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87/311 Swimwear (3), mens and womens, designed for the XVIII Olympiad, Bri-nylon, Speedo, Australia, 1964. Click to enlarge.

Three Speedo swimsuits

The Museum has an extensive collection of Speedo swimwear and accessories dating from the 1930s to the present including designs produced for the Australian Olympic Games team from 1964 to 2004, the Australian Commonwealth Games team from 1970-2002 and numerous international Olympic teams. This collection is complemented by the Speedo archive which includes scrapbooks, catalogues, posters, newsletters, stickers, photographs, video footage and badges.

Speedo's origins lie in MacRae Knitting Mills, manufacturer of cotton and wool knitwear. They produced their first swimming costumes in Sydney, Australia in the late 1920s and in 1928 held a competition to find a name for their new swimwear line. So successful was a staff member's catchy slogan 'Speed on in your Speedo', they changed the company name to Speedo.

From the beginning Speedo focussed their attention on producing competitive swimwear complemented by a range of leisure swimwear and knitted apparel and the Museum's Speedo collection and archive illustrates the evolution of swimwear styles and fabrics designed to reduce water resistance and enhance speed. By the 1980s most of the world's top competitive swimmers were competing in Speedo's.

Glynis Jones
Curator, Design & Society

Parts of this object


Object No.


Object Statement

Swimwear (3), mens and womens, designed for the XVIII Olympiad, Bri-nylon, Speedo, Australia, 1964

Physical Description

Swimwear, womens (2) and mens (1), Bri-nylon, made by Speedo, Australia, 1964

Comprises three nylon swimsuits made by Speedo for both and female participants in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. The suits consist of a one mens full brief racing suit and two womens swimsuits, each embroidered with a black and red Speedo logo sewn onto right hip and an applied embroidered green and yellow cloth badge featuring an image of a kangaroo and the Olympic Games linked rings with the text 'Australia Tokyo 1964'.


Each swimsuit has a fabric label sewn onto inside side seam 'SPEEDO / 34 AUSTRALIA / BRI-NYLON'.



The swimsuits were designed and made by Speedo for the Australian swimming team for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.



In 1927 McRae Knitting Mills introduced a one-piece cotton 'racing back' costume for men which exposed their shoulders and back like a singles. Its was considered to be daring and was banned on some beaches, but it was very 'fast' in the water. 'Speed on in your speedo' won a slogan contest in 1928 and the name stuck.

From 1952 to 1991, Gloria Smythe increased Speedo's reputation for fast swimwear. She researched the hydrodynamics of garments and made several innovations in the quest for speed and fashion. She was the first to use nylon, lycra and 'paper' (lycra / nylon) fabrics, removed modesty skirts from men and women's costumes, make men's briefs briefer and raise the hip line and neckline of women's swimwear.
She introduced fashion to competitive swimming by printing onto nylon and using patterns and colours on Olympic team swimwear. By the 1970s, 73% of Olympic swimming medals were won wearing Speedo and this became their focus for advertising in the fitness and body conscious 1980s and 1990s.

In 1996 Speedo introduced a new fabric called aquablade with rough and smooth stripes. These create tiny channels of fast and slow moving water. In 1999 they improved on the aquablade with the Fastskin suit. The fabric was inspired by shark skin. It has V-shaped ridges which decrease drag and turbulence around the body.


Credit Line

Gift of Speedo Australia Pty Ltd, 1987

Acquisition Date

23 March 1987

Cite this Object


Three Speedo swimsuits 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 October 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Three Speedo swimsuits |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.