AskDefine | Define beachwear

Dictionary Definition

beachwear n : clothing to be worn at a beach

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. clothing suitable for wearing on the beach, though not necessarily for swimming in

Extensive Definition

Beachwear refers to clothing suitable for wearing on a beach or urban beach. In terms of how much material is on the body, beachwear usually falls somewhere between swimwear and what a person wears when fully clothed.


In an indoor pool, bathers will typically wear lycra briefs (men) or lycra one-piece tanksuits (women). On a beach, especially an urban beach, however, something more substantial is preferred by most. For men, this may consist of beach shorts that are long enough to come down almost to the knees, and sometimes beyond; on an urban beach, men will often wear beach shorts, which look like regular outerwear, but are made of non-absorbent, fast-drying fabrics. Dark colors, such as black, blend well with warm-weather business attire, and can also dry quickly in the sun, since dark color absorbs light. Women's beachwear often consist of a pair of shorts and a tank top.
Nowadays, however, beachwear is becoming more and more like swimwear, i.e., trunks for men and bikini for women, and may be worn elsewhere too.

History of beachwear

The invention of the railway, and the proliferation of rail travel in the mid 1800s made it possible for large numbers of people to visit coastal regions. While previously, people had bathed or frolicked nude on the beaches (skinny dipping), the increased popularity of coastal regions resulting from the ease of travel, and the more prudish Victorian morality created a need for beachwear.
In some places, especially temperate coastal regions, many people like to remain "beach ready" at all times, i.e., to wear something that can be spontaneously transformed into beachwear. For men, simply wearing black shorts that have an integral belt made of nylon webbing (rather than shorts that have a drawstring) underneath regular trousers, together with a shirt that has a nice collar, for example, allow them to transform from formal attire to beachwear easily. This allows spontaneous unplanned visits to an urban beach that is usually located within the downtown business core of a city.
Transformable beachwear makes lunch hour trips to the beach possible, reducing the need to find a place to change, or to carry an additional set of clothing. Good beach shorts will mostly be hydrodynamic, and will dry within 10 to 15 minutes of sunbathing on hot black granite or dark cement that absorbs a lot of the water. Because urban beaches usually have roughly-textured black surfaces that absorb both water and sun (thus, heating up easily), good beachwear can usually be dried while it is being worn on the body, simply by lying down to sunbathe for a few minutes.

Combination with Outerwear

An advantage of wearing beachwear underneath regular clothing is the ease with which it can be quickly and easily changed. When a changeroom is not available, beach shorts worn under regular trousers make it easy to change from dress slacks to jeans or vice versa, such as when changing in a parking lot, in one's vehicle, or in a similar public space.

Beachwear within a hierarchy of formality: related concepts

Beachwear is not necessarily used for swimming or bathing, and may be used just for lounging around a beach. It is therefore not mandatory to be hydrodynamic or fast-drying, but specifically designed beachwear is as a rule either or both; some swimwear, notably diving suits, is rather unfit for use on land.
Beachwear can be classified within a hierarchy of formality as follows:
  • naked (least possible amount of clothing and legal only on specified beaches)
  • underwear (may also double as swimwear)
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