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Theory were shortened even more, but women had to wear a

Hydrodynamics plays an essential role in swimming short skirt called “modesty panel” and by this time a
performance regardless of the particular event two-piece swimsuit became very common.
(freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke or backstroke). In 1930s, bikini was introduced as an innovative
Studies estimate that over 90 per cent of the swimwear. After the World War II, Nylon replaced
swimmer’s power output is spent overcoming the silk and wool in major events’ competitive suits
A swimsuit, bathing suit or hydrodynamic resistance. The hydrodynamic and the colour was allowed in 1964 while the modesty
swimming costume is an item of resistance can be divided approximately into three, panel was eliminated in 1973. In 1990s, swimsuits
clothing designed to be worn almost independent components: continue to evolve to mimic skin and the Lycra was
while participating in water sports • Wave drag • Form drag, and • Skin friction drag introduced and quickly became popular.
and activities such as swimming, In 2000s, Speedo® lunched the full-body Fastskin™
water polo, diving, surfing, water The wave drag is associated with the work required
to generate waves, form drag is the resistance to swimsuit based on so called shark’s skin pattern and
skiing, or for any activity in the motion due to the shape of the body, and skin friction mimicked in V-shape ridges. Since Beijing Olympic
Sun, such as Sun bathing. is the resistance to motion due to the area of the body 2008, almost all major sports wear manufacturers
Competition swimsuits differ with the water (the wetted area). The form drag is introduced full-body swimsuits made of semi- and-
somewhat from fashion swimsuits believed to constitute almost 56 per cent of the total full polyurethane combined with Lycra fabric.
in style, fit, and fabric. Because drag. All three components are time-dependent as
the swimmer completes the stroke, and all three Engineered competitive swimsuits
they are designed to stay in place
components depend on the speed of the swimmer, as Special swimsuits for competitive swimming are
and facilitate swimming speed in designed to reduce skin drag and resemble unitards.
well as his/her shape, length, and style.
the water. The manufacturers of Commercial swimsuit manufacturers have claimed
competitive swimsuits pay History of competitive swimsuit and counterclaimed about their swimsuits
attention to several factors that Historically, the people used to swim nude and it was performance by reducing aerodynamic drag and
are not generally important in socially accepted. Today’s swimsuit has travelled a enhancing buoyancy. These suits are made from
fashionable or recreational long path and gone through a series of changes of spandex and provide little thermal protection, but they
swimsuits. Because speed and styles and designs. Notably, in the early 18th century, do protect the skin from stings and abrasion. Most
wool and flannel were chosen as a suit fabric covering competitive swimmers also wear special swimsuits
smoothness in the water are so including partial and full bodysuits, racer back styles,
almost the entire skin of the swimmer. However, this
essential to a good competition and jammers and racing briefs to assist their glide
suit became bulky when it came to contact with water.
swimsuit, manufacturers have through the water and gain speed advantages.
paid close attention to the skin of In 1908, the Australian swimmer, Annette Kellerman
created the first practical swimsuit made of one piece The manufacturers claimed these suits have features
water animals. While colours, such as ultra-light weight, water repellence, muscles
plus bathing socks. This suit exposed the knees and
prints, and cut are the most oscillation and skin vibration reduction by
arms of the swimmer for the first time in the history
important factors in recreational of swimming. compressing the body. Recently, swimsuits have been
swimwear, texture and tightness aggressively marketed principally as a means for
are the most important factors in Officially, the women’s swimming events were added reducing the skin friction component of the total drag,
to Olympic game in 1912 and swimmers were allowed thereby conferring a competitive advantage over other
competitive swimwear. to use relatively shorter swimsuits. In 1920s, swimsuits swimmers.


The technological innovation in both design and The journey of Engineered Competitive Swimsuit
materials has played a crucial role in sport achieving started when Speedo®, the world's number one brand
its current standing in both absolute performance of swimwear, introduced Fastskin™, the most
and its aesthetics. Few studies also revealed that technically advanced competitive swimsuit ever
textiles can play a vital role in high performance sports made. Among the most dramatic elements was the
where speed is a dominating factor. The aerodynamic introduction of a full-body silhouette, the first to be
properties such as drag and lift can play a dominant offered in the company's history.
role in swimming especially in swimsuit design. The
The swimsuit looked to a creature that is fast in the
swimmers usually involve very short winning time
water but not naturally hydrodynamic -- the shark,
margins in events that often have much longer
whose highly developed skin minimises drag and
timescales, making hydrodynamic resistance and its
maximises swimming efficiency. The secret behind
associated energy loss during the event significant
the shark's skin is its dermal denticles, which look
in the outcome.
like tiny hydrofoils with V-shaped ridges. As a shark
In this article we tried to study the latest swimsuits moves through water, it creates turbulence and drag.
available in the market. Its dermal denticles decrease drag and turbulence by
directing water flow over the body, which allows
Basic characteristics of swimsuits surrounding water to pass over the shark more
• Opacity effectively. Shark skin texture

• Higher order of stretch and recovery ®

The Speedo Fastskin™ fabric has ridges that are
• Higher order of resistance to abrasion scientifically calculated for height and width to the
• Strong and durable exact proportion of the shark's dermal denticles --
the most efficient formula for speed. The athlete's
• Colour fastness to light initial concerns with full body silhouette focused
• Colour fastness to sea and chlorinated pool upon a loss of the "feel of the water" along the inner
water forearm, an area critical to generating propulsive
• Less absorbent and should have wet strength forces. To combat this, the Speedo® Fastskin™
• UV protection incorporates a gripper fabric on the forearm, which
mimics skin, and enhances the sensory feedback
Evolution of competitive swimsuits for the swimmer.

Brand Swimsuit Year of development Principle

Adidas Jet concept bodysuit 2003 Jet concept
TYR Tracer A7 2007 Zoned compression
Speedo LZR 2008 NASA (Hydro Form Compression system)
Diana Submarine 2008 Submarines
Speedo® Fastskin™ Fabric with shark’s skin texture
Arenas X-Glide 2008 Arena Stealth Fabric (lightweight)

Table 1 Evolution of competitive swimsuits

Shark skin is composed of small jagged, overlapping

scales, seen here with a backscatter detector. This
effects produces a covering that offers low resistance
and turbidity when the shark swims and has been copied
in the body suits of Olympic swimmers.

(By Vasant R. Kothari, Assistant Professor,

Department of Fashion Technology, NIFT,
Bangalore, Neha Goyal & Megha Sheoran,
MFTech, NIFT, Bangalore)