Speedo International Ltd. is a manufacturer and distributor of swimwear and swim-related accessories based in Nottingham, UK. Founded in Sydney, Australia in 1914, the industry leading company is now a subsidiary of the British Pentland Group. Today, the Speedo brand can be found on products ranging from swimsuits and goggles to wrist watches and MP3 players.[3] The Speedo brand is manufactured for and marketed in North America as Speedo USA by the Warnaco Group under exclusive perpetual licence.[4]

In accordance with its Australian roots, Speedo uses a boomerang as their symbol. Due to their success in the swimwear industry, the word "Speedo" has become synonymous with racing bathing suits.


Speedo Knitting Mills

Company founder Alexander MacRae emigrated from Loch Kishorn in the western Highlands of Scotland to Sydney, Australia in 1910. Originally working as a milkman, he founded MacRae and Company Hosiery four years later, manufacturing underwear under the brand name Fortitude (taken from his family crest).[5] The Australian Army's need for socks during the First World War provided MacRae with enough business to expand and in 1927 his first line of swimwear, called a "racer-back costume" was introduced. The following year, a naming contest held among the MacRae staff yielded the slogan "Speed on in your Speedos." The brand name was born. The contest winner, Captain Parsonson, was awarded £5 for his slogan and the company was renamed Speedo Knitting Mills.[5]

The controversial yet revolutionary racerback style's open shoulder and exposed back allowed greater range of motion in water and was quickly adopted by competitive swimmers, despite being banned by some beaches.[6] In 1932, Speedo made its Olympic debut when 16-year-old Australian Clare Dennis won the Women's 200 Meter Breaststroke at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. After nearly being disqualified for "showing too much shoulder" in her regulation silk Speedo brand swimsuit, Dennis went on to set a world record time of 3:06.3.[7] The 1936 Berlin Summer Games also saw some controversy as the men's Australian swim team featured shirtless swim trunks for the first time. Also in 1936, Alexander MacRae became involved in the Surf Life Saving Association. To this day, Speedo continues to support the Australian volunteer organisation.[8]

Two years later, company founder Alexander MacRae died at the age of 50.[5]

Post-War expansion

After devoting most of its resources to the War effort during World War II, Speedo enjoyed a great post-war demand for swimsuits, specifically the recently invented bikini style. The company quickly reestablished itself as a leader in swimwear manufacturing and once again drew controversy when its two-piece was banned by Australian beach inspectors.[8] In 1951, Speedo Knitting Mills (Holdings) Ltd. incorporated and went public, selling its stock on the Sydney Stock Exchange.[8] In 1955, nylon was used for the first time in the company's swimsuits[9] and the next year, the increasingly popular swimsuit brand returned to the Olympics when its home country hosted the Melbourne Summer Games.[5] The Speedo sponsored Australian men's swim team took home eight gold medals[10] and brought a new worldwide level of notoriety to the company which debuted the swim briefs that would become synonymous with the brand name. By 1957, Speedo had the exclusive licence to manufacture and distribute Jockey brand men's underwear in Australia.[11] The company finished off the 1950s by exporting to the United States and exploring potential opportunities in South America, Europe, New Zealand and Japan.[8]

The end of the 1950s also saw the beginning of a long-lasting business partnership which continues to this day. In 1958, Speedo began the manufacture of American Warnaco's White Stag ski-wear line. In exchange, in 1961, White Stag became the exclusive US distributor of Speedo swimwear. Through White Stag, Speedo's product line expanded to include men's and women's sportswear.[12] By the middle of the 1960s, Speedo had acquired 30% of Nottingham, UK textile manufacturer Robert Shaw and Company Ltd. and had established a European subsidiary. Licences were also granted to Japanese and South American corporations.[8] The 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics saw 27 of the 29 gold medalists—22 of which set world records—wearing Speedo brand swimsuits.[8]

Speedo began the next decade by completing its acquisition of Robert Shaw and Company in 1971.[13] The 1970s also saw the company pioneer the use of elastane (spandex) and the brand's use in Olympic record breaking continued at the 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal games, the latter of which Speedo was an official swimwear licensee.[8]

On Australia Day, 26 January 1981 the Australian Institute of Sport opened in Canberra, with Speedo as its first official sponsor.[8] Also early in the decade, Speedo provided equipment and training to China[8] to aid the communist country's return to the Olympics for first time since 1958.[14] Throughout the decade, the brand expanded its reach in Europe by licensing production in Italy, Spain, Sweden and other nations, bringing its total distribution to 112 countries.[8]

Modern technology

In 1990, British sportswear firm Pentland Group, which had just sold its shares of sneaker company Reebok, acquired a significant stake in Warnaco offshoot Authentic Fitness, which was the exclusive North American licensee of Speedo. Pentland followed this move with the purchase of 80% of Speedo (Europe) Ltd. Early the next year, Pentland completed its aggressive entrance into the global swimwear market by wholly acquiring Speedo Australia and Speedo International.[15] Under Pentland's ownership, Speedo expanded its line of swimwear to include more fashion-oriented beachwear as well as triathlon accessories.

