Brand Profile: Speedo

Brand Profile: Speedo

Speedo is one of the most well-known and trusted names in the swimming world. The company’s name is even synonymous with men’s swimsuits. How did Speedo come to dominate the swimming pool and are their products worth the hype?

History

Speedo was founded in 1928 in Bondi Beach, Australia when the owner, a Scot named Alexander McRae, introduced the Racerback Swimsuit. McRae originally founded an underwear and hosiery company in the 1910s but later saw the opportunity to expand into swimwear.

Swimming first joined the Olympic schedule in 1896 for men only. Women’s swimming was added to the Olympics in 1912. In 1908, the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) was formed. By the 1920s, swimming had grown exponentially in popularity partially because of the growing acceptance of mixed-gender bathing and the growing interest in beach culture in Australia.

Brand Profile Speedo Black And White

From the 1950s through the rest of the decade, Speedo expanded worldwide. In the 1950s, it became a publicly traded company on the Sydney Stock Exchange and began exporting products to the USA. In the 1960s, Speedo established a subsidiary in London, England and received distribution licenses in Japan and South Africa. In the 1970s, Speedo launched new ventures in Eastern Europe, Brazil, and Mexico. In the 1980s, Speedo products began being manufactured and distributed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. By 1990, Speedo was trademarked in 112 countries.

Olympic Success

Speedo has strong ties with the Olympic Games. From the moment the company stepped onto the swimming stage in the 1920s, it proved its status as a serious competitive brand. By the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, Speedo sponsored the entire Australian swim team. The team concluded the Olympics with an impressive eight gold medals and the company concluded the Olympics as a world-famous brand.

Brand Profile Speedo Olympic Flag

Since its inception, Speedo has posted incredible statistics at the Olympic Games:

  • The 1968 Mexico Olympics – 27 of the 29 gold medalists were wearing Speedo suits and 22 of the 23 world record setters were wearing Speedo suits.
  • The 1972 Munich Olympics – Of the 22 world records broken, 21 of those were broken by swimmers wearing Speedo.
  • The 1976 Montreal Olympics – Speedo was the official swimwear licensee for this particular Games, and 52 of 54 countries wore Speedo suits.
  • The 1996 Atlanta Olympics – 77% of all swimming medals were won by swimmers wearing Speedo swimsuits.
  • The 2000 Sydney Olympics – 13 of the 15 world records set were broken by swimmers wearing Speedo.
  • The 2008 Beijing Olympics – In unprecedented success, 92% of all swimming medals were won by swimmers wearing the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit.
  • The 2012 London Olympic Games – More swimmers wore Speedo than all other brands combined.
  • The 2016 Rio Olympic Games – Speedo sponsored and made custom suits for multiple teams: USA, Australia, China, Spain, Japan, Canada, and Israel.
  • The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games – Gold medalists were wearing Speedo in over 60% of individual races.

Speedo is still the sponsor for the Australian Olympic Team.

Competitors

It is clear that Speedo has dominated the competitive swimming world for nearly a century. Although Speedo’s innovative competition suits are still the top choice for Olympic swimmers, Speedo’s main competitors – TYR and ARENA – have had a growing presence in the Olympic Games during the past decade.

Both competitors are newer companies; TYR was founded in 1985 and ARENA was founded in 1973. Despite their growing popularity and quality swim gear, TYR and ARENA have a lot of catching up to do if they want to have a household name like Speedo. Speedo has invested considerable amounts of time researching swim gear technology and has partnerships with big names in innovation, such as NASA. Speedo also sponsors some of the very best athletes.

Because Speedo’s competitors make quality gear, we recommend checking out both TYR and ARENA in addition to Speedo before buying all of your swim necessities. However, unless you are a competitive swimmer where milliseconds make a big difference, you can’t go wrong with gear from any of these brands.

The benefit of choosing Speedo gear is that it has millions of users worldwide to confirm its high standard of quality. Speedo gear will be comfortable and sturdy, will last a long time, and is generally easier to find at local stores. Speedo is still the leader of the pack for a reason.

Innovative Technology

Speedo led the pack of innovative swimwear because of their creative and daring use of fabrics and styles. Sometimes their new gear was considered too innovative and caused a handful of controversies over the last century.

Showing Skin

Speedo is currently synonymous with tight-fitting, minimal-coverage bathing suits for men. Since Speedo’s origins, it has been pushing the envelope with daring, revealing designs. In 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics, Australian gold medalist, Claire Dennis, caused controversy by wearing a Speedo swimsuit that showed too much shoulder. At the Berlin Games only four years later, the Australian men’s swim team all wore Speedo swimsuits that showed their bare chests, which was considered scandalous at the time. In the non-competitive swim arena, Speedo also wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. In 1940, they introduced the two-piece bikini for women, which was banned by Australian beach inspectors.

Brand Profile Speedo Old Time

Another provocative swimsuit – the Speedo – was designed in 1960. Also informally known as “budgie smugglers,” the small, form-fitting, skin-showing male swimsuit has been one of Speedo’s claims to fame for decades, and led to any tight small men’s swimsuit being referred to as ‘a Speedo.” In 1961, beachgoers at Bondi Beach, Australia were arrested for indecent exposure for wearing the Speedo. The magistrate decided they were not guilty because no pubic hair was showing. The publicity that followed, instead of ostracizing the tiny swimsuits, actually made Speedos one of the most popular swimsuit choices for beachgoers and competitive swimmers.

