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Retro Swimwear & Vintage Swim Caps

Retro swimwear has played an important role in both fashion and function. Vintage swim caps are currently all the rage in the fashion world and are making waves with wearers around the world. The variety of colors, shapes and styles of these caps contribute to the overall popularity of vintage swim caps as we know them today.


Vintage Swim Caps: The History


Swim Caps have a deep and interesting historical significance. Swim caps as we know them today first hit the scene back in 1883 when rubber was invented. Prior to that, cloth or silk bonnets were used to cover ladies heads when in and around the water. While most every woman desired to keep her hairstyle covered when out in the elements, the elite in society were known to have the most ornate bathing or swimming caps.


In the early 1920's, caps were designed in the style of aviator helmets worn by pilots during that time period. By the 1940's rubber became a much needed resource for war efforts in the US, as well as overseas, making rubber caps a scarce and coveted item. During this period, latex and leather caps were more common. Women during this era spent a great deal of hard earned money to keep their hairstyles current. Swim caps provided a way for women to help make their expensive and chic do's last longer.


Public pool rules in the 1950's dictated that women with long hair must keep their hair covered with a swim cap to keep the drains from clogging and to keep the pools clean and sanitary. Decorative caps then became more mainstream due to more rubber availability and up and coming fashion trends. The 1960's saw a rise in popularity of colorful petal swim caps.


As long men's hairstyles became more and more popular in the late 1960's and early 1970's, public pools did away with swim cap requirements. This caused a decline in the fashionable swim cap market and seeing a woman in a bathing cap became a rarity. The free spirited generation during this era saw swim caps as representative of an older generation and ditched what they saw as a cumbersome accessory.


As retro and vintage inspired clothing became trendy in the beginning of the 21st century, decorative swim caps made a major comeback. Many women all over the world now sport retro style bathing caps at the beach, pool, and anywhere else they want to swim in style.


Making Waves with Celebrities


Today's swimwear fashions can be largely attributed to the influence of competitive swimmer and 1940's screen star Esther Williams. Olympic swimmer turned movie star, Esther Williams was the first celebrity to popularize what we now know as vintage style swim caps back in the 1940's. In fact, retro swim fashions are almost synonymous with her name. The post World War II era ushered in the age of fashion exploration and swimwear was no exception. People finally had time and money to spend on better fitting, more fashionable poolside attire. At that time, Esther Williams' swim style was being splashed across movie screens nationwide and her attire, which focused on both fashion and function, became all the rage.


In recent years, celebrities such as Florence Welch of the band Florence and the Machine have been seen wearing retro style swim caps on the world's beaches. Uma Thurman and her daughter even sported matching swim caps at a public pool earlier this year. Movies and TV shows have recently cashed in on the popularity of this fashion accessory by featuring vintage caps. In the hit movie Atonement, set in the 1930's, Keira Knightley wears one of our aqua fitness bathing caps poolside. Our Sheridan Retro Swim Cap was featured in an episode of the popular TV show, My Name is Earl.

Fashion designers Prada, Marc Jacobs, and Victoria Beckham have all featured retro swim caps on their runways. In some runway shows, designers use bathing caps as fashion accessories designed with sequins, silk, or even leather construction.


More About Esther Williams


By the age of 16, competitive swimmer Esther Williams swam her way to three national swimming championships and earned a spot on the 1940 USA Olympic swim team. However, the 1940 Olympic games, set to be held in Tokyo, were canceled upon the outbreak of World War II. Newspaper photographers at the time were notorious for capturing stunning poolside images to publish in local and national publications. Williams' appearance in such newspaper photos caught the eye of musical director and producer Billy Rose in San Fransisco. Rose cast Williams as the female lead in his historical Aquacade musical opposite fellow Olympian and actor Johnny Weismuller. The musical was the first of it's kind and featured a cast clad in fashionable swimsuits and swim caps singing, dancing, and performing a variety of diving and synchronized swimming numbers. Producers in Hollywood took notice of Williams in Aquacade and signed her to her first studio movie with film giant MGM Studios, launching her film career. Hollywood's first ever swimming movie, Bathing Beauty, featured Williams in the starring role and started a nationwide obsession with all things swimwear.


Over a span of 18 years, Williams starred in 26 movies, popularizing competitive and synchronized swimming with her athleticism and star power. Modeling and licensing deals with swimwear manufacturers, as well as lending her name to a line of home swimming pools and accessories, eventually led to Williams creating her own line of swimwear. With her own brand of swimwear readily available to the public, women across the country emulated her style with ease.


Keeping in step with her competitive swimming background, Williams' swimwear style focused on marrying functionality with fashion. She aimed to help women find quality swimwear in keeping with fashion trends that also allowed them to swim laps without worrying about their suits or swim caps staying in place.


General rules requiring women to keep long hair contained under a swim cap at public pools in the 1950's saw a rise in the need for fashionable swim caps, such as those worn by Williams in her swimming films. Colorful caps with intricate designs became a staple in most swimwear wardrobes. Flourishing flowers and geometric patterns adorned the rubber and latex caps that helped protect hair and provide an element of fashion.


Today's most popular swimwear fashions can be traced back to Williams and her original 1940's and 1950's style. With all things vintage and retro making a resurgence into mainstream fashion, the influence of Williams' style can be seen in the pages of magazines, in movies and TV shows. Women on beaches and at swimming pools throughout the world flaunt swimsuits and swim caps modeled after Williams' style.


If you want to swim in style just like Esther Williams, our line of Retro Swim Caps can help you do just that! Wearing a swim cap can help protect your hair from sun, salt and chlorine, but wearing a vintage style Retro Swim Cap can take your swimwear style to new heights and help keep you on trend. Working to keep you looking fabulous and keeping your head covered out and about and in and around the water, we make emulating Esther Williams' superior style so easy.



Why We Love Vintage Swim Caps


Any swim cap will help to provide protection from chlorine, salt, and sun for the hair. However, vintage caps provide the element of fashion to give the functionality of your cap a boost. Wearing a vintage swim cap can take your swimwear from drab to fab in a snap. Matching your swim cap to your bathing suit or beach wear can help make accessorizing fun and interesting. With lively and fun designs, vintage and retro inspired caps are a unique way to protect your hair and scalp. Many of these caps feature interesting textures and bright colors, making them the perfect choice for anyone wanting to stand out from the crowd.


Although vintage caps do help protect the hair and scalp, it is often necessary to add a protective layer underneath the cap to help keep water out. Our Hair and Ear Guard is ideal for wearing underneath vintage style caps to help create a seal that will repel water and provide an extra layer of protection. Made of 100% silicone, it is easy to use and can be worn with any of our swim caps over the top. Latex and silicone swim caps are also helpful in creating a better seal and giving your vintage style swim cap another layer of protection.


No matter when or where you wear a vintage swim cap, you're sure to make a fashionable splash!


Additional Resources


Shop Swim Caps

Swim Caps for Long Hair

Types of Swim Caps

How to Protect Your Hair from Chlorine


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