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Body Glove International

diving brothers helmet suit

Award: Diving Hall of Fame and the Pioneers of Surfing, 1990

Body Glove was founded by identical twins Bob and Bill Miestrell. The brothers were born in Missouri, two of seven children. Both boys loved the water and were taught to swim by their older brother, Joe, a local lifeguard. By the time the boys were fourteen, they had become avid swimmers and explorers and soon became interested in deep-sea diving. They were obsessed with creating a diving helmet to be used for exploring the local lakes. Their first invention consisted of a five-gallon vegetable can with padding on the cut edge with a glass front sealed with tar. They tested their inven- tion in the swimming pool: one boy would sit on the bottom of the pool with the helmet on while the other pumped air into the helmet with a tire pump. There were a few complications, but the results did not stop their exploring minds. They took the helmet to a local lake, submerged it under fifteen feet of water and explored the unknown.

In 1944 the family moved to Manhattan Beach, California, where the boys attended Redondo Union High School and El Segundo High School where they were active in swimming and football. Still obsessed with developing a diving helmet, the boys purchased a genuine diving helmet from a local shop. The adventurous boys tested the helmet in up to twenty feet of water for durability, functionality, and safety. After spending several hours experimenting with the helmet in cold, polluted waters, the brothers determined that the helmet needed some improvements. However, more important, they needed something to wear in the freezing cold waters.

After graduation the boys worked briefly as lifeguards before being drafted into the army. When they returned from service they resumed their pursuit of inventing a diving suit. First, they researched and tested fabrics that would withstand ocean temperatures. The brothers selected neoprene, a material used to insulate refrigerators, to fabricate their first diving suit in 1953. Their Thermocline wet suit, which was used only for exploring at the time, later became the standard wardrobe for surfing. As the wet suit became popular, the Miestrell bothers realized the name did not fit the suit. The brothers hired consultant Duke Boyd to help them select a name for their product. The name Boyd created was Body Glove, because the suits “fit like a glove.”

The Miestrells’ new suit caught the attention of friend Bev Morgan who owned a local sports shop, Dive N’ Surf. Morgan was also a lifeguard and inventor, who had just closed a deal with a local surfboard designer, Hap Jacobs. Morgan offered the brothers a third share of her business if they would design surfboards for her store. The brothers agreed, and four years later, the revenues the business generated from the sale of their surfboards allowed the brothers to buy the Dive N’ Surf outright from Morgan in 1957. In 1955 Bob Miestrell enrolled in the Underwater Instructors Certification course, which provided him with the training he needed to open two other companies: Dive N’ Surf Marine Photography and Undersea Graphics. The companies are involved in the exploration of oceans.

Body Glove’s prominence in the surfing industry in the 1980s caught the attention of Robin Piccone of Piccone Apparel, Inc. Body Glove, through a licensing agreement with Piccone Apparel, finally launched their first line of swimwear and active wear. The line contained the signature neoprene fabric the Miestrell brothers had experimented with years earlier for diving suits and created an entirely new look for swimwear, the “wet suit” look. This new look, which featured style details typically found only in diving suits, immediately became the hottest, sexiest look for swimwear in the 1980s and complimented the fitness craze that was sweeping the United States.

In 1991 Body Glove created a sportswear division for men’s, young men’s, women’s, and junior active wear targeted to the urban contemporary customer. The line was licensed by Panaj Distribution, Inc. In that same year, Body Glove produced a line of intimate apparel in cotton and Lycra spandex blends under a licensing agreement with Wundies, Inc. The product line, which included underwear, boxers, and teddies, was available in department and specialty stores.

Body Glove displays their main product lines on their website and at trade shows and sponsored events around the world. Body Glove now consists of five divisions: a wet suit division, a surf division, a sporting goods division, a footwear division, and an electronics division. The products offered by these divisions include men’s, women’s, and children’s wet suits, gloves, hoods, watches, bags, wallets, hats, t-shirts, water performance shoes, neoprene pager cases, radio suits, and an award-winning neoprene cellular phone case licensed through GoNeo. Body Glove continues to sell products, such as diving equipment, surfboards, and beach apparel, through their Dive N’ Surf shops in Redondo Beach, Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, and Dana Point, California. There are also stores in Hong Kong and Thailand under the Body Glove International name.

Over the last decade, the Body Glove label has not retained the same mass market appeal that launched the company to the forefront of the swimwear industry in the 1980s. However, the Body Glove and the Dive N’ Surf shops continue to be prominent in the diving and surfboarding communities. Both brothers are currently involved in the business, as are their children. The Miestrell brothers still love the water and continue to explore the ocean.

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