Today there may be a diverse, colourful and stylish range of mens swimwear available to the modern male swimmer but this has certainly not always been the case. Men haven’t always worn tight and skimpy trunks or more modest and comfortable board shorts to frolic around the beach and bathe in the sea. In fact, for most of recorded history, up until the Victorian era, men bathed nude or covered themselves with skimpy loincloths.
This penchant for being naked when it came to swimming may have had something to do with the fact that men and women throughout history tended to bathe separately.
According to historical accounts, it was from the 1830s onwards that men’s swimwear was introduced, stemming predominantly from the fact that during this era seaside holidays began to gain popularity with the onset of rail travel.
This early style of men’s swimwear was however a world apart from the trunks, thongs and other skimpy styles of beachwear for men we now seem to take for granted and typically comprised of a woollen garment that was long and covered the legs and torso!
In 1917 the Bathing Suit Regulation was implemented that required men to be completely covered whilst swimming in public, meaning that men who wanted to swim had to do so in vests, flannel knee pants and even skirts.
In 1937 American Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller promoted a range of men’s swimwear and managed to almost single-handedly win the right for men to swim without a top on.
Since Weissmuller took this brave stance on men’s swimwear, trunks have been the dominating choice of swimwear available to men; although their styles have differed considerably from decade to decade.
In the 1960s, for example, trunks with vinyl panels were in fashion whilst in the 1970s cut-off trunks became the choice of swimwear for men to be seen in. True to typical 80s fashion, during this decade Lycra Speedos took centre stage on beaches and in swimming pools around the world. In the 1990s, men’s swimwear seemed to become influenced by Brazil, with the board short providing men with a more comfortable, modest and flexible choice of swimwear.
Today, beachwear for men still comprises of both trunks and board shorts, albeit in a more modern style and with a whole range of styles, colours, patterns and sizes for the modern male swimmer to choose from.