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Men's Speedo competition swimsuit

Date: 1930s
Dimensions:
Overall: 770 x 340 mm, 0.15 kg
Medium: Cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Surf Life Saving Association of Australia
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00000773

User Terms

    Description
    This Speedo swimsuit design was worn for active wear at surf carnivals, at the beach and baths in the 1930s. Made from dark navy cotton stockinette, it became figure hugging and sheer when wet. A half skirt, decorated with the red Speedo logo, was incorporated into the design for modesty, as an evolution of the full modesty skirt and before that the separate top and pants style.

    Although men's swimwear became increasingly brief during the 1930s, and topless by the end of the decade, the surf lifesaving team competition costume retained the covered chest and half skirt of the classic Racerback swimsuit of the late 1920s.
    SignificanceThis swimsuit is representative of swimwear design for men and boys in the late 1920s and 30s and the shows the prominence of the swimwear brand Speedo in the activewear market in Australia in this era, in particular in the Australian surf life saving club movement.
    HistoryThe surf life saving movement used the vintage Racerback design as their competition march-past swimsuit well into the second half of the 20th century. The Racerback style was a Speedo design from the late 1920s which allowed free movement of the arms for active water and beach sport, while still covering the chest, in line with broadly accepted public mores. This style perpetuated the classic 1930s image of the lifesaver as the bronzed hero of the Australian beach and recalled the pageantry and tradition of the early surf life saving movement.

    Surf life saving clubs formed around Australia from 1907 onwards, with surf carnivals organised in the summer months to test the skills of members and maintain their fitness for patrol and rescue work.

    The earliest surf carnivals, originally called gymkhanas, were held at Manly, Bondi and North Steyne in New South Wales in 1908 as fundraisers for the Royal Life Saving Society. Carnival events included surf races, alarm reel (belt race), surf relay (surf teams), rescue and resuscitation, as well as novelty events such as tug-of-war, pillow fights, catching the greasy pig, chariot and sack races.
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