Swim Magazine

What does your swim cap say about you?

A swim cap is just a swim cap, right? Wrong. This apparently innocuous piece of kit can be highly symbolic and say a lot about you and your attitude to swimming – and where you fit into the community of swimmers. Swim magazine introduces you to some of the swim cap clans…

WORDS: Jonathan Harwood


What is a VIP swim cap?

Did you know that if you do the Dart 10k three times you get a special gold cap? Maybe not – but that swimmer dominating the fast lane does – and he or she is wearing one. A statement cap like this tells you exactly what you probably already know – this person can swim some.

When you see a gold Dart cap, or something emblazoned with the Ironman, ASA or Channel Swimming Association logo, you know what to expect… and if you aren’t paying attention, then you are going to find out soon enough.

These are alpha swimmers. Their caps are crowns, but they are not worn to intimidate. They tell tales of famous exploits, and their owners wear them with pride, and so they should. Headgear like this is earned the hard way and deserves respect… but it may also require you to switch lanes.

How to identify a ‘clubber’ by their swim cap

With their swim or triathlon club’s logo adorning their caps, these swimmers know dedication. They’ve been up before dawn for early morning training sessions, they’ve done their stretches, their dryland training, their kicking drills and have clocked up 1,500m while you’re still chatting at poolside. They have travelled to meets many miles from home, returned triumphant, and are proud of their club and what it stands for. The logo on the side of their headgear means a lot to them.

Chances are they are in for the long haul – so don’t expect to find them chewing the fat at the end of the pool between lengths. But they are also social animals and are rarely spotted alone (and will often arrive by bike). Competitive but approachable and friendly, these swimmers have a real passion for the sport.

What kind of swim caps do ‘lappers’ wear?

In a plain but branded cap these swimmers are sending a message that says: you don’t need to know who I am, but you need to know that I know what I’m doing. Understated yet serious, these swimmers are often speedier and more dedicated than you might expect (a good gauge of their intent is how closely their cap, goggles and swimsuit align – if they colour-block, watch out!).

Perhaps they don’t have the time or desire to stick to a club’s schedule, maybe they have stepped back from serious training, perhaps swimming is not their main sporting priority, but they know their kit and they can hold their own in the lane. The brand of cap can be revealing. Arena, Speedo and Zoggs may be ubiquitous, but no one buys a TYR cap for a one-off visit to the pool.

(Not to be confused with Dabblers: these swimmers also model branded or simple caps and like to bash out a few lengths but are out of the pool after a quick dip and back to sunbathing and browsing on their phones.)

How to spot a ‘chatter’ by their swim cap

Whether at the beach or your local lido, these swimmers care not a jot about their catch and pull or whether they have an efficient flutter kick, because their swim cap has a shark’s fin protruding from the top or appears to be made from brightly coloured flowers, and they swim heads-up breaststroke two-to-three abreast while having a good old gas. They have a love of the water but are not interested in competition or technique – they come to enjoy the water, the outdoors and the sense of camaraderie with their fellow dippers.

Read more articles about swimwear in the latest issue of Swim magazine.