A Look Back at 116 Years of Olympic Swimsuits

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People have been swimming since the Stone Age, which was, oh, um, about 2.9 million years ago. It wasn’t until 1837, though, that the National Society of Great Britain began to hold competitions. Consequently, the sport was a natural fit for the Olympic Games, when they started in 1896 in Athens, Greece. Back then, though, the only strokes were freestyle and breaststroke. (Other sports that require swimsuits weren’t introduced until later, with water polo being added in 1900, competitive diving in 1904, and synchronized swimming in 1984.)

What you may know best about swimming uniforms is the period from 2000 to 2008, often referred to as “the Suit Years.” That’s when the first full-length hydrodynamic suits were introduced. They allowed swimmers to glide through water at exceptional speeds, leading to numerous world records and exceptional Olympic medal wins. The suits were eventually found to be too helpful, though, and, in 2010, they were banned from competitive swimming.

There’s so much more beyond “the Suit Years.” Women once had to wear silk bathing suits! Yahoo Style takes you through the suit’s evolution, starting with the very first Games. Go ahead, dive in! 

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