What you wear in the water has a dramatic impact on your swim enjoyment and performance.
It is very easy to become attached to your swimwear. If you are a regular swimmer, you may have boxes of swimwear at home, some of which you never plan to wear again but just can’t throw out.
Typically, you will need to buy a new swimsuit or upgrade your swimwear when either the material feels loose, the material has thinned too much, the material is becoming transparent, the elasticity has gone, or you feel you need a boost to your swim performance.
In this article, I am going to look at:
- When should you get a new swimsuit or jammers?
- How often should you buy swimwear?
- How long should a swimsuit last?
- Can a swimsuit help you swim faster?
- Why are some swimsuits so expensive?
When Should You Get A New Swimsuit, Swim Briefs, Or Jammers?
For me, what I wear in the pool not only helps me feel body-confident but enhances how I swim.
Swimsuits are fundamental swimming aids and tools that can boost performance.
There are some telltale signs that show you are due a swimsuit, swim brief, or jammer upgrade.
1. Feel Loose To Wear
Performance swimwear is typical skin-tight, be it a swimsuit, swim briefs, or jammers.
When trying to swim fast, it is essential that you do not create drag. Therefore, it is important that your swimwear is skin tight.
With time, due to wear and tear, your swimwear will stretch. A point will come when your swimwear is no longer tight and feels loose to wear. This is a sign that you are due an upgrade.
2. Material Does Not Feel Elastic To Touch
Sportswear manufacturers typically make all performance swimwear from a variety of common materials, such as spandex, polyester blends, nylon or lycra blends.
High-performance swimwear, for example, the swimsuits you see at the Olympics, are typically highly elasticated spandex, polyester or nylon blends.
All these materials will feel elastic to touch when new, but will lose their elasticity with time.
The material fibres will degrade with overuse, exposure to pool chemicals and general wear and tear.
Once the material no longer feels fresh and elasticated, it might be time for an upgrade.
3. Material Is Fading
Because of exposure to pool chemicals such as chlorine, or exposure to sunlight, the colour of your swimwear material will fade with time.
Whether faded material bothers you is a personal choice and I have hung onto faded swimsuits for a bit too long, as I feel they still felt elasticated.
Although material fading will not affect swimwear performance, it could be a sign that your swimwear has been exposed to too much chlorine or UB light. It is time to upgrade.
4. The Seem Feels Hard To Touch
They say the devil is in the detail and, when it comes to the difference between a $20 suit and a $60 dollar suit, you will see finishes in the seams that will make all the difference.
Often with more expensive performance suits, the seams will be boned and not sewed, to ensure a seamless and efficient swim performance with minimal drag.
On swimwear with seams, you may notice these degrade with time, either becoming unbonded, frayed or hard to touch.
When you notice damage and wear to your swimwear seams, it is time to consider an upgrade.
5. Swimsuit or Jammers Look Misshapen
Great performance swimwear will hold a body shape.
In addition, the higher performance swimwear will compress the body further to decrease drag and make the swimmer more streamlined in the water.
If you find that your swimwear is no longer holding its shape or looks misshapen, then it is time for an upgrade.
How Often Should You Buy Swimwear?
It’s difficult to predict how often you will need to buy new swimwear, as how long your swimsuit or jammers last will depend on factors such as:
- The brand.
- The model within the brand, for example, the Speedo Endurance jammers are famous with triathletes for lasting a long time.
- How often they are used.
- How well you care for your swimwear post swim.
- The materials used, as some materials such as Polyester / PBT blends can last a long time.
On average, a regular swimmer who is in the pool 5 days a week may need to change their swimsuit every 3 to 4 months. Leisure swimmers may need to change their swimsuit once a year depending on use. Swim briefs typically last a year, however, polyester or PBT swim jammers can last years depending on use.
It is very difficult to predict, but most regular swimmers who are in the pool 5 days a week will buy a new swimsuit every 3 to 4 months.
How Long Should A Swimsuit Or Swim Wear Last?
|Swim Wear Type||Amount Of Use||Average Lifespan|
|Swimsuit||5 Days Per Week||3 – 4 Months|
|Swim Briefs||5 Days Per Week||3 – 4 Months|
|Jammers||5 Days Per Week||2 – 6 Months|
|Leisure Swimsuit||1 Day Per Month||1 – 2 Years|
|Bikini||1 Day Per Month||1 – 2 Years|
From my personal experience, I have found that the type of material used in swimwear has the biggest impact on how long a swimsuit lasts.
Personally, I have found that swimsuits made from polyester blends to be very durable and last much longer than the above expectations.
On the opposite end of the scale, I have found that swimwear made from lycra (i.e. spandex blends) is super comfortable but falls apart quickly and is quickly destroyed by the chlorinated water.
Therefore, a more realistic expectation of how long a swimsuit should last is to look at the material, and to ask what is the best swimsuit material for long-life performance?
|Polyester Swimsuit Fabric Blends||Polyester swimwear fabrics, blended with Lycra (or spandex)||Exceptional Durability|
|PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate)||Often blended with polyester, this is a great chlorine and heat resistant blend||Excellent Durability|
|Nylon Swimsuit Fabric Blends||Nylon has good strength, however, degrades in UV light quicker than polyester blends||Very Good Durability|
|Spandex||Does not work well with chlorine||OK Durability|
Swimsuit & Jammers Care – How To Look After Your Swimwear
It is possible to extend the life of your swimwear by careful post-swim care and maintenance.
