Beachwear - Definitions for the Clothing & Textile Industry

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refers to clothing suitable for being worn on a beach or urban beach. Beachwear usually falls somewhere between swimwear and what a person wears when fully clothed.  In an indoor pool, for lane swim, bathers will typically wear lycra briefs (men) or lycra one-piece tanksuits (women), but on a beach, or especially on an urban beach, something more substantial is preferably worn. For men, this may consist of beach shorts that are long enough to almost come down to the knees, and sometimes beyond. For an urban beach, men will often wear beach shorts, which look like regular outerwear, but are made of non-absorbent fabrics so that they will dry fast. Dark colors, such as black, blend well with warm-weather business attire, and also dry quickly in the sunlight, since the dark color absorbs light. Women's beachwear often consist of shorts and a tank top.

History of beachwear

The invention of the railway, and the proliferation of rail travel in the mid 1800s made it possible for large numbers of people to visit coastal regions. While previously, people had bathed or frolicked nude on the beaches, the increased popularity of coastal regions, due to ease of travel, created a need for beachwear.

More recently, the appearance of urban beaches has created a demand for beachwear that, unlike swimwear, is appopriate for being worn in an urban setting, such as the downtown core of a major metropolitan city.

Transformability of beachwear and urban beachwear

Many people like to remain "beach ready", at all times, i.e. to wear something that can be spontaneously transformed into beachwear. For men, simply wearing, for example, black shorts that have an integral belt made of nylon webbing (rather than shorts that have a drawstring), together with a shirt that has a nice collar, allows them to transform from business attire (with the shirt) to beachwear, simply by removing their shoes and shirts. This allows spontaneous unplanned visits to a beach, which is especially useful for urban beaches that are usually located within the downtown business core of a city. Transformable beachwear makes lunch hour trips to the beach possible, reducing the need to find a place to change, and to carry additional sets of clothing, etc.. Good beach shorts will be mostly dry, quickly, during ten or 15 minutes of sunbathing on hot black granite or dark cement that also absorbs a lot of the water. Because urban beaches usually have a roughly textured black surface, that absorbs both water and sun (and thus heats up), good beachwear can usually be dried while on the body, simply by laying down to sunbathe for a few minutes.

Combination with outerwear

An advantage of wearing beachwear underneath regular clothing is the facilitation of quick and easy change of clothing. For example, when a changeroom is not available, beach shorts worn under regular trousers make it easy to change from dress slacks to jeans, or vice versa, such as when changing in a parking lot, at one's vehicle, or in a similar public space.

Beachwear within a hierarchy of formality: related concepts

Beachwear is not necessarily used for swimming or bathing, and may be just used for lounging around a beach, therefore not needing to necessarily be hydrodynamic or fast-drying.

This category of clothing is often worn during the summer months.  Learn more about summer fashion.

Beachwear thus exists along a hierarchy of formality as follows:

swimwear (most hydrodynamic and thus often most minimal, except for full body suits)

bathwear for bathing, soaking, or possibly moderate swimming

Women's Beachwear

business casual

business attire


formalwear or black tie, white tie or Mess dress

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