If you’ve ever watched the beginning of a triathlon, you’ve probably noticed a common theme among the athletes who are lining up and getting ready to start the swim. No matter what may be their skill level, age, or gender, the following is true throughout the crowd. You can be nearly certain that each of them is wearing a swimsuit of some sort, a pair of goggles, and a swim cap.
Since the early 1900s, swim caps have been a commonly worn swimming accessory. You may be wondering, what is the purpose of these strange-looking caps? Some people might wear them as fashion accessories, others may wear them for functional purposes.
The materials that the caps are made of have changed over the years from rubber and cloth to latex, lycra and silicone. Designs have shifted as well, from frilly and flowery to sleek and modern.
Triathlons often use caps of different colors to help differentiate between athletes of different genders or abilities. Using colorful caps for wave starts makes it easy to tell at a glance whether or not an athlete is lined up at the right time.
Should kids use swim caps? Definitely! Swim caps serve multiple purposes for athletes of all ages. Not only can wearing a swim cap make them more visible in the water, but it also helps prevent swimmer’s ear and can keep the head warmer in cool conditions. [source]
Why Do Kids Wear Swim Caps?
Kids wear swim caps for multiple reasons: caps protect their hair from the pool chemicals, they prevent water from getting in the ears, and they keep distracting hair from getting in their faces.
But perhaps the biggest reason for kids to wear swim caps is because most adult swimmers do, and it’s better to get them used to it early. It’s much easier to adapt to a new practice at a young age than it is for us older folks.
When I first started training for a triathlon, I was nearly 40 years old. Since I wasn’t a competitive swimmer and since I haven’t had hair on my head for several decades, I had never worn a swim cap before.
It took me quite a while to get used to the sensation of wearing a cap over my ears as I struggled to complete my workouts. It would have been a much easier transition if I had worn a swim cap as a younger person.
Is It Better to Swim with A Cap?
Yes! Not only is it better for the swimmer, but it’s better for the pool as well.
Using swim caps keeps the pool from filling up with loose hair and chemicals from styling products.
Long haired swimmers can also appreciate how swim caps constrain hair to keep it from getting into their face and covering over their eyes.
What Age Are Junior Swim Caps For?
Junior swim caps are intended for swimmers of ages (3-6) to those in their early teens (13-16). These caps are made of the same materials but are designed for people with smaller heads.
Other than the size, there isn’t a lot of difference between a junior swim cap and one that was made for adults. Of course the junior caps might have cute cartoon characters on them instead of solid colors, but that’s just an aesthetic difference.
What Happens if You Do Not Wear a Swimming Cap?
If you don’t wear a swim cap, it’s possible that your hair could turn green and fall out due to the exposure to chlorine and other pool chemicals.
You’ll also be less aerodynamic in the water which can slow you down. This is more of a concern for competitive swimmers (and triathletes) than for beginners.
Since I am an admittedly poor swimmer, I’ll take any advantage I can get in the water!
What Are Swim Caps Made Of?
Most modern swim caps are either made of silicone, lycra or latex. Most swimmers prefer a silicone or lycra cap because they tend to be stronger and are easier to remove after swimming.
A common complain about latex caps are that they tear easily and that they can rip out hair when they are removed. On the other hand, silicone caps are less prone to ripping and don’t cling to the hair.
As mentioned earlier, the first versions of swim caps were made of cloth because it was the cheapest and most readily available material at the time.
Cloth swim caps are still available today for people who prefer to stick to natural materials for religious reasons, allergy restrictions, or personal preference.
How Should You Put on A Swim Cap?
Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to wear a swim cap. There are also a few tricks you can use in order to make it easier to put on the cap without pulling out your hair.
Each swim cap has a crease or visible fold in it. That crease should go down the middle of your head from front to back, not from side to side.
Wearing the crease the wrong direction can actually increase the amount of drag [source] you have in the water and make swimming more difficult.
Before attempting to put on a cap, first you’ll want to tie long hair into a ponytail or into a bun. It is a good idea to wet down the hair first to reduce the amount of friction that the cap has on your head.
Stretch the cap with your fingers, not your fingernails, and then pull it down over your hair. A properly worn swim cap should come down and cover the forehead, not stop at the hairline.
Putting on your goggles first before donning the swim cap can help keep them from falling off in rough water, but it is not required.
Some people prefer to wear their goggles over the swim cap so there is a better seal over the hair and ears. Other people even prefer to use two swim caps. One cap goes under the goggles to seal out water and then another cap on top to secure the goggles to their head.
As you can see, swim caps can be quite advantageous for swimmers of all ages. Make sure to pack a cap along the next time you head out to do some laps and try one out for yourself!