Performance swimwear is not cheap, therefore it is important to keep it in good shape to get as much use out of every item.
Most manufactures, including Speedo, recommend that you wash your swimsuit regularly to keep it clean and performing well.
Below is a guide on how to care for your swimsuit or jammers:
1. Hand Wash
I always prefer to wash swimwear by hand.
Even on a delicate cycle, a washing machine can damage your swimwear. I once placed my favourite swimsuit ever, The Speedo Pro Leg, into a delicate, yet hot wash and it killed the material.
Afterwards, the swimsuit was all misshapen, and the material had lost its elasticity. Since then, I have always hand washed my swimsuits, and they have lasted much longer.
On paper, all swimsuits and jammers are machine-washable, but even the manufacturers such as Speedo recommend a hand wash over a machine wash. [source]
Speedo recommends that all you soak your swimwear in a cleaning solution such as specially formulated detergent designed for delicates or spandex swimsuits, for around 30mins.
Then simply rinse in clean water.
- Mild care fluid for sports and functional clothing.
- Helps preserve fabrics
- NeutrAroma technology neutralises odour
2. Do Not Wring It Out
I do this all the time out of habit, but it is not good for your swimwear.
It is instinct to “wring out” a wet piece of material to remove the excess water to help it dry quickly.
However, wringing out your swimwear can damage the fibres and cause the material to lose its shape.
3. Flat Dry
It is a good idea to allow your swimwear to dry flat.
You can lay it on a towel, flat, and roll the towel to help the towel absorb excess water.
This is an alternative method to wringing out the swimsuit.
When you have removed the excess water, lay the swimwear out flat to dry.
By allowing the swimwear to dry flat, you will allow it to keep its shape.
Hanging swimwear up to dry can cause the shape of the suit to become damage and deformed as the heavy water pulls on the fibres.
Avoid using a dryer as the high temperature will damage the material. For more delicate materials such as spandex, it can destroy the swimsuit or jammers completely.
Eono Microfibre Towel – Fast Drying – Super Absorbent – Ultra Compact. Great for Swimming- Grey, 60x30cm
- Fast drying
- Super Absorbent
- Ultra Compact
Price Range: £9.99 – £25.99
4. Keep Out Of Sunlight
It can be tempting to dry a swimsuit in the sun, however, drying your swimwear in direct sunlight will cause the colour to fade.
Can A Swimsuit Help You Swim Faster?
Elite swimming pros and swimwear manufacturers work closely together to design swimwear that is optimised for the best performance in the pool.
A swimsuit can help you swim faster. A carefully designed swimsuit, known as a tech suit, will compress the body to take a form that is optimised to be streamlined, and as a result, will help a swimmer go faster by reducing drag.
Speedo rocked the world of swimming in 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing. In that year, 25 world swimming records were shattered. According to Speedo, 98% of those world records were broken by swimmers wearing their new tech suit, the “LZR Racer“. [source]
The LZR racer was designed to compress the body to make the swimmer streamlined in the water and reduce drag, but in my mind, the secret sauce was the use of very thin yet very stiff polyurethane plastic panels.
Water would glide over this hydrodynamic material, creating minimal drag and increasing the buoyancy of the swimmer.
The results were phenomenal, and in fact were so good, the coach of the Japanese national team famously said, “If swimmers don’t wear the LZR Racer, they won’t be able to compete in Beijing Olympics” [source]
The results of the tech suit were so good, it was seen as an unnatural advantage and by 2010, FINA banned any swimsuit that might aid speed, buoyancy or performance.
Today swimsuits must be “textile fabrics” that are woven, knitted, or braided.[source]
Looking at the Speedo website, the “LZR Racer” suit has been updated and is now FINA approved. However, materials such as polyurethane plastic panels will not be seen in the world of swimming competition for some time.
Why Are Some Swimsuits So Expensive?
If you have ever browsed a dedicated swimwear shop such as Speedo, you will find swimsuits that cost hundreds of dollars.
These swimsuits are so expensive as they are optimised for swim performance, with body-shaping properties and a streamlined design with hidden seams that can enhance a swimmer’s speed in the pool.
Some of the design details that go into these swimsuits to make them so expensive are:
- They contain delicate and lightweight materials that are great for swim performance but require expensive manufacturing costs and machines to handle.
- The overall shape of the suits are designed to support a wide range of movement.
- The material is carefully selected and designed to give moderate body compression to make the body more streamlined in the water.
- The seams are “flat bonded” which means they are completely flat, helping to reduce drag and improve speed in the water.
- Some of the top end suits contain additional layers and support around the stomach region to support the core muscles.
If you are planning to invest in one of these expensive swimsuits to enhance your performance at a competition level, ensure that they are FINA approved to ensure you can compete without the risk of disqualification.