5. 1951

    Speedo hits the Stock Exchange

    Speedo Knitting Mills (holdings) Ltd becomes a publicly traded company on the Sydney Stock Exchange.

    1954

    A beachwear classic is born

    Speedo’s relationship with the lifesaving community leads to the creation of a brand new style of men’s swimwear – the Speedo Watershort.

    1950

    1956

    Introduction of the flip-turn

    The Melbourne Olympic Games sees the introduction of the ‘flip-turn’, which helps swimmers change directions at the pool-end more quickly.

    It’s gold at the Melbourne Olympics

    Sponsorship of the entire Australian team transforms Speedo into a world famous brand. The team sweep the board with 8 gold medals.

    1957

    Nylon swimwear marks another fabric first for Speedo

    An established pioneer of swimwear innovations, Speedo launches a swimsuit in the new wonder fabric, Nylon.

    1950

    1959

    Speedo buys a 30% share of Robert Shall and Co. Ltd

    The company is based in Nottingham, England – later to become home to Speedo’s International headquarters, in 2011.

    First step towards world domination

    Speedo begins exporting to the USA and forms a new international division to monitor markets in New Zealand, Japanese and South Africa.

    1950
  6. 1968

    44 countries compete in Speedo swimwear at the Mexico Olympic Games.

    1960

    Speedo strikes gold at the 1968 Mexico Games

    Of the 29 gold medallists, 27 wear Speedo suits. Meanwhile, 22 of the 23 world records are set by swimmers wearing Speedo.

    1960
  7. 1970

    Speedo pioneers nylon/elastane swimwear

    Speedo is the first company to start producing swimwear made of nylon/elastane – still the most popular swimwear fabric today.

    1960

    1972

    Speedo swimwear dominates in Munich

    At the Munich Olympics, a staggering 21 out of 22 world records are broken by swimmers wearing Speedo, while 52 of 58 nations compete in Speedo swimwear.

    1960

    1976

    Speedo is the official Olympic swimwear choice

    Speedo is made official swimwear licensee for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, with 52 of 54 teams competing in the brand.

    1960

    1977

    Swimmers finally allowed to wear goggles to compete.

    1979

    [1979-1981] The Speedo trademark is protected in 112 countries

    By now, manufacturing and distribution licenses are held in Belgium, Italy and Spain, amongst other countries.

    1970
  8. 1984

    Speedo athletes go for gold in Los Angeles

    Speedo remains the go-to brand for elite swimmers, with 21 gold, 20 silver and 16 bronze Olympic medals going to Speedo athletes.

    1980 1980
  9. 1991

    Pentland Group takes ownership of Speedo.

    1992

    The S2000 suit launches, boasting 15% less drag

    Speedo’s reputation for innovation continues with the new S2000 suit, designed to reduce drag by 15% compared to conventional swimwear fabric.

    The S2000 makes waves in Barcelona

    53% of all swimming medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics are won by swimmers wearing the newly-launched suit.

    1994

    Speedo makes the world’s first chlorine-resistant fabric

    The trailblazing continues as Speedo launches Endurance, the world’s first chlorine-resistant fabric.

    1990 1990

    1996

    AQUABLADE gets the athletes’ seal of approval

    At the Atlanta Games, 77% of all swimming medals are won are by athletes wearing Speedo’s latest AQUABLADE swimsuits.

    1990

    Speedo launches the new AQUABLADE suit

    Hot on the heels of the S2000 is AQUABLADE – a new suit design with 8% lower surface resistance.

    1998

    Benoit Leconte swims 5,600km across the Atlantic Ocean in 72 days, swimming up to 8 hours daily.

    1990
  10. 2000

    The world is wowed by FASTSKIN

    Speedo launches the pioneering FASTSKIN® swimsuit. Inspired by shark skin, it proves a hit with world-class athletes, including Michael Phelps.

    2000

    FASTSKIN makes a phenomenal debut

    At the Sydney 2000 Olympics, 13 of the 15 World Records and 83% of all swimming medals are won by swimmers wearing FASTSKIN suits.

    TriathELITE, the first triathlon collection, launches

    Simon Whitfield wins gold wearing Speedo TriathELITE at Sydney 2000, as triathlon is contested at the Olympics for the very first time.

    2003

    Speedo celebrates its 75th anniversary

    To mark its 75th year, fashion designer Melissa Odabash designs a limited edition anniversary collection, modelled by Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon.

    2000

    2005

    Speedo supports the World Swim Against Malaria Foundation

    Speedo begins a long-standing relationship supporting malaria charity World Swim Against Malaria Foundation.

    Speedo collaborates with fashion label Comme des Garcons.

    2007

    The Fastskin legacy continues

    Fastskin FS-PRO, the fastest, most powerful lightweight suit on the market, launches and 21 world records are broken within 6 months.

    2000

    2008

    Happy 80th birthday, Speedo!

    The LZR RACER® suit changes the face of swimming

    The world’s most technically advanced swimsuit, The LZR Racer, launches and is famously worn by Michael Phelps as he wins 8 golds at the Beijing Olympics.

    2000

    2009

    Upcoming FINA rule changes herald a new LZR Racer generation

    Speedo’s FINA-compliant LZR Racer Elite, LZR Racer Pro and LZR Racer Comp launch, catering for grass roots to elite-level swimmers.

  11. 2010

    The TriathELITE collection gets an update

    Alongside a new range of TriathELITE wetsuits, suits and goggles, Speedo launches the first triathlete-specific iPhone App.

    2010

    Speedo work with ‘From Somewhere’

    Speedo collaborates with sustainable fashion designers ‘From Somewhere’ to create dresses using surplus Speedo LZR Racer suits.

    2010

    Speedo Sculpture Shapeline swimwear launches

    The body-shaping swimwear provides the nearest thing to a made-to-measure swimsuit on the market.

    2010

    2011

    Speedo House gets the royal treatment

    HRH The Princess Royal officially opens Speedo House, the new global headquarters located in Nottingham’s NG2 business park.

    2010

    2012

    More swimmers at the London 2012 Olympics wear Speedo than all the other brands combined.

    Success at London 2012

    At the London 2012 Olympic Games, 57% of all swimming medals are won by athletes wearing Speedo.

    Cap, goggle and suit ‘become one’

    Speedo launches the Fastskin Racing System: cap, goggle and suit engineered to work as one efficient streamlined form, reducing drag.

    2010

    2013

    Wearing Speedo, Michael Phelps wins his 22nd medal, becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time.

    All of Michael Phelps’ Olympic medals between 2004 and 2012 were won whilst wearing Speedo suits.

    2010

    The Fastskin LZR Racer Elite 2 takes centre stage

    The world’s most successful suit is reengineered with improved fabrics, powerful compression, new suit colours and a 40% increase in durability of water repellency.

    Happy 85th anniversary Speedo!

    2014

    The Speedo Fit Pinnacle swimwear range launches

    Speedo launches its first body positioning swimwear range, designed to enhance technique and help swimmers achieve their fitness goals.

    2010 2010