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Men's Speedo competition swimsuit

Date: 1930s
Overall: 720 x 340 mm, 0.15 kg
Clothing size: 36
Medium: Cotton
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Surf Life Saving Association of Australia
Object Name: Swimsuit
Object No: 00000754

User Terms

    This Speedo swimsuit was used at surf carnivals in the 1930s. Made from dark navy cotton stockinette, it became figure hugging and sheer when wet. A half skirt was added to the design for modesty. The original swing tag has been re-attached to the swimsuit and shows the style number 0104 and slogan 'Choice of Champions'.

    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 man's swimsuit is representative of designs made by Speedo used by Surf Life Saving clubs during the 1930s.
    HistorySurf Life Saving clubs formed around Australia from 1907 onwards, with carnivals held in the summer months as a way 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.

    The surf life saving movement used the vintage Racerback design as their competition march-past swimsuit well into the second half of the 20th century. This 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.

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