Confused About the Tech Suit Ban? Us, Too. So We Asked Experts.

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.

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2 years ago

This doesn’t need to be that complicated. The only problem is price, so if all tech suit companies can manage to make a suit in the $50-80 price range, this discussion is over. It doesn’t need to be high tech, just something to make the kids feel like they’re at a championship meet.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Daddy
2 years ago

Remember how the rubber suits were just simply too expensive and we had to go back to the old suits to get the prices back down?

Worked out real well!

Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 years ago

Yeah, these types of roll backs never work in an arms race. The market demand for whatever is “best” will drive price, and the suit manufacturers are great as marketing ice to Eskimos.

What this ban really does it completely disrupt the short term market for second hand suits and “new old stock” suits… so less price competition in that direction will meen unhindered price gouging by the manufacturers who happen to have legal 12&u suits (who, because there are few, will have an oligopoly to boot). Is Blueseventy really going to make a 10&u size, legal knit suit for the 1000 kids or so who would want them (that’s around how many 9 y.o. finished the IMX this… Read more »

Reply to  Daddy
2 years ago

Sorry, can’t go back now.

2 years ago

No Mars, it’s not the suit – Money

2 years ago

From a coaches perspective, it is not about the suit. It turns the focus to the athlete IN the suit. Build the athlete’s confidence without thinking they need “the suit” to go fast. The manufacturers of swimming apparel still have loads of athletes to sell to. My concern is about the athlete, not about the developers of tech suits. If you take the “money” out of the equation, you are left with the heart and desire of the athlete. Everyone wants their athlete to be the best, but if we are sending message that you need “this suit” to win, that detracts from the message of hard work and proper preparation. Teaching young athletes to be tough regardless of the… Read more »

Reply to  Chris
2 years ago

Plenty 9 and 10 year old have already invested in tech suits. Now we have to spend more money to get more suits. They should have started this in 2021.

Reply to  Chris
2 years ago

Also, it is complete BS to generalize that 12&u aren’t physically developed / don’t benefit from the compression / etc. Boys and girls have different onset puberty ages. A huge number of 12 y.o. girls have developed anatomically to women’s bodies. Some are at their adult height by the age of 12, and the post-12 y.o. growth rate tapers off quite quickly.

Why US Swimming can’t distinguish between boys and girls development ages? They are different you know! At 14 Missy Franklin was qualified in the Olympics. You will never see a 14 y.o. boy do that in the modern era.

Reply to  Chris
2 years ago

My 10 year old swimmer knows she doesn’t need the suit to go fast. She swims all of her meets in a team suit and swims fast enough to get into championship meets. That’s proof enough for her. However, we bought her a tech suit and she wore it for regional/state/zones championships and it made her feel fast (like that shaved down feeling swimmers get). Most importantly, she felt “in-place” instead of “out of place”.

The real problem is the nature of the capitalist market and envy. The debate and new rule are really about whether parents need to be rescued from themselves — because 12 & under children don’t buy their own tech suits. This rule doesn’t hurt anyone,… Read more »

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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