As much as we love our hairdo, they get in the way when swimming by increasing drag underwater. That’s why many swimmers, even men with short hair, wear swim caps. Swim caps streamline our head and make us more hydrodynamic so we can glide through the water at our fastest.
For similar reasons, swimmers will also shave off almost all of their body hair. When was the last time you saw a hairy competitive swimmer? Following this logic, you might be wondering: do swimmers shave their head for swimming? And, do bald swimmers need to wear a swim cap?
Unless mandated by the swimming competition or swimming pool, bald swimmers do not need to wear a swim cap. By shaving their head, they have already created the most streamlined, hydrodynamic shape they can have. With that said, there are other practical benefits to wearing a swim cap such as warmth, visibility, and team spirit.
In this article, we will discuss why many bald swimmers still wear a swim cap and the many practical benefits a swim cap can provide regardless if you have hair or not.
Why do so many swimming pools and competitions require swim caps to be worn?
You may not agree with being forced to wear a swim cap. It can feel like swimming pools and competitions are imposing an arbitrary rule, especially if you are bald and feel like you don’t need to wear a cap. However, even bald swimmers can benefit from wearing a swim cap, and here are the top reasons why.
One of the top reasons why swim caps are mandatory in a lot of events and swimming pools is due to safety. Swim caps are often brightly-colored with some kind of identifying feature such as a team logo. Wearing a swim cap can help distinguish swimmers apart and to see them more easily.
This is especially useful for triathlons or any type of open water swimming where there are a lot of participants spread over a large area. Without a swim cap, it would be very difficult to keep track of who’s who.
As for how this relates to safety, mother nature can be unpredictable, and these athletes are likely exhausted from the fierce competition. It’s highly possible for a swimmer to get swept away in an unexpected current or to run out of stamina and be at risk of drowning. A highly visible swim cap allows rescuers to monitor each swimmer, spot them quickly, and rescue them if needed.
Another crucial reason why swim caps are required is that swim caps can keep your head warm. Again, this is crucial for open water swimming where the water temperatures can be much lower than a swimming pool’s regulated water temperature.
Swim caps can be made from many materials, and the best one for warmth is neoprene, which is the same material that wetsuits are made of.
Even though swim caps are not designed to keep water out, they can limit the amount of water flowing through. A thin layer of water can enter the swim cap and stay trapped long enough that it gets exposed to your body heat.
This layer of water will become warm, becoming an insulating layer against the cold water outside of the cap that will preent most body heat from being lost from the head.
This process is very similar to how wetsuits work, and a neoprene swim cap works just like a wetsuit for the head whether you’re bald or not.
You may be bald but most other swimmers aren’t, and they are shedding all of that hair into the pool you’re swimming in. One of the most disgusting things that can happen to you when swimming in the pool is to grab a clump of hair floating around, or even worse, to have strands of hair end up in your mouth. Yuck!
To prevent this, don’t you think it would be better if people with hair, especially people with long hair, were required to wear swim caps in the pool? The pool water is disgusting enough with the chlorine, people not showering before entering the pool, and even people peeing in it. A swim cap can at least filter out the hair.
People have a misconception that swim caps pull out their hair and that makes them not want to wear a swim cap. That is not true. A swim cap simply catches the hair that would otherwise have naturally shed into the pool.
Thus, when you take off your swim cap and plenty of hair “falls out”, that’s hair that would have fallen out anyways. Better for it to be caught in the swim cap than the pool filter!
Level playing field
In a competition, all contestants should be on a level playing field. It’s best if every single swimmer was competing under the exact same conditions. Thus, it would make sense if all swimmers have to wear a swim cap.
That said, it would be unreasonable to force all competitors to shave their heads, but it’s no problem if all swimmers wore a swim cap instead. Besides, as we have already provided plenty of good reasons why they should, it’s not some arbitrary decision that swimmers are required to wear a swim cap even if they are bald.
Represent your team
As mentioned in one of the sections above, swim caps can make you more visible. But rather than just having everyone wear the same brightly-colored swim caps, there needs to be more distinguishing features in the design to make you stand out.
What better design to put on your swim cap, then, than your team logo or the flag/colors of the country you are representing? You can feel a sense of pride as you show the audience which team you are a part of.
At the very least, being easily identifiable makes commentary possible, which makes for a more interesting spectator event.
Having trouble keeping a cap on?
Some swimmers have found that they struggle to keep the swim cap on their smooth, bald head. There are a few reasons why this is happening.
First, it’s possible you just have an ill-fitting cap. Try to wear a smaller cap and see if the problem still persists.
Second, you may have to change to a swim cap made with a different material. If you’re having trouble with a silicone cap, try a lycra cap or vice versa. You can even try a neoprene cap, and you’ll feel a lot warmer for it too.
Third, the design of the cap matters too. Try to look for a cap that has textured material inside that increases friction and helps the cap stay on your head.
Depending on the swimming pool and race you are part of, you may be required to wear a swim cap even if you are bald. That said, even when it is not mandatory, many bald swimmers still wear a swim cap anyways because of all the practical benefits swim caps provide.
That said, bald swimmers are already enjoying the advantage of being more streamlined and hydrodynamic even if they aren’t wearing a swim cap. However, the benefits of being warmer and more visible, are extremely desirable whether the swimmer is bald or not, especially for open water swimming.