There’s a sliding scale in swimwear from leisurely comfort to performance level sleekness.
So, whether you are buying casual men’s swim shorts or competition-grade ladies swimwear, you need to do a bit of homework to find the most appropriate for you.
Luckily, we’ve dived into the subject on your behalf, plumbing the depths of our swimwear ranges to find the best swimsuits, trunks, briefs, and swimming shorts for leisure, club, and pro swimmers.
We’ve also provided a handy guide to the attributes you should be looking for at your level before taking a quick paddle in the various fabrics used in swimwear construction and their benefits.
The difference between leisure, club, and competition swimwear
Your choice of what to wear for swimming depends largely on your goals. Are you there to win or just have a good time?
The performance fabrics of competition swimwear are not ideal for a leisurely trip to the pool, while casual shorts will be a problem for those hoping to beat their PBs.
So what makes the difference between, say, casual men’s swim shorts for the beach and pro-level swimming kit for competition, or a ladies bikini and a speedo swimsuit?
Below we’ve crawled the main types and divided them into leisure, club, and professional, with options ranging from performance swimwear to casual shorts for a holiday dip. We’ve also provided an explanation on which features and fabrics make the perfect choice for your level.
Not only will you have pool-appropriate swimwear for your particular needs, but you’ll save money by using the right fabrics and cut.
Competitive swimmers want technical swimwear that offers outright speed and buoyancy in the pool. Leisure swimmers, meanwhile, are looking for more hardwearing compounds and comfort.
To achieve this, today’s swimsuits fine-tune a combination of fabrics to balance speed, comfort, and durability.
Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the key features and materials used in men’s and ladies’ swimwear at a stroke.
Nylon, a type of polyamide, is often found in technical swimsuits, shorts, and briefs for its flat profile and lightweight feel. It’s often mixed with Spandex to overcome its relative rigidity. It’s also quick-drying and a little cheaper than Spandex and polyester.
ECONYL is made from recycled nylon - including fish nets and other discarded nylons - and has many of the same properties. It’s also recyclable when it’s done, so you’re doing a little bit for the planet.
Also called elastane or Lycra, Spandex is commonly found in competition level swimsuits for its form-fitting properties and stretch. While fast and sleek in the water, it’s often combined with other fabrics to provide the necessary durability and reduce the itchiness some experience. Lycra Xtra Longlife is a variant with more durable properties and resistance to chlorine.
While it’s a little more expensive, polyester offers a range of benefits for competitive swimmers. Form-fitting and extremely durable, it holds its shape well with regular use. The drawback of course is that it’s a little less stretchy.
Not ideal for competitive swimmers due to its absorbency, it's soft and comfortable enough to be perfect for beach ready swimwear.
Leisure swimming kit
For days at the beach or trips to the pool with the kids, comfort is king – although a little style never hurts. Aim for soft, functional fabrics that will hold their shape well and if you’re heading to the local pool often, look for good chlorine resistance. Casual men’s swim trunks come in a variety of lengths and styles, while the choice for women and girls ranges from one-piece options to two-piece alternatives with hydrodynamics less of a concern.
Made from durable Ecolast fabric composed using ECONYL regenerated yarn, Zogg's Mexicali Strapless swimming suit will hold its shape after multiple washes and resist the corrosive damage of sun cream, oils, and sweat. It also includes a shelf bra-lining for comfort and support, while bold and bright styling will ensure you standout at the pool or beach.
The HydroSense Printed Flowback One Piece from Speedo is a great choice for leisure swimmers also interested in performance. A 360 degree underband provides bust support, while Lycra Xtra Life fabric adds exceptional durability to stretch and comfort.
The Printed Leisure 16" Watershorts from Speedo will ensure you get more from your leisure swim with a comfortable fit and feel. Available in two styles, these 100% polyester shorts offer a mesh inner brief, a pocket for your valuables, and a drawstring waist for the perfect fit.
Featuring fogbuster anti-fog lenses and a quick-adjustable strap, Zogg's Phantom 2.0 goggles are a great choice for leisure to more accomplished swimmers alike. Offering UV protection, reduced glare, and an exceptional fit, they're just as suited to outdoor swims as stretches in the indoor pool.
Club swimming kit
When it comes to swimming club kits, durability should be key. Long and frequent periods in the pool mean you’re going to need swimming kit that can take a bit of wear and tear. Chlorine resistant swimwear is essential, while a pair of jammers make a great alternative to men’s swim briefs while training. The same goes for one-piece swimsuits for females.
For young club swimmers the Comic Dust Pacer Swift Back one-piece swimsuit from Maru is an ideal training swimsuit. With an 82% polyester and 18% Lycra mix, the suit can cope with frequent dips while remaining comfortable enough for regular use.
While the design of the Speedo Hippy Chick Dreams Placement Double Crossback swimsuit says fun, its endurance fabric and performance design is a little more serious. Perfect for the frequent club swimmer with chlorine resistance and a 50/50 polyester, polybutylene fabric mix, it's a perfect way for the young swimmer express their passion for the pool.
Giving the club swimmer a range of training options, the FINIS Foam Pull Buoy is ideal for developing technique and strengthening those kicks.
With a bright and attention-grabbing print, chlorine resistance, and UV protection, these Arena Water Jammers are a great choice for the frequent club swimmer. A mix of polyester and its toughened variant, polybuylene, these swimming jammers will provide 240 hours of pool time with little sign of degradation.
Produced with MP's aqua infinity fabric, the Kalista is breathable, chlorine resistant, and features UV50+ protection - perfect for open water swimming in the height of the summer.
It’s completely different strokes for competition standard pro swimwear, which has a unique set of requirements. Speed in the water comes before comfort and durability, while those taking part in official races will need to ensure their suit complies with FINA rules.
Designs also change, with more long sleeve swimsuits, speedo swimsuits, and sleek jammers providing a speedy second-skin in the water.
For the pro-level swimmer, technical swimsuits have proven to be a valuable asset in the water. Speedo's Exclusive Fastskin LZR Racer Elite 2 has friction reduction technologies throughout, with hydrodynamic shaping and compression.
Speedo’s Exclusive Fastskin LZR Racer Elite 2 Jammers come with an LZR Pulse+ fabric compression to sculpt your body for an improved hydrodynamic shape. The water-resistant design uses fully-bonded seams to reduce drag by 6%.
Specifically designed for breaststroke specialists, the Adizero Breaststroke Kneeskin suit ensures every kick and thrust makes its mark. High-tech compression from its nylon-spandex mix offers body-shaping in the pool, supporting muscles to stave off fatigue for longer.
Made from a single piece of fabric, the Arena Women's Powerskin R-Evo One limits drag with only a single seam on the suit. Its nylon-spandex mix offers a comfortable stretch, making it easy to put on and take off.
The jammer version of the Powerskin R-Evo One suit above is ideal for pro-level male competitors, again offering the advantages of single seam construction and a nylon-spandex mix. With a wide field of movement and hydrodynamic advantages, these men's jammers are built for speed through the water.