Swimsuits (2), Speedo Fastskin FS11, bodysuits, training suit and team suit, made of polyester/elastane, made by Speedo International for the Australian swimming team to wear to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, made in Australia and Sri Lanka, 2004.
Speedo is the world's principal competitive swimwear designer and manufacturer. The Fastskin was originally designed and made for competitors at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The swimsuit featured innovations in materials and style inspired by the unique skin structure of the shark, marking a radical new approach to designing competitive swim wear.
The Powerhouse Museum has an extensive collection of Speedo swim wear and accessories dating from the 1930s to the present, including designs produced for the Australian Olympic team from 1964, the Australian Commonwealth Games team from 1970 as well as designs produced for several international Olympic teams in the 1960s. This collection is complemented by the Speedo archive comprising Speedo catalogues, scrap books, posters, photographs, newsletters, price lists, stickers, and badges. This collection of swim wear updates the Museum's Speedo holdings with the latest designs for competitive swim wear for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
The Fastskin can be considered Speedo's most sophisticated and technologically advanced solution to aiding competitor's speed through water. The suit was developed and trialled over several years by a team that included scientists, a bio-mechanist, a shark expert, a computer clothing company, a Japanese textile company, a swimming coach and swimmers.
The core research team discovered that the shark's unique skin structure minimised drag and helped it move faster through water. From this idea, Speedo developed a similar skin for swimmers using a specially developed knitted fabric with a tooth shaped (denticular) surface print.
The Fastskin was launched at the site of the 2000 Olympic Games at Homebush Bay in Sydney, Australia in April 2000. Controversy arose when it was claimed the swimsuit gave the wearer a technical advantage over other competitors and there were calls to ban its use in the Olympic Games. However in the context of the evolution of competitive swim wear, design and technological innovations have always been devised to enhance the swimmers performance, the Fastskin is part of this development. In fact, Speedo had already presented their new suit to the world swimming body FINA and had it approved for use in the 2000 Olympics in November 1999. By the World Swimming Championships, held in May 2000, the suit was in mass production and available to all competitors, allaying fears about competitive advantage.
For the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games nearly all the competitors wore one of Speedo's Fastskin styles and for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Speedo introduced a new generation Fastskin, the Fastskin FS11.
The Fastskin swimsuit was designed by a research and development team at Speedo International in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s.
The team included scientists, a bio mechanist, a swimming coach, a computer clothing company, a Japanese textile company, a shark expert from the Natural History Museum of London as well as several top international swimmers to trial the various prototypes.
The researchers found that the shark's unique skin structure minimised drag enabling it to move quickly through water. From this idea they developed a 'skin' for swimmers with a texture that mimicked the dermal denticles (tooth shaped forms) on a sharks skin. Made from a knitted super-stretch nylon/elastane/polyester fabric the Fastskin features V shapes ridges and a denticle surface print. In water the effect of these surfaces combine, with large vortices formed by the fabric print flowing in the opposite direction to the small vortices formed in the fabric ridges. This ensures the water is sucked closer to the body which reduces friction drag on the swimmer by allowing surrounding water to pass over more effectively.
The high elastane content of the fabric improves shape retention, improving fit and minimising drag. The fabric also compresses the muscles reducing muscle and skin vibration which decreases fatigue and power loss.
Speedo used a body scanning technique to define the international elite swimmer's body in measurement terms. The scanner takes a digital image of the athlete from 8 positions from which a 3-D body map is created. The swimmers bodies are scanned in various swimming positions to create the best fit for a variety of swimming positions
The research also engaged the expertise of a bio mechanist to study the co-ordination of muscle groups specific to swimming. The panels and seaming on the fastskin suit reflect the muscular system, the panels act like muscles stretching and returning to shape while allowing a full range of movements, while the seams act like tendons providing tension in the suit. The seams feature an enormous 26 stitches per 3cms which allows for maximum stretch without breakage. They are flatlocked (a technique that was also used in Speedo's 1930s swim wear) to eliminate drag and the direction of the seams is designed to follow the direction of water flow over the body.
Speedo design and make a range of Fastskin styles to suit individual swimmers and specific strokes including the full bodysuit (called the bodyskin by Speedo), the sleeveless bodysuit (Hi-Neck Bodyskin), the neck to knee length (Kneeskin), the waist to ankle length legsuit (Legskin) and the waist to knee length short legsuit (Jammer).
For the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Speedo created a new generation Fastskin they called the Fastskin 11 which features male and female specific and stroke specific swimsuits. They added a panel of silicon 'nipples' to the front chest of the suit described by Speedo as part of the suits 'Turbulence Management System' aimed at reducing drag on the body as it moves through the water. They also developer a textured silicon 'Flexiskin' panel for the inner forearm of the full bodysuits called a 'Neutraliser'. Elite swimmers don't shave this area of the body preferring to retain the feel of the water flowing over the body as it aids their assessment of speed. A smooth fabric on the inner arm is a disadvantage as the swimmer loses this effect so Speedo incorporated a 3D titanium silicon scale pattern which mimics skin and replaces the sensory requirements of the swimmer.
The seams of the Fastskin 11 are engineered to follow the direction of the water flow and help reduce drag, while the 'super' stretch thread used in the seams aids comfort and freedom of movement.
Alexander MacRae established MacRae Hosiery in Sydney in 1914, initially manufacturing knitted undergarments and later expanding into swim wear and mens and women's knitted leisure wear. The companies name changed to Speedo in the late 1920s following a staff competition to find a name for their race wear, for which Captain Parsonson came up with the catchy phrase 'Speed on in your Speedos' .
By the 1970s Speedo was best known for its competitive swim wear and was designing and making swimsuits for Olympic competitors from all over the world. Their aim was always to improve swimmers speed and the Powerhouse Museum collection illustrates the design and technological innovations that mark the evolution of competitive swim wear.