There are many people who take umbrage with how revealing swimsuits are. They would rather it be the norm if they could wear a shirt over their torso while swimming. Unfortunately, they are either not allowed to in public pools, or doing so unnecessarily draws attention to themselves due to how unusual it is, which is the opposite effect they want.
Not everyone is happy with how their body looks for personal reasons, so they would rather cover it up with a shirt. A T-shirt also provides limited superficial protection against scrapes and the UV light, but some argue this benefit is negligible. This seems well and good, so why aren’t they allowed in pools, and why do so few people wear shirts while swimming?
The reason normal T-shirts aren’t worn in public pools is that it’s a safety risk. The shirt will absorb too much water, restricting your movement and weighing you down, and this increases your chances of drowning. Furthermore, the chlorine in the water can break down the fibers on your shirt and the loose strands can end up in the pool filter, clogging it. You will also damage your shirt beyond repair which is probably not something you want either.
If you want to wear a shirt in a community pool, it would need to specifically be a swim shirt or rash guard, and you probably need staff approval. A swim shirt is specifically designed to not absorb so much water, and it offers significantly more sun protection than a regular shirt.
Of course, if you are swimming outdoors or in your own private pool, then you are free to wear a T-shirt if you’d like. However, there is a reason why few people do it even if they are allowed to.
Keep reading on to learn more reasons why it’s not a good idea to wear a T-shirt while swimming, what your alternatives are, and how you can appropriately and safely cover yourself up for more privacy while swimming.
Why a T-shirt is a bad idea for swimming
It weighs you down and restricts your movement
Most shirts are made of cotton which is a notoriously absorbent material. As soon as you jump into the water with a T-shirt on, you will immediately feel a heavy weight around your body. In addition to weighing you down, a T-shirt will also restrict your movement so that it’s harder to perform a swim stroke.
The end result is that it will be harder for you to stay afloat which is a safety issue. It doesn’t matter if you’re fit or not, a T-shirt will increase your chances of drowning, and that is one of the main reasons why normal clothes are banned in community pools.
Conversely, swimwear is made with nylon/Spandex fabric. This material is very stretchy and does not absorb much water. When you are wearing a swimsuit or a swim shirt, you will immediately feel the difference. Barely any water will get absorbed, and you will not feel as weighed down by your swimwear.
It takes a long time to dry
A T-shirt can cause problems both in the pool and outside of it. Due to how absorbent a T-shirt is, even after you leave the water, you will still be drenched in water. You would literally have to wring your shirt to get some of the excess water out, and even then, a T-shirt will still hold on to a lot of water.
As a result, you will feel like your T-shirt takes ages to dry. In the meantime, you will start to feel very cold due and miserable because the damp shirt makes the wind feel even cooler. A proper swim shirt would not absorb much water in the first place and would dry very quickly.
It will get ruined by saltwater and chlorine
Since most of us regularly wash our clothes, it might not register in some people’s minds that large bodies of water could be bad for clothes. Well, technically it’s not the water that’s bad, but rather what’s inside the water: chlorine in pool water, and salt in saltwater.
Normal clothing is not designed to be exposed to chlorine or saltwater. The fibers will quickly break down and become weaker. Loose strands may come off and get clogged in the pool filter.
Additionally, clothing stretches more easily when wet. It’s not uncommon for clothes to end up stretched out of shape if they were worn underwater for a significant period of time. Essentially, you will drastically reduce your T-shirt’s lifespan by wearing it into the pool or ocean.
Funnily enough, not even swimwear is safe from chlorine and salt’s harsh effects. That’s why we recommend thoroughly rinsing them after every use, otherwise they, too, will deteriorate quickly.
It clogs pool filters
When loose strands break off from your T-shirt, it ends up in the pool filter. If a bunch of people are wearing T-shirts, lots of loose strands will clog the pool filter. That’s another reason why T-shirts are prohibited in pools.
It doesn’t provide as much UV protection as you think
Just because a T-shirt covers you up doesn’t mean that it’s doing a good job of protecting you from the sun’s UV rays.
The effectiveness of sunscreen at blocking UV rays is determined by its SPF rating, which stands for “sun protection factor”. Clothes have an equivalent rating called UPF, or “ultraviolet protection factor”.
Most swimwear have a UPF rating of 50 or higher. That means that out of every 50 UV rays to reach the material, only one will actually pass through and reach your skin. Thus, UPF 50 clothing blocks 98% of UV radiation.
How much does a regular T-shirt block? It was found that 1 in 5 UV rays would pass through a regular shirt. That means a shirt effectively has a UPF rating of 5, or that only 80% of the rays are blocked.
“Hey, that doesn’t sound too bad”, you might think. Oh, but it is. If you’re going to be spending hours in the sun and only 1 in 5 UV rays are being blocked instead of 1 in 50, you are literally experiencing 10 times the UV ray exposure compared to someone wearing the appropriate sun protective clothing. If you have pale skin and burn easily, this makes a massive difference.
Now, you can argue that most people are actually shirtless, so compared to them, you are blocking 80% of the UV rays (but most people are probably wearing sunscreen). That said, you are also experiencing all of the downsides of wearing a T-shirt that we mentioned above, so it’s not really much of a win, is it? Best to wear a swim shirt or rash guard instead.
It draws even more attention to you
Finally, even if a T-shirt successfully hides your body from view, it ironically draws more people’s attention to you. A person wearing a T-shirt in the water where everyone is shirtless stands out more than someone who is shirtless.
If you are at a pool party but are keeping your shirt on because you are feeling self-conscious about your body, you might be one of the only people doing that. Therefore, if you were hoping to blend in with everyone else, unfortunately, wearing a T-shirt will have the opposite effect.
At least with a swim shirt or rash guard, people might think you’re a surfer or something. Plus, due to how quickly appropriate swimwear dries, you won’t be miserable and cold the whole time.
At the end of the day, the only place you are strictly forbidden from wearing a T-shirt while swimming is at a public pool. They ban wearing anything that is not considered swimwear, and that includes workout clothes or any kind of regular clothes. You can still wear a T-shirt at the beach, in your own pool, or at a friend’s pool. That said, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t wear a T-shirt when swim shirts and rash guards exist.
Swim shirts or rash guards can cover your torso without any of the downsides like getting waterlogged or deteriorating quickly in water. Furthermore, it provides superior UV protection and will not restrict your movement as much. Overall, even if you can wear a T-shirt while swimming, there are better options.