History of Swim Caps

There was a time when swim caps did more than just protect swim athletes' hair from harsh elements, and reduce swimmers drag. They were indispensable fashion accessories. About 70 years ago, no woman's swim costume would have been complete without one.

Although the idea of covering hair while bathing began long before our grandmothers basked in public swimming pools, the more than century-old modern history of traditional swim caps begins with the invention of rubber, in 1883.

Fashion swim caps, then and now

Bathing caps have long been used, in one form or another. In ancient times, people were known to have worn hair nets made from waxed taffeta, or synthetic silk, to keep their dos from getting damp. Rubber was introduced over a century ago and opened the door to many new inventions, including swim caps made from rubber-like fabric, to complete full body swim costumes.

Early modern swim caps looked like aviator helmets; they had chin straps to hold them in place. By the roaring '20s, the invention of latex had led to the making of stretchier swimcaps that fit right in with the styles of the day, considering head-hugging cloches were very popular. Since swimming had won acceptance as a sport, and fashion bathing suits were on the rise, it looked as if the swim cap had met its match.

During World War II, the availability of swim caps took a dive when rubber was widely used to make war materials and became sparse. Any woman who had one to protect her pricy salon 'do was considered a lucky gal!

And they were a perfect fit on film. Cinematic "aqua musicals" starring famed swimmer and movie star Esther Williams gained popularity in the 1940s, and featured synchronized swimming and an expose of elaborate, decorative swim caps set with the stylish bathing suits of the time.

Swim caps of the 1950s were colorful and textured, and still cherished by women who spent a lot of time setting and curling their hair. Elaborate, retro swim caps reached their apex.

History of swim caps - from fashion to function

Things changed in the 1960s and '70s. On one hand, long hair had become the trend and public swimming pools had established strict rules requiring people to wear swim caps. When women began sporting more convenient cuts, they no longer wore them unless they had to. Swim caps were a necessity, but as fashion curios were on the sharp decline. Floral swim caps maintained their popularity among older generations of swimmers. If it weren't for recreation swimming rules, and swimming as a competitive sport, swim caps would have all but disappeared. No longer a fashion statement, the swim cap was worn for purely functional reasons. Durable and resilient silicone swim caps were introduced in more recent years, and are considered now to be the most popular of its kind.

Swim caps today are used mainly by swim athletes to reduce drag and protect their hair from harsh chemicals in the pool. Growing interest in competitive swimming in the 1980s and '90s lead to a surge in swim cap production. Competition swim caps are available today in many styles, materials, and colorful and unique prints. Check some of them out at Epic Sports' complete swim cap line!

History of swim caps - looking ahead

In earlier days, swim caps simply served the dual purpose of protecting hairdos and topping off stylish swim costumes. Today, the swim cap and its advanced technologies has become an indispensable part of competition swimwear. Swim caps protect an athlete's head from the elements, and improve her performance by cutting down on drag which, to world class swimmers, can mean all the difference between first place finishes or not. And any champion swimmer can tell you that being one of the fastest swimmers in the world is no drag at all!

History of swim caps, at a glance:

Going way back.... Men and women are known to have bound their hair with nets made from taffeta, which is a synthetic silk, and straw.

1883 - The invention of rubber opened the door to modern swim caps made from rubberized materials that were often covered with silky fabrics for a more fashionable cap for women.

1900-1920s - Swim caps became a fashion accessory to the full body swim suit worn in public, and as swimming grew more popular as a sport, an indispensable piece of racing gear. The swim cap fit the styles of the period, covering bobbed dos and looked much like the form-fitting hats worn at the time.

1940s - World War II created a shortage in rubber, and the production of swim caps sank.

1950s - Swim caps were back - colorful, flowery, and more fashionable than ever. Many women still wore them to keep their dos from dipping in the water.

1960s - Swim caps were starting to lose their popularity as a fashion statement, however public swimming pools began to have standard rules for wearing them because of the long hair trends of the day.

1970s - Except for swim athletes, and people dipping into public swimming pools, swim caps had lost their popularity.

1980s and beyond... Swim caps of the current day are stylish, versatile and affordable. They're available in latex, silicone, and Lycra, neoprene for open swim and scuba diving wetsuits. Swim caps come in a variety of updated colors and fun prints to suit every taste and style, for recreational and competition swimmers of all abilities.



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