Flip/Flop: Jammers vs. Swim Briefs

By Erin Greene

By Erin Greene

COLUMBUS, Ohio, September 12. SwimmingWorldMagazine.com will take a regular look at various trends within the swimming world. We will look into the past for items that are trending out while looking forward at what is trending forward in the sport. Our first look will be at the trend toward males wearing the classic swim brief vs. the jammer.

The first question many coaches receive when encouraging young males to swim competitively is, “Do I have to wear one of those little speedo things?”

For years, the skimpy suits of men’s swimming have kept American males from participating in the sport. Whereas, their European counterparts may prefer to wear them even outside the athletic realm, the scanty swim briefs are hardly the “hot” athletic attire by conventional athletic standards.

While swimming is one of the premier sports in some countries, such as Australia, competitive swimming has yet to experience such popularity here in the States; especially amongst males. However, the development of the knee-length jammer suit could lend a helpful hand in getting young males in the pool – a long time hot topic in the aquatic world.

“Several coaches have told me they think the jammer is dramatically increasing the number of males on their teams,” said Carol Rennenbohm, mother of two collegiate swimmers and a bookkeeper for a prosperous swim shop in Columbus, Ohio.

Adam Braun, a country club coach who recently finished his collegiate career at Ohio State, agreed.

“I think younger swimmers are more apt to try swimming because of the suit,” he said.

But are jammers leading to the extinction of the beloved swim briefs, affectionately known simply as classic speedos? Will the emblematic suit be replaced for good? Simply put, are jammers hot, and swim briefs not? For those who only tune into our great sport in Olympic years to see athletes clad in neck-to-ankle suits they might answer in the affirmative. But that answer might not be inaccurate.

“As a coach, I didn’t see a single swim brief on a kid out of 12 country club teams the entire summer,” said Braun, “But I hope it doesn’t lead to the disappearance of the classic speedo swim brief suit.”

The desire for more coverage is not new to the swimming world. Gerry Norris, a retired director of recreational sports in Tallahassee, Fla., who has returned to the joys of coaching newcomers, was once a youngster who was advised to try swimming after sustaining knee injuries from football. Even then, nearly forty years ago, Norris resisted wearing the less-than-conservative athletic uniform.

Now, a 37-year veteran of the sport and classic swim brief wearer himself, he advises swimmers about the proper fit of a jammer and when it’s time to convert to the more traditional suit.

“I talk to the parents, but they aren’t the ones who don’t want their sons wearing the suit,” said Norris, “Some of them are apprehensive about wearing a classic speedo suit, because they feel like they are wearing underwear. Younger kids are still private, whereas the older ones have lost those inhibitions.”

However, while jammers may be the hot new item to wear for youngsters testing the waters, many veteran swimmers harbor reservations towards the popularity of the less traditional suit.

“We had a guy show up for the first day of practice wearing a jammer,” said Penn State sophomore Spencer Maglich, “Let’s just say by the end of the week he wasn’t wearing it anymore.”

While male swimmers may catch grief from their peers about their scanty attire, a certain pride and nostalgia in the ability to sport the emblematic suit reverberates through out the swimming society. Just observe any Masters practice and you’ll know this is undeniable.

However, slipping into the flesh-revealing costume is often a daunting task for adolescent males. The fact of the matter is swim briefs are not the hot suit to wear for the younger generation despite older swimmers difference of opinion.

While we think we can all agree that increased male participation in our sport is hot, many swimming veterans believe the extinction of the swim brief is not. But when it is said and done, what it all boils down to any attire is hot attire if it gets more swimmers in a pool.