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Differences In Swim Cap Materials: Lycra, Latex, Silicone

Eric Teske | December 4, 2009

A swim cap is any of a number of rubberized or otherwise elastic devices worn on the head during participation in aquatic activities. Over the years, the swim cap has fluctuated in popularity as a result of its function, composition, and style of the times. Nowadays, the swim cap is considered essential equipment for competitive swimming – just don’t call it a “hat,” or you’re sure to invite some confused expressions from your teammates.

Different materials and styles offer different functional advantages. The variety of caps available today is driven by the needs of swimmers.

Lycra Spandex Caps

Fabric caps made of Lycra spandex are designed to cover the head and hair, and stay in place without a chin-strap, unlike older cloth or rubberized bathing caps. Lycra caps are used to protect hair and skin from UV rays, and to keep the hair out of your face. These caps don’t provide much in the way of drag reduction, but can easily be put on or taken off without pulling hair. Because the caps are made of fabric, they do not keep hair dry. Lycra caps are perfect for anyone looking for a comfortable and affordable way to keep their hair tucked back and covered while swimming.

Latex Caps

These stretchy, tight-fitting swim caps became standard equipment for competitive swimmers in the 1980’s. The latex material is non-permeable, and holds hair tightly against the scalp – significantly decreasing resistance through the water. Because latex caps are so elastic, they are considered one size fits all. Latex caps are thin and inexpensive, so they may rip as a result of regular use. Because latex caps are not sized, it is common for extra material to gather in wrinkles on the top of the head. These wrinkles can cause turbulence in the water, a problem that was addressed by later developments.

Silicone Caps

These caps are thicker and slightly less elastic than their latex counterparts – which means they are more durable and provide a sleeker profile in the water. Silicone caps are still very stretchy, but are offered in youth and adult sizes, and even a style designed for long hair, to provide a more custom fit for racing. These caps carry a noticeably higher price tag when compared to latex. However, because of their durability, they have become the new favorite among most competitive swimmers.

The most advanced racing caps are also made of silicone, and include a multi-density design. This new design has a panel of thicker silicone covering the top of the head, thus eliminating all wrinkles. After extensive testing, such caps have shown to significantly decrease drag.

Although swim cap technology is obviously moving forward, a wide variety of caps are still available because the form and composition offered truly follow the function desired.

A wide variety of swim caps are available for purchase from Kast-A-Way Swimwear. Kast-A-Way also offers custom printing for team caps. Custom caps are a great way to show team spirit, and can be ordered in latex or silicone.   

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