Unexpected Fabrics

Prior to Speedo’s innovative swimsuits and unique fabric choices, most bathing suits were made from wool. As you can imagine, wool sags in the water; once wet, it was heavy and hard to get properly fitted.

Claire Dennis – the swimmer who showed too much shoulder – had another interesting aspect to her 1932 gold medal swimsuit: it was made of silk. The lighter fabric was far more expensive than wool but could slice through the water without drag much easier than wool.

In the 1970s, Speedo was the first company to use elastane and nylon to make their swimwear. It is still the most popular fabric for swimsuits today.

The Speedo S2000 swimsuit debuted in 1992 and promised 15% less drag than other swimwear fabrics, and in 1996, Speedo launched the AQUABLADE, which lowered surface resistance an additional 8%.

The 2000s were pivotal in competitive swimming because of the Speedo FASTSKIN. The FASTSKIN, unlike other swimsuits, was not smooth. Instead, it mimicked shark’s skin with tiny grooves and bumps in a scale-like pattern.

In an effort to make the most hydrodynamic competitive swimsuit, Speedo collaborated with NASA in 2008 to create the LZR Racer. It had built-in panels similar to a corset. More importantly, the lightweight material claimed to be capable of repelling water.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 94% of winning races and 92% of world record setting races were won by swimmers wearing the LZR Racer. Controversy followed. The LZR and other full-bodied polyurethane swimsuits were banned by FINA for future competitions because they were seen as ‘technology doping.’

In 2020, Speedo announced a partnership with London’s Natural History Museum in hopes to study the ancestry of sharks, their skin composition, and their hydrodynamics. Speedo’s wide range of collaborators have created a unique bridge between science, history, and sports.

Speedo has led the race in innovation, particularly when it comes to fabrics used in competition suits. But Speedo doesn’t keep its best fabrics for just competitive swimmers. Beach-goers and casual swimmers can also benefit from state-of-the-line swimsuit fabrics, such as strong UV protection and “vapor plus” quick-dry fabric.

Product Expansion

While Speedo is most notably known for its competition swimsuits, it also produces quality swim gear including goggles and caps. For example, in 2011, Speedo introduced the Speedo Fastskin Racing System, which was a package of caps, goggles, and swimsuits that could be purchased and worn together.

Goggles

The first known swim goggles were used in Persia in the 14th century, but goggles weren’t regularly used in competition swimming until the 1970s. The first Olympics to allow the use of goggles was the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and the introduction of goggles changed the sport of swimming forever. Now, goggles are considered a ‘must-have’ for competitive swimmers. Since the 1970s, goggles have seen improvements in hydrodynamics, UV protection, and anti-fog technology.

Speedo saw the opportunity to capture the growing goggle market. In 1996, Speedo launched the AQUABLADE goggles in conjunction with the suit of the same name so that swimmers could have matching goggles and swimsuits.

Today, Speedo’s goggle selection ranges from the casual swimmer to the most competitive Olympian. One of their most popular styles is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0.

Caps

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, swim caps were a fun accessory usually worn by women at the pool or beach. During World War II, caps were no longer produced and rarely worn because of a rubber shortage. In the 1970s, wearing swim caps shifted from fashion to function; they were no longer a popular trend for casual swimmers but instead, standard equipment for competitive swimmers.

Today, Speedo produces latex, nylon, and silicone caps. Nylon or Lycra caps are the most comfortable cap option and silicone caps are the most durable. Although caps are generally used for function over fashion these days, they can still make a fashion statement. Speedo sells an American Flag cap that looks cool and makes you feel like part of the US Olympic team.

Other Gear

In 2008, Speedo launched TriathELITE, which was a collection of products designed specifically for triathlons, namely a wetsuit. Speedo also sells ear plugs, which are known for being a good deal while maintaining high quality. From snorkels and fins to flip flops and bags, Speedo has any swimwear and swim gear needs covered.

Brand Profile Speedo Earplugs

Gear Recommendations

Best Bathing Suit for Laps: Speedo Men Surf Runner

Best Overall Goggles: Speedo Futura Biofuse

Most Comfortable Goggles: Speedo Hydrospex

Best Overall Swim Cap: Speedo Elastomeric

Best Budget Ear Plugs: Speedo Silicone Ear Plugs

FAQ

Frequently asked questions

Why are men’s swimsuits called Speedos?

The colloquial name for tight-fitting, minimal-coverage male swimsuits comes directly from the company’s name! That’s how influential Speedo is in the swimming community. The company name originated from the slogan “Speed on in your Speedos”.

What materials are swimsuits made out of?

Most swimsuits today are made from elastane and nylon. More casual swimwear may use natural fibers and more competitive swimwear tends to use more synthetic materials. Speedo’s high-end line of ultra-competitive swimsuits is a unique blend of synthetic fibers designed to enhance hydrodynamics.

Do Speedo swimsuits make you faster?

Speedo uses NASA-tested technology to create the highest performing swimsuits. Their swimsuits boast less drag than competitors. Many Olympic swimmers who have won gold medals and set world records have done so while wearing Speedo, but whether that proves the suit made them faster or simply the fastest swimmers wore the brand is up for debate.

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