Swim Briefs

There is a lot of snobbery in sports when it comes to attire. Tennis and Golf are the most obvious examples of this (polo shirts, pleated skirts, and ugly plaid pants), but anyone who’s ridden a road bike on the trail with sweat pants and a cotton t-shirt knows "the look". "The look is usually given by Lance Armstrong look-alikes. That is to say they would look just like Lance in their US Postal kit and matching limited edition Trek if they were younger, skinnier, and much much faster. Ever show up to a Saturday morning run in basketball shorts? That’s "The Look".

IMGP1166Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to give "the look" when I’m wearing a swim cap and goggles, but every time I see a guy swimming in a racing jammer, trunks, or – and this last one is the worst of all – a one-piece tri-suit I want to push their head under water. Does that make me a snob? I think it makes me a purist. You’re not doing your stroke any favors if you wear trunks (which would more appropriately be called hip anchors) The racing jammer is a high cost way to hide your tan line from a bunch of people who really don’t care that you wore short-shorts into the tanning bed, and the unitard is most often worn by men who are embarrassed to be shirtless in public. (Note to the lap swimming men: please be advised, the uni – no matter what the fabric design, or how tight it fits – will not make you look thinner. Furthermore, just because you hang out with anorexic triathletes all day, does not mean that you are embarrassingly fat. Nobody at the pool cares. Save your modesty for the track where the extra pounds actually make a difference.)

Goggles are a personal preference. I don’t recommend swedish style goggles to anyone that didn’t image grow up swimming in them (those of us that did may never give them up), but I also don’t recommend a giant snorkeling face mask with built in nose plug. You want to get a sleek pair of goggles that fit your nose (I recommend adjustable nose pieces, but if a fixed one works, go for it). You want minimal padding (rubber gaskets work better than foam). My favorite goggles are TYR, but I know plenty of other people that hate TYR goggles (like Brian Davis, who laments that imageNorthwestern would only provide TYR equipment). Speedo makes good goggles too, though I’ve never bought them for myself.


 Swim caps are all the same. Silicon or Latex? It doesn’t matter, whatever you’re comfortable with. Just wear the cap from your last race. If you run out of swim caps you aren’t doing enough races.


Now, back to the suit. (This is mainly for men, women can pretty much wear any competition style suit. Two piece suits may look out of place in-doors, but they are never unappreciated. I asked Herriott Sports Performance Triathlon Coach Teresa Nelson and she recommended the standard polyester speedo, it all depends on what causes the least shoulder/neck chafing)

image  Fabric: polyester suits (like the speedo) last forever. By far the best suits for training in terms of comfort, modesty, longevity (of the fabric) and performance (of you) are the Nylon drag suits (like the TYR polymesh trainers). Without doing anything special, one of these suits would last me a full year of college level swimming (the stitches start coming out after 52 weeks of 10-15k a day). I’ve had my current suit for three years and it still looks new. If you like a more traditional brief, get a the waterpolo cut so it doesn’t look quite so skimpy. Also, buy it big enough size that it’s not a struggle to get into. a little loose is fine.

Swimming is about gaining a feel for the water. You want to be aware of how the water interacts with your body. If you are wearing anything too loose it will pull your hips down, and covering your legs with a jammer will take away the feeling on your upper legs, leading to improper kick.

Ok, so I’m a bit of a snob, but the proper swimming attire will actually help you achieve a better feel for the water, create less restriction, and lead to far less chafing (whereas proper cycling equipment provides extra pockets). I hope this advice is helpful.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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  1. All this fashion advice from a guy who wears plaid pants, a polo shirt, black running socks and running sneakers – all at once, in public and on purpose. Additionally, you are not allowed to drive Greta’s car for this. Greta says I’m lovable which is pretty much what you need to tell Mr. Remaly now that he’s in the dog house for picking on his girlfriend’s stroke. I think you’re an elitest lesbian. I even like Brian more now.

  2. Great post. I know you’ve tried with Loren, but perhaps some people are beyond help when it comes to proper swimming attire.

    totally agree with the suit rec, but i have to state a strong preference for silicone caps: much more comfortable, easier to put on/take off, warmer, and longer lasting.

  3. i like the fact that your hair is enlarged by the similarly-hued grass umbrella directly behind you. i stared at it for like 5 minutes.

    and as for proper cycling attire… a high quality, well-fitting kit will not only give you adequate snack-storage receptacles but will ALSO reduce drag caused by excess wind-flappage, reduce likelihood/frequency of saddle sores (provided frequent washing regimen is followed), increase comfort in the saddle, and most importantly, keep you warm/cool if you dress properly.

    however i will say that every triathlete i have ever witnessed out training on his/her bike has been ridiculously underdressed so my little speech may fall on deaf ears.

  4. One would think that if wearing trunks ruins your feel of how to swim right, wearing large bulky, padded running shoes would ruin the feel of how to run right.

  5. I like the rhetorical questin. Is this where you plug your Nike Frees or Vibram 5 finger shoes? (I’m still waiting for the right size of the Vibram 5 fingers shoes to give my opinion on them).

  6. I totally agree- what’s the point of swimming laps in board shorts? I want all the insecure guys at the pool to know- we don’t care. Just buy some briefs.

  7. Ben,
    I started lap swimming. Originally introduced into swimming work outs back in late 70’s when I was in recovery for knee and shoulder injuries due to football. The team mates were all envious at first thinking I had a special luxury to frolic in the pool and get out of the running. Later fellow team mates joined also due to injuries they found out very soon the pool was no vacation.
    Now regarding the suit. I started with joining a Master team and found out from the coach who I am very greatetfull for his patients and time he spent with me to actually teach me how to swim correctly first. So he would send me to the other side of the 100 meter pool in a lane to show proper breathing and stroke skills. After a month with over site the coach stated if you want to take this seriously you need to be properly set up. Mainly the swim suit. At the time a am large 6′ tall and 255 lbs + the coaches stated get a tight fiting brief so I bought a lycra blended suit 36″ waste.
    I showed up at pool and started,swimming. The coach look at me and the suit and said not tight enough this suit might last 2,months with current swim schedule I was on. He was right. The suit got very loose and created lots of drag. So I invested in a FS II Brief size 34. Tight and form fitting, allowed great movement and did not hinder legs. Suit also last 6 months.
    You are absolutely correct I go to the pool to work out no cares about what I look like and that the suit is small. I certainly don’t care I get my work out in and have gained huge appreciation to all swimmers especially those who competed at elite levels.

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