- Clothing designed to be worn for swimming or with swimsuits.
- Items of clothing appropriate for swimming.
- Tight fitting garment worn for swimming
A swimsuit, bathing suit, swimming costume, swimming suit, tog, bathers, or cossie (short for "costume"), or swimming trunks for men, is an item of clothing designed to be worn by people engaging in a water-based activity or water sports, such as swimming, water polo, diving, surfing, water skiing, or during activities in the sun, such as sun bathing. Different types are worn by men, women, and children.
A swimsuit can be worn as an undergarment in sports that require a wetsuit such as water skiing, scuba diving, surfing, and wakeboarding. Swimsuits are also worn when there is a need to display the body, as in the case of beauty pageants or bodybuilding contests. Glamour photography and magazines like the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue feature models and sports personalities in swimsuits.
There is a very wide range of styles of modern swimsuits, which vary in relation to body coverage and materials. The choice of style of swimsuit is dependent on current fashions and community standards of modesty, as well as on personal preferences. Swimwear for men usually exposes the chest, which women do not usually do.
History of Men's Swimwear
The swimsuit begins its history in ancient Greece and Rome. In these ancient civilizations, public bathing was a common and popular tradition, although on the whole men bathed in the nude. By the fall of the Roman Empire, public bathing and the accompanying swimwear worn by women fell out of style for several hundred years. During the Middle Ages in Europe, men and women rarely bathed, in fact public bathing was viewed as immoral and unhealthy. When public bathing returned to popularity in the 1800s, cozzies for both sexes were somewhat similar in appearance. Women wore dresses and men wore shirts and shorts, ending at the knee and covering the arms.
During the 1880's, men's styles stuck close to the traditional skivvies. Improvements were made gradually. The first prototypes of the first "modern" swim trunks were cumbersome and made the action of swimming itself more difficult. The first Jantzen suit weighed 9 lb. when fully soaked, making them extremely heavy in water. They also had the unfortunate tendency of slipping down!
Until the 1920s, most swimwear was made of knitted woolen materials that were extremely heavy when wet and flouted the safety values we prize so highly in this water-encased nation of ours. But gradually suits became tighter fitting, and materials used chose swimming speed over modesty with outfits made of lighter and more comfortable silk.
Modesty was an issue well into the 1920's. Under the "Bathing Suit Regulations" published in May 17, 1917, men's suits had to be worn with a skirt or have at least a skirt effect. The skirt had to be worn outside of the trunks. The other alternative was to wear a flannel knee pants with a vest and a fly front. During this time, the knitting mills were rapidly churning out many styles of suits, including the "speed suit," an one piece suit with deeply slashed armholes and closed leg trunks. The introduction of Lastex (synthetic rubber yarn) created a whole new era in men's swim wear.
The introduction of Lastex (synthetic rubber yarn) created a whole new era in men's swim wear. With the popularity of the "nude" look during the 1930's providing the backdrop for beach-going attire, this "miracle fiber" made it possible to give the wearer control as well as the appearance of a fit form. Even chubby males had the chance to be "Mr. Muscles." Athletic supports, called "Sunaka" supports were sewn directly into the trunks, providing comfort and a trim appearance in front.
Though men were getting the opportunity to look
better, there was still the little matter of baring the chest. Quite simply, it was frowned upon. However, men continued to fight for their right to expose their chest and by the early 1933, the result was a convertible-style suit that allowed the top to be removed. The introduction of the "Men's Topper" introduced a new thrill in men's swim wear. This unprecedented belted, two-tone wool suit gave the wearer the option to go bare (or not to go bare...). The deeply scooped top was attached to the front of the trunks with the newly-invented zipper. Instead of being connected, the back of the suit featured a "y" arrangement of straps to secure the top to the chest. The top was removed by just unzipping the zipper. Unfortunately for many of those who did, this led to arrests for "indecent exposure."
Thankfully, improvements were forthcoming. In 1933, the B.V.D company used Olympic swimmer Johnny Weismuller to promote its swimsuit line. Due to his recommendations of extra low cut arm holes on tank tops, a natural waist, and an extra full seat, the final outcome was the first pair of bathing trunks -- which actually came out first in France while conservatives in America still insisted on the two-piece suit. In an attempt to gain more public acceptance, companies tried to streamline the trunks by giving them more of a "dressed" look. This was done by showing a simulated fly front and giving them a kind of belt or buckle effect. In 1937, men finally had the right to go topless, when only a year earlier in 1936, the "no- shirt" movement had generated much controversy, with reported cases of topless men being banned from Atlantic City beaches in New Jersey.
The public's concern with nudity eroded as time passed. Shorts were the typical swim wear for men, with men's swimsuits during the 1940's looking very similar to the narrow hips and smooth abdomen of the women's styles. Of course, those males with a little more modesty in mind could always opt for the "boxer-type" shorts. Successful swim wear campaigns were not intended for the timid. In 1947, the Jantzen company hired James Garner as their "Mr. Jantzen" to model their line of "savage swim trunks."
In the 1940s boxer style shorts became the typical swim wear for men, but the 1946 introduction of the bikini threw the swimsuit fashion world into a frenzy, and men didn’t want their bathing costumes to be outdone on shock factor. The result was an explosion of colour, patterns and fancy detailing. Although tighter, high waisted, underwear-like suits were popular, bright ‘Cabana’ sets of matching boxer trunks and shirts remained the usual beach attire through until the 1960s.
The sexual revolution and rise in popularity of competitive
swimming in the 1960s saw a huge revolution in swimwear. Realising that mere fractions of seconds could be the difference between Gold and Silver medals, the Amateur Swimming Association commissioned a report into the issue of drag caused by swimwear – and the resulting competitive costumes were specifically designed to reduce friction while moving through the water. The fashion world followed suit, (no pun intended) and men’s swimwear got smaller and smaller.
The 1970s marked the beginning of a period during which no modesty was considered. A return to an obsession with physical fitness and body building in the 1980s continued this trend, with slightly more flashy colours returning to favour. Few style changes were made until the popularity of Calvin Klien’s boxer briefs and the rise of surfer culture in the 1990s made the board short popular again.
Today, men’s swimsuits come in many varieties. Board shorts remain the most popular for casual wear, while competitive swimmers focusing on tight, all-in-one bodysuits designed to mimic the movement of a shark and facilitate speed.
But men’s swimwear seems to be on a backwards trajectory, so perhaps it won’t be long before nudity is once again en vogue!