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Men's neoprene wetsuit

Date: c 1960
Overall: 1115 x 1330 x 85 mm, 1.5 kg
Medium: Neoprene, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from A M Olsen
Object Name: Wetsuit
Object No: V00027279

User Terms

    This made to measure diving wetsuit consists of a jacket, pants and a pair of booties. The black neoprene jacket has metal zips that run from the collar down to the waist, and along each wrist. It also has two studs which attach the band that extends from the back of the jacket to the front, keeping the pants in place. The full length pants have two metal zips at each ankle, while the booties have a single metal zip and textured soles.
    SignificanceThe suit was worn by A.M. Olsen from 1961 to around 1979. Olsen was a Harvesting Manager who worked for 18 years conducting research for the C.S.I.R.O. Division of Fisheries & Oceanography in Tasmania and South Australia. It was ordered from the American manufacturer, Dive n Surf, and arrived in Hobart in early 1961. The suit is representative of the designs and technologies utilised by manufacturers in the 1950s and 1960s.
    HistoryWetsuits are used by surfers and divers for thermal insulation, as well as for protection against sun exposure, jelly fish, coral and other marine hazards. Different forms of open and closed neoprene are used in warm-water and cold-water suits, and they come in a variety of styles to accommodate the differing needs of the wearer.

    Wetsuits were developed in the 1950s, and were first made out of foam rubber neoprene that did not have any form of backing material. In order to stabilise the suits and stop them from easily tearing apart, a layer of nylon was applied to the inside of the neoprene. The more colourful suits of the 1970s were a result of the introduction of double-backed neoprene, where neoprene was set in between two protective outer layers. The external layer meant that designers were now able to incorporate decorative colours, logos and patterns into the suits. It allowed greater movement and flexibility, as well as insulating properties. In Australia, local manufacturers did not take off until well into the 1970s. Up until then wetsuits were imported, usually from America.
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