Even under the new corporate command, Speedo continued its winning tradition of utilising cutting edge technology to decrease drag in the water and increase speed into the 1990s. The decade saw the creation of the low-drag S2000 suit, the chlorine resistant Endurance line as well as the Aquablade series which was worn by more than three-fourths of medal winners at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.[8]

Speedo began the 21st century with the introduction of its Fastskin swimsuit and, again, broke world records when the Summer Games returned to the swimwear leader's home town. The company website boasts that 13 out of the 15 swimming records broken in the 2000 Sydney Olympics were by athletes wearing Speedo. Three years later, Speedo celebrated its 75th anniversary with special limited edition lines endorsed by Jerry Hall, Naomi Campbell and others. In 2004, Michael Phelps wore the latest evolution of the Fastskin series[8] in Athens to become the first swimmer to earn eight medals.[16] Phelps followed up this performance four years later, earning eight golds[16] at Beijing, while wearing Speedo's LZR Racer suit[8] In 2010, the company launched Speedo Sculpture ShapeLine, a new line of body-shaping swimsuits for women.[17]


Although the brand name Speedo is often genericised to refer to any style of men's swim briefs, these account for less than 2% of the company's sales.[18] The Speedo name can be found on a wide range of swimsuit styles for men, women, and children focusing on performance and style. Speedo also offers a range of sportswear, footwear, and accessories ranging from swim goggles to electronics. Additionally, Speedo International offers a line of men's underwear and Speedo Australia features a line of underwear called Speedo Underbody for men and women, sold only in select David Jones retail stores.[19]


Speedo offers a broad range of swim accessories including more than seventy models of goggles,[20] several models of watches, sunglasses, and towels. In addition, Speedo offers several lines of aquatic fitness aids and swim aids for children and adults as well as scuba masks, snorkels and swimfins. Speedo International offers a line of beach games equipment not offered on the SpeedoUSA website.


The speedo brand can be found on a wide variety of footwear including sandals, Flip-flops, and water shoes. Speedo USA offers waterproof sneakers for aqua fitness training.[21]

Speedo Digital

The Speedo Digital line of accessories includes the waterproof Aquabeat and LZR Racer Aquabeat digital music players and related accessories, which are manufactured by South Korean consumer electronics company Iriver.[22] Speedo's electronics offerings also include the Auquashot waterproof digital camera.


Speedo USA's men's collections are categorised as: Competition, Racing, Boardshorts and Swim Trunks, Fashion, and Lifeguard. Speedo International's men's offerings also include wetsuits.[23] Both Speedo USA and Speedo International also offer a wide range of children's styles including performance, racing, fashion and beginner lines.[23]

Controversial technology

Swim records were broken in Speedo brand silk suits in the 1930s, and the company was the first to introduce the use of nylon in the 1950s[9] and later nylon/elastane in the 1970s.[8] Speedo's most recent technological advances are found in the Fastskin, Fastskin FS II series and the LZR Racer suit. Throughout the company's history, though, it seemed each design innovation was met with great controversy. Clare Dennis was nearly disqualified from her record-breaking Olympic meet because her suit showed too much skin;[7] early Speedo bikinis were banned from some Australian beaches;[8] more recently, the NASA technology in the LZR Racer suit Michael Phelps wore at the Beijing Olympics was the subject of great media scrutiny.


In 2009, British designer and former competitive swimmer Fiona Fairhurst was named as a finalist for European Inventor of the Year.[24] Fairhurst helped Speedo's Aqualab design team invent the first-of-its-kind Fastskin swimsuit. Inspired by the varying skin texture of a shark, Fairhurst told the BBC that she "was looking to develop a fabric that mimics nature".[25] Both the Fastskin and Fastkskin FS II are textured with bumps and ridges in key places, similar to those on a shark's skin. These ridges serve to channel the water over the swimmer's body in a more efficient manner than traditional material suits.[26] In addition, the suits are custom designed for the type of stroke the swimmer will use as well as being engineered differently for women and for men. These high-tech suits make use of elastic compression materials to limit muscle oscillation and to compress the swimmer's body, while in other areas a more flexible fabric is used to allow greater range of motion. Leaving no detail overlooked, the design team also uses low-profile seams. According to author Frank Vizard, the Fastskin suits reduce drag by up to four percent.[27] Speedo adapted this new fabric technology for the 2006 Winter Olympics.[18] The full-bodied Fastskin FSII Ice suits were debuted by the silver medal winning American women's bobsled team.[28]

