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1920s man's swimming costume

Date: 1920
Overall: 715 × 450 mm
Medium: wool
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Erika Steller
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00054352

User Terms

    This early swimsuit represent bathing suit design, fashion and manufacture, and the development of an increasingly active beach and pool culture in Australia between the wars.

    This 1920s tank style men's swimsuit has a high back and is buttoned at the shoulder, in order to pull it on and off. The design of this swimsuit, made using machine-knitted wool, was of an earlier style than the popular Speedo Racerback costume introduced in 1928.
    SignificanceProvenanced 1910-20s bathing costumes are rare and valuable to ANMM because they show swimwear style and design and by inference bathing and swimming mores, and attitudes to the body, athleticism and sport for men and women.

    The Kookaburra bathing suit is significant as an Australian brand, and documents the rise of the swimwear industry from textile and undergarment companies. Kookaburra bathing costumes were produced by Australian Knitting Mills Ltd in Richmond Victoria which advertised men's, women's and children's bathing costumes in newspapers, women's and trade magazines.

    The Australian Kniiting Mills company was established in 1910 and expanded in 1928 'with 2000 hands' employed. The News Adelaide reported on 21 April 1928 that the care and attention to each stage ... largely accounts for popularity of Golden fleece, Kookaburra and Ay-Kay-Em brands of underwear pullovers and bathing costumes.'.

    HistoryMen's swimwear - In the 1920s and early 1930s swimwear was influenced by the development of textile technologies that created a more streamlined and athletic shape. The use of knitted wool, and cotton, which hugged the body when wet, predates the introduction of rubberised fabrics such as Lastex in 1931. During this period the common use of fabric in solid colours emphasised the cut of the garment as the main design element.

    This men's suit represents a development from the broader shouldered unitard costumes worn in earlier decades but predates the racerback style widely adopted after patented by Speedo in 1928. The back remains quite high while the sleeve holes are nonetheless quite wide, while it features a button at the shoulder.

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