Boys' Uniforms: Sports and Athletics--Swimming


Figure 1.--A pattern for this knitted swimsuit was offered in a Dutch knitting magazine, we believe in the 1960s. The boys hair suggests the late 1960s. We are not sure what kind of yarn was suggested.

Swimming became a popular activity years long before it became a competitive sport. It was first called bathing and the water was seen to have health benefits--especially seawater. This began in Britain during the 18th century. There was often not actual swimming involved. Few people including sailors in the 18th century could actually swim. Women and girls in particular were more likely to paddle and wade. Bathing became even more popular in the 19th century. Queen Victoria used to take the princesses to the sea. The industrial revolution and the railroads changed the ecconomics of bathing, making it possible for people of even modest means to travel to beach resorts. The YMCA which began opening gymnaseums in urban areas, soon also added indoor swiming pools where boys could learn to swim. We do not have much information on competitive swimming, but believe that it began with the refounding of the Olympics (1896), but are not sure when swimming events were first added to the program. As a result of this long history, swimming costumes and suits have varied widely. As a result of changing attitudes toward modesty, the suits have varies frim covdring almost the entire body (including the head) to covering only the bare minimum. Quite a range of fabrics have been used, including fabrics entirely unsuitable like wool.

Bathing Resorts

Swimming became a popular activity years long before it became a competitive sport. It was first called bathing and the water was seen to have health benefits--especially seawater. This began in Britain during the 18th century. There was often not actual swimming involved. Few people including sailors in the 18th century could actually swim. Women and girls in particular were more likely to paddle and wade. Bathing became even more popular in the 19th century. Queen Victoria used to take the princesses to the sea. The industrial revolution and the railroads changed the ecconomics of bathing, making it possible for people of even modest means to travel to beach resorts.

Youth Orgnizations

The YMCA which began opening gymnaseums in urban areas, soon also added indoor swiming pools where boys could learn to swim. Swimming evetually became a major part of the YMCA program. Most Y's had insdoor programs. The Y's in the United States initiated a major summer camp program where swimming was almost always a major activity. The American Boy Scouts also placed a great emphasis on swimming, primarily through its merit badge and summer camp program. We are less sure about other youth groups. Both the Hitler Youth and Young Pioneers had substantial summer camp programs so swimming was a part of the program.

School Programs

Some schools added swimming to the ohysical education program. Some high schools in America had swimming pools, but after Wirld war II this became less common. I'm not sure why, but cost must have been a factor. We note mamy British schools had swimming as paet of the school program. Few schools actually had pools. Normally the children would swim at neighborhood facilities. A British reader recalls swimming a part of the school PE program.

Competitive Swiming

We do not have much information on competitive swimming, but believe that it began with the refounding of the Olympics (1896), but are not sure when swimming events were first added to the program. We have not noted compettitive scholastic swimming programs to be wide spread. Even in the United States where schools, especially highschools, often have major athletic programs, competitive swiming was commonly organized theough clubs. This was different at the university level which did sponsor teams.

Swimming Costumes and Suits

As a result of this long history, swimming costumes and suits have varied widely. As a result of changing attitudes toward modesty, the suits have varies frim covering almost the entire body (including the head) to covering only the bare minimum. Early bathing costumes covered almost everything and were normally made out of wool. The wommen and girls even had caps for their hair. One aspect of competitive swiming suits is that unlike other articles of athletic wear have never either transllated into popular casual clothing or even casual swim suits, although here there are dfferences over time and among countries. The disconect is especially the case today. Since the 1970s, bathing suits for boys tend to be extremely long and baggy. Apparently this is primarily a fasshion concern as such suits are tollay unsuitable for swiming, especially competitive swiming. Quite a range of fabrics have been used, including fabrics entirely unsuitable like wool. Knitting magazines often had patterns for children's bathung suits. One development in the 1990s has been sunsafe clothing, including swimwear. This has been a development of some importance, especially in Australia and New Zealand near the hole in the ozone lawyer.

Country Trends

We do not have much country-specific information on swimming yet. We will construct country pages as we acquire more information. The only country page we have at this time, however, is Sweden.







HBC





Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main specific sports page]
[Return to the Main sport uniform page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]




Created: 8:15 PM 10/2/2004
Last updated: 11:37 PM 11/3/2007