Men have been swimming since prehistoric times, usually wearing just their birthday suit. In single gender groups, nude swimming continued well into the 20th century but for mixed groups, Victorian prudery meant that men must keep covered up at all times, even when in the water. Knitted swimming costumes were made to cover the body including the chest. These were fairly impractical, owing to the water absorbent qualities of wool, meaning they became heavy and also rather saggy, when wet. Swimwear is now typically made of water resistant materials, often including elastane (lycra) to add a useful stretch to the swimwear.
Choosing a Style of Swimwear
There are lots of different options for men to choose from when deciding what to wear to go swimming. For many men, the main choice is between swimming shorts, which tend to be baggy, and briefs, which are more fitted. The style of swimwear that you choose is likely to depend on what you will be using them for. Many of us only wear swimming clothes when on holiday, where they may not be used for anything more athletic than sun bathing or a little splashing around in the shallows. In this case, then the colour and pattern could be your most important factor, as well as how they look on your body type. If you swim lengths regularly, then you could prefer more streamlined swimwear and possibly have a selection of swimming briefs, in order to have one ready whilst the other is in the wash. Budget is also likely to play a part in choosing your swimwear, prices can vary from around fifteen pounds to over 3 figures, with most swimwear somewhere in the middle of this range.
These come in a wide selection of colour, size and pattern. The waist is often a drawstring style, although they may have an elasticated or button waist. Swimming shorts have been popular for many years, as they have a relaxed style, which fits in with the surfer vibe, that many men find appealing. The loose fit and adjustable waist gives swimming shorts another advantage - they are forgiving if you have put on a few pounds, perhaps from enjoying the holiday food and drink, a little too much. Swim shorts can also be purchased with a drop crotch, in line with the current fashion for dropped crotch trousers. Shorts that come past the knee are often called board shorts, reflecting the fact that they were originally used by surfboard fans.
These are much more fitted swimwear, popular for athletic swimmers, who might find that the drag on the excess material on swimming shorts, slows them down. Popularly known as 'Speedos', after the well known brand who produce many of this style, they are compulsory in swimming pools in some European countries. They are also compulsory wear for many school's swimming lessons, useful to know if you are buying swimwear for your school age son. Swimming briefs are also sometimes called swimming trunks, although this may be used as a generic terms for male swimwear, so the description can't be relied upon to distinguish the exact type of swimwear. Swimming briefs tend to be made of elastic material, often with a lining to ensure they do not cling too much. Briefs tend to come in a a plain colour, or maybe with a stripe at the side, although less sober briefs can still be found, if you like the tighter fit but still like a colourful look. It can also be worth having a look for some hipster style swimming trunks, these will be a little longer than briefs, but with the same close fitting style, ideal for proper swimmers. These shorts are also known as aquashorts - tight fitting but more modest than briefs, as they cover to the top of the thighs.
High Tech Swimwear
If you've ever watched the Olympic swimming races, then you'll know that the top swimmers used to wear an all in one suit, technologically designed to minimise drag and shave vital split seconds from their time. In the noughties, many swimming records were broken by swimmers wearing the slippery suits, often the popular Speedo Fastskin, which claimed to reduce drag by up to 4%. These high tech swimsuits were made from nylon composite fabrics that the manufacturers claimed reduced the tension created by skin's contact with the water. These fabrics were however banned by the International Swimming Federation in 2010, with recent guidelines for competitive swimming events stating that swimsuits must "Be permeable to water, contain no metal, rubber or polyurethane".
Current Competitive Swimwear
Competitive swimmers now usually wear jammers - tight fitting shorts that reach from just below the waist to the knees. These are also to be found in fashion swimwear collections, as we all like to look like the heroes we see winning contests on the TV. Competitive swimmers may also wear aquashorts, as they have a similar performance level to jammers.
For men who like to partake of outdoor water sports such as kayaking, surfing or paddleboarding, then one swimwear option is a rash guard. This covers the man's chest and upper arms as well as down to the knees or just above. Rash guards have the advantage of repelling some harmful UV rays and protecting against skin damage from sun burn. Swim shirts or rash shirts are a top only version of a rash guard, ideal to add to your swimming shorts if you are spending a long time outdoors, to avoid sun damage. For cold water activities, a wetsuit is a good choice. Wetsuits are relatively expensive, but for 'wild' swimmers (who like to swim in lakes, rivers, lidos or other outdoor water) or scuba divers, they are a key piece of kit and well worth the investment. Wetsuits allow hardy souls to swim all year round and maintain some body heat, although they do let in some water, making them useful for mid temperature waters. For really cold water, a drysuit keeps the water out as well as insulating the wearer. These are probably only necessary for really keen divers, as they can be even more costly than wetsuits.
Chlorine Resistant Swimwear
If you do most of your swimming in public pools, then it makes sense to consider chlorine resistant swimwear. Chlorine is used to get the water in swimming pools hygienically clean, which is great for avoiding tummy bugs but not so great for the life of your swimming clothes. Fabric that is exposed to chlorine can fade, get worn out and deteriorate quickly, as chlorine can be corrosive. Chlorine resistant swimwear should last longer and not fade as quickly as other swimwear. It is important to wash your swimming clothes as soon as possible, after it has been exposed to chlorine, as otherwise the damage may already have been done. Ideally they should be washed in a washing machine straight after wear, but if this is not possible, then giving the swimwear a through rinse in non-chlorinated water will remove a good amount of the potentially damaging chlorine, and other chemicals found in swimming pools.
Has this guide helped you to narrow down your swimwear choices? Take a look at our swimwear range today to find your perfect pair.