By the time the lady bobsledders were given the opportunity to don their Fastskin suits, the line had already gone through several evolutions including the Fastskin FS-II and Fastskin FS-Pro. From the very beginning, these drag reducing suits were met with great resistance. At issue was Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) rule 10.7, which stated "No swimmer shall use any device that may aid his speed, buoyancy, or endurance during a competition (such as webbed gloves, flippers, fins etc). Goggles may be worn".[29] Early in 2000, Speedo hand-delivered their new Fastskin suits to 150 Olympic hopefuls and promised 6,000 more would be made available for Olympic trials. Fearing the possibility of Speedo-clad race winners being stripped of medals due to challenges, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to examine the legality of the FINA-sanctioned suits.[30] In May that year, a CAS-appointed arbitrator backed the FINA ruling allowing use of the suits for Olympic tryouts. Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, however, said in a press conference that their swimmers would be allowed to wear the futuristic neck to ankle covering suits, but would do so "at their own risk".[31] Coates later stated that the ruling he sought was whether the suits should be classified as costumes or devices.[31]

Professor Emeritus of Exercise and Nutritional sciences at San Diego State University, Brent S. Rushall claimed in a report sent to CAS that the suits were – by FINA's definition and based on manufacturer's claims – in fact devices, rather than costumes[32] and are therefore in violation of the FINA rule, which disallows equipment such as fins or flippers. In the report, Rushall equally criticises Adidas (who had a similarly designed bodysuit) and Speedo for giving FINA members presents and declares that these members should recuse themselves from ruling on the legality of these suits.[32]

Ultimately, the suits were approved for use in the Sydney Olympics and in December 2000 the super-suit earned a place on Popular Science's "100 Best of What's New", alongside the US Navy's F-16 replacement and Kodak's Smart Digital Picture Frame with built-in modem.[33]

Four years later, the FSII debuted in the Athens summer games. While this next stage in swimwear evolution was quickly approved by FINA, it was not without controversy. Speedo competitor TYR developed a similar full body suit with detached sleeves, which the company calls Aqua Bands. Both TYR's detached Aqau bands and Speedo FSII's attached sleeves are designed to essentially "grip" the water on the inner forearm. TYR maintained that essentially the only difference between their suit and Speedo's was whether the sleeves were attached. Despite this, FINA did not approve TYR's armbands.[34] In 2004, 47 medals were won by swimmers wearing Fastskin II.

In late 2011, in time for the holiday season, Speedo introduced a new Fastskin3 suit. This suit comes in two styles, Elite and Super Elite. Speedo developed the Fastskin3 as a racing "system", consisting of a newly introduced cap, goggles, and competition suit. Michael Phelps is the principle advertiser for the Fastskin3 line of suits, as Ryan Lochte has been reported to prefer the older Fastskin LZR Elite suits. In succession to the LZR Pro and Elite, Speedo switched the branding for their technical suits from "Fastskin LZR Racer" to "Fastskin", continuing the trend they left off in 2008 when they debuted the LZR Racer. The male suit is available as a normal-cut suit and a high-waisted suit that utilises the space in between the belly button and waist of the male swimmer. The core of Speedo's advertising campaign for the new line touted the benefits of "becoming one" with the suit. Speedo advertises up to 16.6% drag reduction and 11% improved oxygen economy. The system is sold featuring "fit point markers", allowing the swimmer to line up the suit, cap, and goggles to achieve an ideal fit and appearance. FINA approved this suit shortly after it was launched, and the suit is anticipated to be used at the London 2012 Olympics by a majority of athletes, along with the Arena PowerSkin Carbon Pro suit, which debuted in early 2012.

