Mens High Performance Racing Swim Suit of 1912

Jack Hatfield couldn’t have been happy with the dragging swim suit that covered his body in wool fabric and definitely wasn’t happy to have placed second in both his individual events at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

Hatfield however had an eye for entrepreneurship, so he probably noticed that most swim suits were ‘home made’ or improvised. Hatfield was immensely famous in Middlesbrough, it was reported that 20,000 people greeted him on his return from 1912 Olympics with three medals in hand (400fr silver, 1500fr silver and 4x200fr relay bronze). An opportunity awaited to standardise and sell swim suits.

Following the fighting during WW1, which stopped all aspects of early 20th century life, including the 1916 Olympics, Hatfield returned from his conscription duties and continued in his fathers entrepreneurial footsteps. He took charge of a sporting goods store aptly called Jack Hatfield Sports started in 1912 by his father.

He soon introduced his new racing suit; the ‘Jack Hatfield Swimming Costume’.

Competitive swimming has seen many designs over the years. Escaping his Victorian fabric bonds, Hatfield designed a suit for public consumption and competition. Men’s swim suit design in 1912 was a one-piece suit over-the-shoulder style in wool or silk, with an under-garment underneath.

A wide variety existed, with both utilitarian and dubious fashion statements abounding. The Jack Hatfield Swimming Costume design was form fitting and tasteful. It was the first to to be made without sleeves and legs.

These suits did not innovate women’s suits though. Women’s swimming costumes remained controversial for many more years. Women’s suits have their own interesting history.

Jack Hatfield might not be the first name you think of when you are regaling swim history with your formerly slim and buff competitors. Hatfield had swum in the day when Victorian dogma insisted on modesty. For example it was illegal for women in America to show their legs.

His father was the local Baths manager and he became a tremendously competent swimmer, famous in the days when most people could not swim. He gathered crowds of up to 3000 people when he trained in the lake at the local park.

After 1912 Olympics he went onto compete in the 1920,1924 and 1928 Olympics. A gold medal however always eluded him. However he was the only male medalist from Britain until 1964.

The Hatfield’s Sporting Goods store sponsored the Middlesbrough Football Club and was hugely successful. They cleverly created long queues on a Saturday because they pumped up footballs for free. Hatfield sat on the board of the Middlesbrough Football Club for forty years and became famous as an ambassador of all sports.

We can thank Hatfield for sending us down the road towards the budgie smugglers of the modern era and on the football front he helped to keep Middlesbrough football team in team kit.

“Common’ the ‘boro!”


About Coach Gary

I competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul representing Canada and coached in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics for Great Britain. I have a degree in History and a minor degree in Psychology from University of Calgary. I have travelled extensively and have been very lucky to see so much of the world while representing Canada and Great Britain at swimming competitions. I am very proud of the fact that I coached a swimmer to become number one in the world in the fastest swimming race in 2002. I pride myself in my ability to find new and interesting ways to teach swimming. I am an accomplished artist specialising in sculpture, I have another blog called 'swimmingart' where I publish some of my swimming drawings. I have three young children; all boys. I have recently taken up painting and yoga....but not at the same time. You can see my new paintings at:
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