The 1950's and 60's was the golden age of diving equipment. The 70's
started the transition to modern and more fashionable gear. By the 80's
they just " don't make them like they used to".
Special thanks to David Richie Wilson who created the 20
PDF documents on
historical suits. Mr. Wilson has invested countless hours of research
over the years to make these files possible. Hydroglove is pleased to be
the home of such detailed
Spearfisherman In the aftermath of World War II, the US Navy asked Arthur Brown of the Spearfisherman company in Huntington Beach, California, to design a rubber drysuit. The first issue of "Skin Diver" magazine in December 1951 featured a Spearfisherman advertisement announcing the mass production of a one-piece front-entry seamless gum-rubber shortie frogman suit after three years of experimentation. A full-length version of the suit was marketed later. Swimaster eventually took over the Spearfisherman company.
Siebe-Heinke Dip The Siebe-Heinke "Dip" two-piece seamless drysuit was first demonstrated at the International Boat Show in London during January 1962, several months after Siebe-Gorman and Company took over C. E. Heinke & Co. Ltd. Made from dipped latex glazed on both sides to provide slip-on dressing, it came with a cummerbund, hood and booties for use by skin-divers, dinghy sailors, fishermen, canoeists and water-skiers. The suit ceased production in 1964 due to "manufacturing difficulties."
Heinke Dolphin The Dolphin shortie wetsuit made by C. E. Heinke & Co. Ltd of London in the mid-1950s and described by the company as "an ideal garment for all forms of water sport" had at least two distinctive features. First, it came in male and female versions, differing in length, fit, colour and mode of entry. Secondly, instead of expanded neoprene, it was made from stockinette-lined polished rubber and secured with a button or snap-fastener collar and a rust-proof zip.
Heinke Delta Unlike the Dolphin, the two-piece Heinke Delta was a full-length suit designed to keep the diver dry when it appeared during the early 1950s. The first version was a two-piece skin suit made of high-gloss-surfaced natural rubber proofed on to a stockinette cloth. A set of thin and close-fitting woollens could be worn underneath. Launched in 1957, a later edition of the suit was proofed with neoprene instead of natural rubber. Fitted booties and hood completed the suit.
US Divers Seal The natural-rubber US Divers Seal suit was designed by Terry Cox of Waterwear, Newport Beach, California in the early 1950s. It came in a choice of length (long or short arms and legs) as well as entry (neck, front or back). The shirt and pants could also be purchased separately. In the case of some models, a flutter valve was installed at the rear of the hood to drain the air out of the suit and to prevent the neck area from becoming inflated.
Healthways Carib In 1955, the Healthways Carib drysuit was manufactured from three-ply translucent gum rubber and marketed in long and short versions. It was billed as a product of extensive field-testing and seven years’ manufacturing experience. When donning the full-length Carib, divers dressed feet first through the front chute, finally securing the closure with a rubber band to form a watertight seal. The Carib full-length diving suit and the Carib swim shirt last appeared in the Healthways 1958-1959 catalogue.
Bel-Aqua During the 1950s, Los Angeles firefighter and skin-diving pioneer Bill Barada designed and built drysuits for the Bel Aqua Water Sports Company, which eventually became the Aquala Sports Manufacturing Company still operating today in Louisiana. A tough proprietary bonded rubber material known as "Ply-a-Bel" was deployed to create full-length and shortie front-entry and waist-entry suits as well as a swim shirt and a self-assembly suit-making kit with a comprehensive range of accessories.
Skooba-"totes" In 1958 the So Lo Marx Rubber Company of Loveland, Ohio, added the Skooba-"totes" dry diving suit to its range of seamless gum-rubber waterproof gear for men, women, children and sportsmen. The basic suit was a full-length two-piece brown, yellow or green garment comprising footed pants and hooded shirt, whose pricing proved popular with divers, underwater hunters, water skiers and even cavers. The suit also came in shortie versions and the range of accessories included gloves and protective footwear.
US Divers Seamless In mid-1950s advertisements for this short-lived "Skin Diver's Seamless Suit", a young woman posed in a two-piece version of the outfit "constructed of dipped pure latex, a tough resilient material" and consisting of a hood-less long-sleeved shirt and footed long-legged pants, rolled together at the waist to form a watertight seal. Made in shortie and full-length versions for mild-weather and year-round use respectively, the drysuit seemed to have been designed exclusively for women.
Lillywhites Lillywhites of Piccadilly Circus is London's largest sporting goods store. Made of rubber on stockinette with optional gloves and overbooties, the two-piece Lillywhites Dry Diving Suit first appeared in the firm's 1955 Underwater Sports catalogue. Two versions of the suit were available, one with neck and ankle seals, the other with hood and booties. British diving pioneer Peter Small described the suit as slightly lighter and tighter than its competitors, designed to take light woollens under it.
