Last week, USA Swimming’s House of Delegates passed a national tech suit ‘ban’ for swimmers ages 12 and under, with some specifics that weren’t immediately clear.
Among the unclear stipulations is that the banned suits will be ones that have “bonded or taped seams regardless of its fabric or silhouette,” or any male or female suit with “woven fabric extending to the knee or mid-thigh,” regardless of the type of seams.
Unless you’re a textile aficionado, you (like us) probably don’t know how to differentiate between woven and knit fabrics. So we asked some major American suit manufacturers to explain what the ban really entails.
Woven vs. Knit Fabrics
A3 Performance founder and CEO Daniel Meinholz offered us the following explanation of the difference between woven and knit fabrics:
“Knit fabric is made of one continuous thread or yarn in a braided manor. Looped back and forth and through, similar to that of crochet. If one were to pull on the thread the fabric would begin to unravel. The knitted fabric have more stretch than a woven which may help with fit, but not support increased compression.A woven fabric is made up of a variety of independent yarns, typically woven at a 90 degree angle. Woven fabrics are typically more compressive than the knit are typically used in technical racing suits for their compression. We use wovens also to develop a surface that has very low drag. This is more difficult to accomplish with the looping of the knit, the drag is typically greater.”
Another manufacturer added: “A swimming official is unlikely to be able to tell the difference between a woven or a knitted fabric at a glance.”
What “tech suits” will 12 & unders be allowed wear?
In short: very few that already exist, which is one of the reasons the ban doesn’t take effect until 2020.
“Currently, A3 Performance does not have a tech suit that is legal for 12&Unders. VICI and LEGEND tech suits are bonded and therefore not acceptable for this age group,” A3 told SwimSwam. “However, we have been developing an ‘entry-level’ racing suit at a price point that will be hard to beat – NOVA. NOVA is not bonded, nor is the fabric woven, and it will be under $100. We anticipate NOVA being available by the end of 2018.”
BlueSeventy is in a similar situation: “None of our current suits meet the proposed new regulations. We will be developing a completely new range for under 12s,” the company said. “We are pleased that suits extending to the knee can still be worn, as some kids feel more comfortable in this style. Price is important, encouraging good technique as a foundation for lifelong participation is even more important.”
“As a partner of USA Swimming we will support the rules they set forth for any level swimmer,” said TYR. “The TYR Thresher and TYR Fusion are allowed under the new rule.”
Part of the transition will include establishing a process to mark the new suits as approved, like the FINA tags on current suits. There are currently a few suits that have FINA tags that are knit and have allowable seems – in these cases, there will be a 2nd tag next to the FINA tag verifying that they are allowed for 12 & unders.
Exactly how USA Swimming will approve new suits is yet to be determined.
“The new regulations will have a big impact on all swim companies, especially assuming most nations follow,” said BlueSeventy. “We’re completely against kids suits requiring FINA approval, it’s a big cost outlay and unnecessary, so we are trusting that USA Swimming will come up with a robust system to recognize whether a suit is legal or not, and to help customers understand what kids can and can’t wear.”
Said A3: “We don’t believe that this new regulation is going to hurt the swimwear brands or the sport; however, we also don’t believe that it’s going to be more beneficial to both parties either. Swimwear brands will continue to find ways to adapt and advance their products, just as we did following the ‘super suit’ era. The definition of a tech suit continuously evolves with the sport, and even with a ban in place, tech suits will continue to evolve to meet the needs of swimmers.”
TYR, A3, and BlueSeventy are all SwimSwam Partners.