The history of competitive swimwear has been dominated by concerns over public nudity in the first half of the 20th century and by efforts to reduce water drag in the second half. Those efforts initially lead swimmers to reduce the early sagging one-piece swimsuits down to briefs only. With the development of new materials that tightly fit the body and offered lower resistance to water than human skin, this trend was reversed to a complete body coverage from heels to neck and wrists. FINA banned full-body suits from competition effective from 1 January 2010, stating that it "wishes to recall the main and core principle is that swimming is a sport essentially based on the physical performance of the athlete".
Goggles were used in the crossing of the English Channel back in 1911, but only in 1970 appeared at international competitions. With the advent of rubber technology, latex swimming caps became mass-produced in the 1920s, and more efficient silicone caps appeared in the 1970s.
A bodyskin is a style of competitive swimwear worn by both female and male athletes. Bodyskins are normally made of technologically advanced lycra-based fabrics designed to hug the body tightly and provide increased speed and decreased drag resistance in the water.
The bodyskin resembles the design of a diveskin, commonly used by snorkelers and scuba divers for warm weather climates. The primary distinguishing feature is the material from which the bodyskin suit is made. Suits of this type provide full body coverage from the ankles to the neck and wrists, though some sleeveless designs also exist. Swimsuit manufacturer Speedo also produces a bodyskin designed specifically for the backstroke.
Bodyskins were banned from FINA competitions from the start of 2010 after many national swimming federations demanded the action, and leading athletes such as Michael Phelps and Rebecca Adlington criticised the suits.
Swimmers reported that bodyskins improved buoyancy. This is true as long as the suits remain dry. As such, they are recommended for distances under 200m.
Women enjoy a greater advantage from bodysuits than men.
The national coach of a small country stated that the suits need exact sizing and resulting high cost "increas[ed] the disparity between the haves and have nots."
As with most technologically advanced fabric swimwear, bodyskins were only commonly used at highly competitive levels of the swimming sport and are known to sell for prices in excess of US$ 400. They continue to be used for other purposes, including research.
A swim brief refers to any briefs style male swimsuit such as those worn in competitive swimming and diving. The popularity of the Australian Speedo (est. 1928) brand racing brief has led to the use of its name in some countries (e.g. the United States) to refer to any racing brief, regardless of the maker. Occasionally, the Speedo genericized trademark also applies to square cut swimsuits, but in general the generic term is used in reference to swim briefs. Swim briefs are also referred to as competition briefs, bathers, racer bathers, posing briefs, racing briefs, and colloquially in Australia as "budgie smugglers".
Like underwear briefs, swim briefs feature a V-shape front and a solid back providing form-fitting coverage. They typically are worn below the lower waist. They are generally secured by thin banding at the upper thighs and either a drawstring around the waist or an elastic waistband. Swim briefs are most often made of a nylon and spandex (Lycra) composite, while some longer lasting suits are made from polyester and still others from other materials. Most swim briefs have a beige or white front lining made of a similar fabric.
A drag suit is a pair of baggy squarecut or brief-style trunks that competitive swimmers may wear over their normal suit to provide extra resistance ("drag") from the water. This allows the swimmer to get more out of their training than they would without a drag suit. Drag suits are meant to be worn over a long period of time to wear in the material and possibly tear the fabric. The more worn-in, torn or ripped the drag suit, the more resistance it provides the swimmer. Since drag suits make swimming more difficult, swimmers do not wear drag suits in competition. Drag suits originated as older swimsuits at the end of their useful life that swimmers would then wear over another suit.
A kneeskin is a type of competitive swimwear worn by both male and female athletes. Kneeskins are normally made of technologically advanced lycra-based fabrics designed to hug the body tightly and provide increased speed and decreased drag resistance in the water.
The kneeskin is similar in design to the full bodyskin absent the leggings beyond the knee. It also resembles a "shortie" style wetsuit only made of drag-reducing fabric instead of neoprene and commonly features a zippered back. Most competitive swimwear brands such as the Speedo LZR Racer line, Tyr Sport, Inc. and Arena Powerskin line produce suits of this type. As with most technologically advanced fabric swimwear, kneeskin suits are only commonly used at highly competitive levels of the swimming sport and are known to sell for prices in excess of US$200.
A jammer is a style of swimsuit worn by male swimmers, used mainly in competition to obtain speed advantages. They are generally made of nylon and lycra/spandex material, but may be made of polyester, and have a form fitting design to reduce water resistance. They provide moderate coverage from the mid-waist to the area above the knee, somewhat resembling cycling shorts or compression shorts worn by many athletes. They provide greater leg coverage than swim briefs and square leg suits, although they also have slightly more water resistance.
A legskin is a type of competitive swimwear worn by male swimmers. Most legskins are made of technologically advanced lycra-based fabrics designed to hug the body tightly and provide increased speed and decreased drag resistance in the water. The legskin covers from the swimmer's mid-waist to his ankle and resembles leggings. One advantage of the legskin over other suit styles that cover the arms is flexibility, especially for strokes that require broad arm movement.
A racerback is a type of women's swimsuit design common today among competitive swimwear and incorporated into some types of women's clothing. The top-back of the swimsuit is not covered to provide flexibility and movement of the arms during swimming.
The square cut or square leg style suit is a form-fitting male swimsuit used as a slightly more conservative style than swim briefs for water polo and diving, or for recreational wear. Like swim briefs, they are made of a nylon and spandex blend. They typically sit low on the waist and high on the thigh, but provide more coverage for the upper leg than briefs. The square-cut style was popular as a recreational swimsuit for men during the 1950s.
Suits of this type are named for the coverage that they provide to the upper thighs due to a square seam opening for the leg. Square leg suits range in appearance from those similar to swim briefs with a slightly straighter front and wider side panelling (eliminating the arc appearance on the leg), to those resembling boxer briefs by providing an inch or more of fabric coverage over the upper section of the leg.
The square leg suit of the 1970s made a fashion revival in Australia in 2002 with the introduction of colorful floral and retro geometric patterned suits by swimwear label Funky Trunks. The style is popular amongst competitive swimmers for pool training and for recreational swimmers in the pool and at the beach.
In 2006, square cut suits resembling its 1950s predecessor made a comeback in the United States and Europe. Several fashion designers, including Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, introduced designer retro-style square leg suits to their catalogs, and Speedo followed with a more moderately priced version. In some South American countries such as Brazil, square-legged suits are the norm.
- Swim cap
- Training fins
- Pull buoy
- Hand paddles
- Aqua belt
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