What To And Not To Wear While Swimming? (Pool Vs Ocean)

Swimmers, whether doing this activity for fun or competition, should consider the proper attire.

Pool and ocean swimming are very different, and what you should wear for each changes. For competitors, the big issue of drag and what you can wear to reduce it needs to be considered too. 

So what should you wear while swimming? Pool swimmers need to consider the rules of the public area, comfort, and hygiene. Ocean swimmers need to think about safety, while competitors should be concerned about drag. The options change for each one.

I’m going to go over all the things to consider, including why you should not swim with underwear! Let’s go.

What Should You Wear to a Public Pool?

When swimming in a public pool, wearing appropriate swimwear specifically designed for that activity is generally recommended. Here are some tips on what to wear:

  • Swimwear: The best choice is a well-fitted swimsuit made of a quick-drying material, such as nylon or spandex. Avoid wearing cotton, as it can become heavy and uncomfortable when wet.
  • Swim Cap: If you have long hair, consider wearing a swim cap to keep your hair out of the water and reduce the amount of it that enters the pool.
  • Goggles: If you plan to swim laps or spend a lot of time underwater, wearing goggles can help protect your eyes from the chlorine and other chemicals in the pool.
  • Flip-flops or pool shoes: It’s always a good idea to wear these when walking around the pool area to protect your feet from germs and other contaminants.
  • Cover-up: You may also want to bring a cover-up or a towel to wear when you are not swimming to help protect your skin from the sun and keep you warm.
  • Ear Pugs: Not necessary but some people can’t deal with water continually flushing through their ears, especially if they are prone to ear infections.

Also, check out our post on “Can You Go Swimming With a Shirt On? What You Need To Know”!

It’s essential to check with the pool rules and regulations to ensure that your swimwear and other attire comply. Some public pools may have specific requirements regarding swimwear, such as banning certain types deemed inappropriate due to their size or design.

What Should You Wear When Ocean Swimming?

When swimming in the ocean, it is vital to take extra precautions to ensure your safety, as ocean conditions can be more unpredictable than a swimming pool. Here are some tips on what to wear: (source)

  • Swimwear: A well-fitted swimsuit made of a quick-drying material is still the best choice for ocean swimming. However, consider wearing a wetsuit if you plan to be in the water for an extended period or if the water is cold.
  • Wet Suit: If it’s too cold, then you’ve got to use one of those.
  • Rash guard: A rash guard is a tight-fitting shirt made of a material that helps protect your skin from the sun and prevents chafing. For more on this, check out our post Can You Wear a Rash Vest in a Swimming Pool & the Ocean? Complete Guide!
  • Flotation device: If you are not a strong swimmer or plan to swim in deep water, wearing a flotation device such as a life jacket or swim buoy can provide extra safety.
  • Footwear: When entering the ocean, wear water shoes to protect your feet from sharp rocks, shells, and other hazards.
  • Sun protection: The sun’s UV rays can be stronger in the ocean, so it’s essential to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect your skin and eyes.
  • Goggles: If you plan to swim or spend a lot of time underwater

If you plan to swim in areas with marine life, such as jellyfish or sharks, it’s best to wear protective gear and follow local guidelines or restrictions.

Remember, ocean conditions can change quickly, and it’s always best to stay aware of any warnings or advisories from local authorities.

Can You Wear Underwear Under Swimming Shorts?

Wearing underwear under swimming shorts is generally not recommended, as it can cause discomfort and increase the risk of skin irritation or infection. Here are some reasons why:

  • Moisture retention: Underwear made of cotton or other absorbent materials can retain moisture, leading to discomfort and chafing.
  • Hygiene: Underwear can trap bacteria and other germs against the skin, increasing the risk of skin irritation or infection.
  • Appearance: Wearing underwear under swimming shorts can create unsightly lines or bulges and detract from the overall look.

Swimming shorts are designed to be worn without underwear, as they’re made of materials that dry quickly and provide the necessary support and coverage. 

