A curious article of apparel found mostly in communal swimming pools, the swimming cap exists to make its wearer look as ridiculous as possible and thus extremely unattractive. A tradition started in the 19th Century, people started wearing swimming caps with their all in one body suits1 when they went to the beach. Their prime function was to protect their hair from getting damp and so ruining the style.
Purposes of Swimming Caps
The purpose of swimming caps has changed in the last few years. With the advent of a greater number of municipal pools, more people than ever are going swimming. The pool owners have very strict guidelines on cleanliness, and are forced to routinely unblock the filters in the pool. Hair often falls off people's heads and contributes to the grime in the filters2. Pool authorities will request that swimmers wear caps in order to reduce the problems that this causes.
Another main use for the swimming cap is amongst competitive swimmers. The swimming cap reduces the friction through the water faced by the swimmers and can help to improve their times, particularly over long distances. The existence of the swimming cap means that swimmers can keep their hair and stay competitive.
Styles of Swimming Caps
The more traditional caps are made of fairly rigid plastic and will cover the head and neck of the wearer. Its primary function is to keep the hair dry and in the correct style. They will often have flowery designs and usually come in a single colour of pink, red, or white, though the occasional sky blue one may be found. They are often attached using a strap around the chin. Dating from the 1950s revival of swim wear, this hat is most often worn by older people and unfortunate youngsters.
Moving more up-to-date, we have the club swimmer's hat. This style has a branded sports company, club, or national logo on the side and will cover the head from hairline to hairline. Any hair around must be tucked tightly inside. It has an elasticated feel to the plastic and will cling tightly to the skull of its own accord3.
A third category is the modern cloth hat. Designed more to keep hair in than styled, this cap is usually made of artificial fibres and is constructed to let the scalp breathe during swimming. The smallest type of swimming cap, it rarely looks large enough on first appearances to cover the scalp properly. Due to its elastic properties, it can stretch comfortably to encompass all necessary hair. Mostly available in a 'One-Size-Fits-All' cap.