Diving is an incredible sport, with amazing athletes doing difficult somersaults in the air and into the water. Given the complexity of the manoeuvres, many wonder why Olympic divers choose to wear such tiny speedos.
Olympic male divers wear tight and small speedos to keep everything in place when diving. Speedos offer great freedom of movement in the legs, which aids manoeuvrability and a tight fit offers comfort and security to ensure the briefs stay in place after a high impact dive.
For many, wearing speedos takes courage, but for professional male divers, tight speedos are part of the uniform and necessary to give the best performance.
In this article I will look at:
- What are speedos?
- Why do Olympic divers wear speedos?
- Why do water polo players wear speedos?
- Why do some swimmers wear two pairs of speedos?
- Are there alternative to speedos?
What Are Speedos?
“Speedos” have become the short-hand term to refer to short leg swim briefs for men.
Speedo is actually a brand, and because of the popularity of the original classic speedo swim brief, which made its first competitive appearance at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Games, the term “speedos” has become synonymous with male swim briefs. [source]
Speedos get a mixed reaction depending on who you are talking to and in 2018, they were voted the most hated clothing in the UK in a YouGov survey. [source]
From this survey, two-thirds of Britons said they disliked the swim briefs with only 13% of 3,277 surveyed admitting that they liked the swim briefs.
In France, however, the reaction to speedos is more of indifference as they are accustomed to the style. In France, baggy swim shorts are not allowed in public pools and men must wear speedos for hygiene.
I have to agree with the French on this hygiene law. For someone to wear their baggy shorts out and about on the streets and then wear them in a public pool – well, this sets a very poor hygiene standard.
If all men must wear speedos, then the chance of wearing “streetwear” in the pool is almost zero.
Regardless of cultural background, or whether you are based in Europe or the USA, all serious male swimmers respect the classic speedos and will wear them as part of their training routine.
Why Do Olympic Divers Wear Speedos?
It is common knowledge that Olympic racing swimmers will wear jammers and not speedos for their race event.
Swim jammers are knee-length swim trunks that are very tight and compress the body, which helps an elite swimmer swim faster.
So since Olympic swimmers wear jammers, why do Olympic divers wear speedos?
UK dive Olympian Tom Daley, explains that he wears small and tight speedos in order to “keep everything in place” as he dives.
He told the Graham Norton Show:
“If you’re spinning around the last thing, you want to do is have something come out of place! And when you hit the water you don’t want things flapping about because it would hurt.”The Graham Norton Show, May 20, 2016
Besides keeping male swimmers feeling secure, speedos offer a lot more freedom of movement compared to jammers.
Professional level swim jammers compress the body to maximise the streamlined profile of the swimmer in the water.
As a result, high-end swim jammers feel restrictive, which is not something you want when you need a full range of motion for a diving performance.
Why Do Water Polo Players Wear Speedos?
Another group of swimmers that commonly wear speedos are water polo players.
Here are some reasons water polo players wear speedos:
1. Less Grab Area
Water polo is a contact sport and having less material to grab in the water makes it harder for opponents to tackle.
2. Less Restrictive
Water polo is a fast and agile sport that requires a lot of kicking under water. The players need to move with maximum flexibility and freedom for optimum performance.
As speedos are less restrictive on the legs and offer a full range of movement, they are the preferred option for water polo players.
Why Do Some Swimmers Wear Two Pairs Speedos?
Water polo players will often wear at least two pairs of speedos.
As water polo is a contact sport, and swimwear can often get damaged or tear during a game, some water polo players will wear two pairs of speedos in case one pair rips or is damaged.
This will help avoid any embarrassing situations if you lose your swim briefs.
In addition, wearing two pairs of speedos will create a tighter fit, making it even harder for material to be grabbed and pulled.
Are There Alternatives to Speedos?
Speedos are tight swim briefs for men, with a high rise leg profile.
An alternative to speedos are jammers, which are tight knee-length swimwear for men.
There is a significant difference between speedos and jammers, and each piece of swim wear has pros and cons, suited to different swimming situations.
In recent years, Olympians have stopped wearing speedos in favour of high-tech jammers.
High-tech jammers are made of compressive material to create a more streamlined form and are considered faster than speedos.
Although an alternative, for swimming situations such as diving or water polo, serious swimmers will find it hard to beat the performance of speedos.
To learn more about the differences between speedos and jammers, I have covered this in greater detail in this article, Speedos vs Jammers: Which Do Olympians Choose?
Love them or hate them, speedos play an important role for serious swimmers, especially Olympic divers.
They may seem like the most inappropriate and uncomfortable piece of swim wear when jumping from a high diving board, but Olympians across the globe choose these tight swim briefs for their excellent tightness and performance.
Tiny speedos are tight fitting, which keeps everything in place for male divers who take the plunge.
The freedom of leg movement that speedos offer male divers is unparalleled, and I am sure that the humble speedos will be with us for many years to come.