LZR Racer

Speedo's most controversial move came with 2008's unveiling of the LZR (pronounced "lazer") Racer – a suit, as Speedo's website boasts, "so fast, it was banned from competition".[35] Indeed, the LZR Racer was banned by FINA in 2009, but not until swimmers wearing this suit had already broken at least 46 world records.[36] The super smooth suit, which was optimised with the help of NASA wind tunnels, uses welded seams and multiple woven fabrics to reduce drag by up to six percent.[26] In addition, the LZR, like the Fastskin, utilises a core stabiliser, which acts almost as a girdle, to reduce muscle movement. This is designed to help the swimmer maintain the proper angle in the water for longer periods of time.[26][36] Popular Science magazine named this suit to their "100 Best of What's New '08" list, calling it "The fastest swimsuit in the world".[37]

FINA's ban on the LZR Racer and all "hi-tech" suits came shortly before Michael Phelps's 200 meter freestyle loss to Germany's Paul Biedermann at the 2009 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Rome, Italy. Wearing Arena's polyurethane X-Glide suit, Biedermann broke two world records that day[38] and beat Phelps by more than one second.[39] Even though FINA had already approved the ban, it had not been scheduled to go into effect until the following spring. The delay in FINA's hi-tech prohibition and Phelps's unexpected second-place finish (his first loss since 2005) led Phelps's coach Bob Bowman to threaten a boycott of international swim competitions.[40] In the first three days of the eight-day competition, 15 world records were set.[40]

The vague decision by swimming's governing body stated that suit materials would need to be textile, rather than polymer-based, but offered no specific deadline for this changeover to occur. [41] The reason for the delay, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told the AP, is to give manufacturers enough time "to pass from polyurethane to textiles".[40] The ambiguity continued when FINA was unable to define textile.[41] The most specific aspect of the ruling returned men to bare chests and ladies to bare shoulders.[42] The current rule (GR 5.4), as posted on FINA's website, states "Before any swimwear of new design, construction or material is used in competition, the manufacturer of such swimwear must submit the swimwear to FINA and obtain approval of FINA".[43]

Speedo's latest version of the LZR Racer series, the LZR Racer Elite, carries the FINA stamp of approval. The Elite series, like its predecessor utilises welded seams and compression material to sculpt the swimmer's body.[35] The SpeedoUSA website specifically denies the new generation of LZR Racers is a "quick fix".[35] The most recent list of FINA approved swimsuits, which was published in January 2011 lists 78 specific Speedo brand swimsuits among 45 worldwide brands and nearly 720 models. Among them, 71 are Fastskin models and 13 are LZR series suits.[29] Several Speedo designs have been removed from the FINA list including the original LZR Racer, and multiple Fastskin models.[19]

Post-FINA surplus

FINA's ban on LZR Racers left Speedo with a significant surplus stock. The obsolete competition suits have found new life, though. London's Chelsea College of Art and Design received a donation of 600 suits,[44] 200 of which were turned into the Chelsea Xpo Pavilion as part of the 2010 London Festival of Architecture project.[46] The pavilion can be seen on the college's campus at the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground.[48]

Another collaboration between Speedo and academia netted a line of designer fashions. Teams of students from the London College of Fashion, University College Falmouth and the University of Huddersfield have reused the material to create a complete fashion line including casual slacks, jackets, and even different forms of swimwear. Speedo International president David Robinson said in a press release "we are pleased to see this quality of talent emerging from the universities that have taken part. Speedo is committed to reducing its impact on the environment and as such it is good to see the Speedo LZR Racer live on in these innovative designs".[49]

This was not the company's first foray into recycled high fashion, though. In September 2010, award winning sustainable fashion label, From Somewhere announced a new line of dresses made from Speedo's surplus.[50][51]


Olympic Committees

Olympic Committee of IsraelIsraelN/A[52]

National teams

Speedo is the sponsor of several national swim teams.

Swimming AustraliaAustralia2011[53]
Swimming CanadaCanadaN/A[54]
Diving Plongeon CanadaCanadaN/A[55]
Synchro CanadaCanadaN/A[56]
Canadian Water Polo AssociationCanadaN/A[57]
Colombian Federation of SwimmingColombiaN/A[58]
Finnish Swimming AssociationFinlandN/A[59]
Hong Kong Amateur Swimming AssociationHong KongN/A[60]
Icelandic Swimming AssociationIceland2012[62]
Israel Swimming AssociationIsraelN/A[52]
Japan Swimming FederationJapanN/A[63]
Mexican Swimming FederationMexicoN/A[64]
Romanian Water Polo AssociationRomaniaN/A[65]
Royal Spanish Swimming FederationSpain2014[66]
British SwimmingUnited Kingdom2016[67]
US Masters SwimmingUnited StatesN/A[68]

Speedo also offers sponsorships to some High School and College (NCAA, NAIA, Junior college) Leagues as well as non-profit recreation leagues such as YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs.[70]

In addition to team and league sponsorships, several celebrity athletes endorse Speedo products.[71]