Beyond the Brand: Speedo

Name: Speedo

Also known as: budgie smugglers (for, ahem, obvious reasons)

Written by: Stephen Chadwick


The numbers: Speedo International Limited had turnover of £111m in 2018 with a gross profit of £49m.

What is its history? Founded in Australia in 1914, Speedo is now a subsidiary of the Pentland Group and its logo can be found on products ranging from swimwear to wristwatches. The Speedo brand was previously manufactured for and marketed in North America as Speedo USA by PVH under an exclusive perpetual licence. As of January 2020, the Pentland Group purchased back the rights from PVH subject to regulatory approval.

Any interesting facts? Speedo’s long history of swimwear products began with a single garment, known as the racer-back costume. In 1927, the company’s founder, Alexander McRae, who had emigrated from Scotland to Australia, found success providing the Australian army with socks during the First World War. He invested his money back into the company and branched out into swimwear. The racer-back costume was the result, but brand name didn’t come for another year: that was the result of a slogan competition within the business, which produced the tagline: “Speed on in your Speedos”. Over the years, it has become a world-famous brand, beloved of athletes and social swimmers alike.

Nerd level: Although the brand name Speedo is often genericised to refer to any style of men’s swim briefs, these account for less than two percent of the company’s sales

Advanced nerd level: The logo is actually a boomerang, to reflect the brand’s Australian origins

Anything else? Since 2014, through its Swim Generation programme, Speedo has provided more than 500,000 free swimming lessons in 12 countries, has trained more than 130 swimming teachers and lifeguards, and its campaigns on water safety to prevent drowning have reached more 630,000 young people. Swim Generation has been run in multiple countries including Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cambodia, India, Lesotho, Malta, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan and the UK

Do say: These Speedos really are a remarkably good fit

Don’t say: Has anyone seen my budgie?


Admiring the brands of yesterday, supporting the brands of today