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Men's Speedo Racerback swimsuit

Date: 1930s
Overall: 685 x 380 mm, 0.1 kg
Clothing size: 34
Medium: Cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00016766
Place Manufactured:Australia

User Terms

    Speedo's Racerback swimsuit, launched in 1927, gained international recognition for its use in both competitive and leisure swimming. This swimsuit's design incorporates the patented half skirt and narrow back panel with twin straps that allowed the swimmer greater freedom of movement.

    SignificanceThe swimsuit is representative of Speedo manufacture and design during the 1930s.
    HistoryThough there had been a move towards topless suits throughout the 1930s in Australia and the United States, government regulations still promoted the one piece swimsuit for men. In 1935 the New South Wales Minister for Local Government, the Honourable E S Spooner, announced dress regulations that stipulated men's swimsuits must have legs that covered at least three inches of the thigh and covered the front body up to the armpits and the back body up to the waist.

    In 1927 Speedo launched a new competitive swimming costume for men and women called the 'Racerback'. It was innovative in its incorporation of a high, narrow back panel with twin straps. This unique configuration facilitated greater freedom of movement for the shoulder and back muscles. The swimsuit also had a patented half-skirt, replacing the ungainly and restrictive full skirt. The half skirt allowed the swimmer greater leg movement, while ensuring the modesty offered by the full skirt.

    Though the design was initially introduced for competitive swimmers, Speedo quickly saw an opportunity for the costume in the wider and more lucrative leisure market. To break into this market Speedo devised an innovative marketing strategy of hiring competitive swimmers of the day to endorse and promote the costume. Most prominent of all was the World Champion, and World and Australian record holder, Arne Borg, who regularly appeared in Speedo advertisements. This relationship between sport stars and the product represents one of the earliest Australian examples of sports personality endorsement.

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