Dolphin Dolphin Manufacturing Company and its successor, Dolphin
Enterprises, of Bellflower, California designed and manufactured rubber
underwater suits in the 1950s. All Dolphin suits were full-length
dry-type unisex models made of gum rubber. The original Dolphin
spearfishing suit came with a front-entry tie-off chute, hood and
moulded boots, while the new Dolphin underwater exposure suit featured
pocket entry, 2-ply material, fused tapered seams and moulded boots.
Penguin Penguin Suits of Long Beach California (formerly Dolphin
Enterprises) designed and manufactured two models of dry suit in the
later 1950s, coded P-1 and P-2, for water skiing and skin-diving. Both
were constructed in gum rubber blended with 10% or 8% neoprene and
featured seamless moulded boots with scuff soles and an optional hood.
The P-1 suit had pocket entry allowing positive sealing and an easy
entrance without assistance, while the P-2 was a waist-entry two-piece
Voit W. J. Voit Rubber Corporation of New York, Danville and Los
Angeles was one of the five original American diving equipment
manufacturers. The Voit line in underwater suits appears to have lasted
for a short period only during the late 1950s. The front-entry VDS10
full dry suit was made of "the highest quality, two-ply lightweight gum
rubber", while the waist-entry VDS11 full dry suit came with "the same
top protection, materials and colour." A "Do it yourself" Full Dry Suit
Kit was also available.
Healthways Aqua In 1957, Healthways briefly complemented its Carib
range with two new full-length drysuits. Made of "pure gum moulded latex
seamless rubber", the Aqua King was a waist-entry suit comprising hood,
long shirt, long booted pants and waistline sealing ring. Like the
Healthways Carib suit, the cheaper Aqua Flite was made of "two-ply
laminated gum rubber" and designed for the dual purpose of water skiing
and skin diving. Neither suit appeared in the 1958-1959 Healthways
Nautilus The original Nautilus front-entry drysuit marketed during
the 1950s by Metro-Marine Incorporated of Oakland, California, boasted
"comfort, freedom and superb quality" for cold coastal waters, extreme
temperature changes and prolonged submersion. The Nautilus 177 was
tested at "depths exceeding 170 feet" and hand-made from pure liquid
latex, while the Nautilus 300 was a luxury suit tested at depths up to
300 feet and manufactured like the original Nautilus suit in two-ply gum
Siebe-Heinke Frogman The "Siebe-Heinke Blue Book of Underwater
Swimming" of 1963 showcased not only the recreational "Dip" drysuit but
also the professional "Frogman" drysuit designed to give the underwater
swimmer complete protection when diving in cold or polluted waters. The
suit consisted of a separate jacket and trousers made watertight at the
waist by a rubber cummerbund and was manufactured in two alternative
materials: stockinette proofed with black rubber or heavy-duty fawn
Dunlop For a quarter of a century or more, the UK-based Dunlop Rubber
Company remained a leading designer and manufacturer of drysuits for
military and commercial divers. In the aftermath of World War II, the
company was at first reluctant to manufacture diving suits for the
peacetime leisure market, but a brief change of heart resulted in the
launch of the Dunlop Aquafort range of neck-entry, back-entry and
waist-entry drysuits and accessories for recreational use towards the
end of the 1950s.
Siebe-Gorman Siebe, Gorman & Co. Ltd manufactured standard diving
dress until the mid-1950s, when they diversified into suits for
commercial and recreational underwater swimmers. In the later 1950s, the
company manufactured the Essjee two-piece swim suit based on the
original frogman suit developed for the Royal Navy during World War II.
It consisted of a jacket equipped with a light rubber hood and
lightweight wrist cuffs, and trousers footed with moulded rubber soles.
Other dry underwater swim suits followed.
Suit Yourself During the 1950s, "Suit Yourself" of Long Beach,
California, specialised in self-assembly gum rubber suit kits for cold
water divers with a limited budget. The company began with a
self-assembly kit for a two-piece dry-type front-entry heavy-duty 2-ply
rubber suit with hood and moulded boots. The suit material was extra
tough pure gum rubber specially treated to be saltwater and sun
resistant. Both full-length and shortie suit kits were available.
Mariner Wear Skin Diver Trunks Mariner Wear of Bristol, Rhode Island
developed all-rubber trunks for skin divers in the 1950s. They were
fast-drying, fitted better the more they were worn and were both
comfortable and easy to put on. They came with fused seams, herringbone
texture and a contrasting stripe at the side. They could be worn under a
wet or dry suit. A separate rubber liner was also available in three
different sizes with a choice of colours: white or dark blue.
Heinke Falla Billed as "a wet or free flooding suit performing the same functions as the Dolphin", the Heinke "Falla" suit was a relatively short-lived latecomer to the company's range of diving suits in 1958. It was made in white rubber for men only to the same specification as the “Dolphin”, with seams taped in black. Its hood was intended to be an improvement on the Dolphin's neckband, which would often let water trickle in during use.