Obsolete Fashion: 'Cap'-italizing on Chic

Image via Flickr user Gatochy

When it’s a burning summer day and I’m ready to cool in the pool, I scramble into my swimsuit and jump on in. But, say it was 1959. What would be wrong with the imagery above? Well, I’d have forgotten to put on my bathing cap, naturally!

Bathing caps (a.k.a. swimming caps) officially surfaced in the 1920s and were made of rubberized fabric. During the ’40s, when the war resulted in rations on rubber, bathing caps became something of a ‘luxury’ item. And that brings us to the ’50s, when bathing caps first dove into decorative realms. During the ’50s and ’60s, decorative bathing caps were an integral part of swimwear. Not only did their bright design help one make a splash at the pool, but they served to protect a lady’s carefully manicured hairdo, and sate many a pool’s rule that folks with long hair wear bathing caps.

Eventually, changing fashion standards, hairstyles, and pool regulations caused festooned bathing caps to float out of popularity in the ’70s.

Were decorative swim caps a stroke of genius?


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  1. Avatar
    Victoria / Justice Pirate 04/21/2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I actually wore bathing caps when I swam until I was 17. but that is because I haven’t really swam since then (but sincerely miss it). I still remember the first bathing cap I had in the 80s when I was a little girl. one of those plastic white ones!
    anyway if I found a fashionable beautiful bathing cap, I’d sport it.

    • Avatar
      Jaime 04/21/2011 at 2:59 pm #

      Yes! My mom had me wear one too, as well as ear plugs..
      And, absolutely, I’d rock one today. Of course, flower ones are beautiful, but just think of all the possibilities! Fish, shark, kitty..all on your head! 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Danielle 04/21/2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I’ve never worn a bathing cap but I like the idea. I HATE getting my hair wet. My hair is long, fine and straight and when wet it becomes a big clump of tangles.

    If I could find one with petals like the one in the picture I’d wear it for sure.

  3. Avatar
    Sophie 04/21/2011 at 7:33 pm #

    I totally rocked the swim cap when I was a kid! I actually would buy one of those floral ones if I could.

  4. Avatar
    MB @YarnU iPhoneapp v1.2 04/22/2011 at 10:03 am #

    I’m fairly certain this model appears in a different ad featured in the opening montage for Mad Men. I think she might be woman in the pedal pushers?

  5. Avatar
    Cristina 04/22/2011 at 10:49 am #

    At one time I had an amazing selection of vintage swim caps….years of wear got the better of them…now whenever I find a truely intresting one I have to buy it…even if I never wear it.

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    Kat 04/24/2011 at 1:07 pm #

    From a functional use I can understand them (wet hair can be obnoxious, especially if it’s long) but I’ve never liked the ‘fashion’ ones. They just seem goofy to me ^^;

  7. Avatar
    Rachel 04/25/2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I’m just imagining how much more hygenic public pools would be if everyone wore bathing caps…and I’m sure if everyone wore one, it wouldn’t seem so goofy ^_^

  8. Avatar
    Richard Roper 03/11/2015 at 3:32 am #

    Those were the days and they had some good caps then,I had one like shown above and wish I could find another one. They were good kept your hair dry, and water out of your ears. Not to mention they looked grate also.

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