If you prefer to wear something underneath your shorts, consider swim briefs or compression shorts designed for swimming. These options provide support and coverage without compromising hygiene or comfort.

How Does Drag Affect a Swimmer?

Drag can significantly impact a swimmer’s performance in the water. Drag is the resistance that water creates as a swimmer moves through it, and it can slow down your speed and make it more challenging to move through the water efficiently. (source)

Slower Speed

The more drag a swimmer experiences, the slower their speed will be in the water. This can be incredibly challenging for those in competitive races, where even minor differences in speed can have a significant impact on the outcome.

Increased Energy Expenditure

Swimmers have to work harder to overcome drag, which can lead to increased energy expenditure and fatigue over time. This can make it more difficult to maintain a fast pace and limit a swimmer’s overall performance.

Decreased Efficiency

When a swimmer experiences drag, it can disrupt their technique and decrease their overall efficiency in the water. This can make it more challenging to maintain good form and can lead to wasted energy.

Reduced Endurance

Drag can make it more difficult for swimmers to maintain a consistent pace over longer distances, reducing endurance and performance.

Minimizing drag is an important goal for swimmers who want to perform at their best in the water. Wearing streamlined swimsuits is one of the best ways to reduce drag and improve overall performance.

How Do Swimsuits Reduce Drag?

Swimsuits are designed to reduce drag in the water and help swimmers move through the water more efficiently. Material choice, design, compression panels, and water repellant are ways swimsuits can reduce drag. (source)


Swimsuits are made of lightweight and low-friction materials, such as nylon, spandex, or polyester. These materials help reduce drag by creating a smooth surface that glides through the water.


Swimsuits are designed to fit snugly to the body and have a streamlined shape that reduces resistance in the water. This helps prevent water from getting trapped between the swimsuit and the body, which can create drag.

They’re constructed with flat or bonded seams that lie flat against the skin and reduce drag. This creates a smooth surface that helps water flow more easily over the swimsuit.


Top-of-the-range swimsuits have compression panels or a compression fit that helps support muscles and reduce vibration in the water. This can help reduce drag and improve overall swimming performance.


Some swimsuits have a water-repellent coating that helps the water slide off the material’s surface, reducing drag and allowing the swimmer to move through the water more efficiently.

Overall, swimsuits are designed to reduce drag and improve swimming performance. These days there’s a wide variety of styles and designs that offer different levels of compression, water resistance, and other features.

What Are Swimming Drag Shorts?

Swimming drag shorts, also known as drag suits, are a type of swimwear designed to increase resistance in the water and help swimmers build strength and endurance. They are typically worn over regular swimwear and consist of a loose-fitting, lightweight mesh material that creates drag in the water.

Here are some key features of swimming drag shorts:

Increased resistance: The loose-fitting design of drag shorts creates more resistance in the water, which can help build strength and endurance.

Versatility: Drag shorts can be worn over regular swimwear, making them a convenient option for swimmers who want to add resistance to their workouts without changing into a different suit.

Lightweight material: Most drag shorts are made of a lightweight mesh material that dries quickly and doesn’t add extra weight in the water.

Variety of styles: Drag shorts come in various styles and designs, from simple mesh shorts to more advanced models with built-in resistance panels.

Comfortable fit: Despite their loose-fitting design, drag shorts are designed to be comfortable and provide freedom of movement in the water.

Swimming drag shorts can be a helpful tool for swimmers who want to add resistance to their workouts and improve their swimming performance. However, they may only be suitable for some swimmers, and choosing the right style and fit for your needs is essential.

Using Drag Shorts

Swimming, like the other two triathlon sports, requires some preparation in the clothing department. Pool and ocean swimming have different concerns, and you must consider drag reduction. Swimsuits and drag shorts are the preferred choices.

Stephen Christopher

began running at the age of 50 and 2 years later ran his first marathon in just over 5 hours. He continues to join events all over Thailand and South East Asia with Berlin and London on the list for the future.

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