Shopping for swimming gear

Back in 1996, so 21 years ago, I decided to start swimming (again) and needed swimming gear because I actually had none. It must be the only time in my life that I had none but such is life. I was living in Paris at the time, and for some reason I took myself into the sports section of Samaritaine, one of the big Parisian department stores; less expensive than Printemps and Lafayette, but in a beautiful building which time had forgotten. They had a huge sports section.

I tried on a bunch of swimsuits that day and eventually bought a Speedo suit which was sort of holographic. I loved it. There’s probably a cutting from it in one of my journals from when I eventually realised it was just falling apart. Even now, it’s probably still my favourite swim suit that I’ve ever owned. It was basically navy with blue shiny bits arranged in squares. They brought out a coloured version of it afterwards which you can actually see on the Sports Illustrated site. I never got around to buying it which I sort of regret.

It was the start of a very long commercial relationship which basically amounted to me giving Speedo money almost every time I needed a swimsuit. In fact, until yesterday, the only time I didn’t buy a Speedo swimsuit was when I made a last minute decision to learn to surf and didn’t have a swimsuit with me. I wound up buying a Zoggs one that day. I think I only actually used it for that surfing lesson which seems a bit extreme.

I’ve had lots of Speedo swimsuits over the years, too many to list. But I put on weight and buying swimsuits got harder and harder. I can look back in nostalgia on that gorgeous turquoise one that I really was reluctant to let go, for example, and it won’t change anything. The last 5 years have been difficult. On one front, my weight and thus size has been inconstant. The size translations seemed to have moved around. More than once I bought a swimsuit that turned out to be a size too small despite it being a size bigger than the one I was looking to replace.

The whole buying of swimsuits became more stressful than buying pairs of jeans. I hated doing it because very often, my size just wasn’t available, it bore no relationship to their translation based on normal dress sizes. And it was a job that I was going to have to do again because I lost my swimsuit while I was on holidays last week. Now, I own at the time 4 other swimsuits all of which had failed to fit me at some point in the last year. It transpired I had lost enough weight to fit into the next one down so that’s now in service. I hate it, however. It isn’t that it’s uncomfortable because it isn’t. I loathe it because it’s black with a radio activecoloured peach piping. I imagine some people in the world might like the style; I’m not one of them. It only has two advantages in my view: a) the breast stuff wasn’t “ooh we should do cup sizes for swimsuits but are too lazy” and it fitted. I think the only reason I even bought it was in theory, on the occasion, it was the only suit in the shop which was my size. And it turned out not to be.

Any searching I did through Speedo’s available options for people who are not Olympic swimmers, you are looking at black. Their pregnancy ones are black. It’s like they want you to just vanish, and not aspire to having pretty stuff. I found it irritating. But escaping was hard.

One of the primary reasons I have stuck with Speedo over the years is I wanted swimsuits made by people who understood people who went swimming as opposed to people who wanted to sunbathe. But after reviewing what they had in their “Sculpture” range this summer/autumn, I gritted my teeth and went and had a look at what Arena and Maru had on offer. Arena’s range this year both for their training set and their “we know you’re not a size 0 flat chest” range was significantly more attractive, even their plain branded ones. And they had a dedicated shop in Paris, in Bercy.

I went to that shop yesterday, and spoke to a shop assistant who eventually sold me two Arena swimsuits. One of them is absolutely beautiful, and I love it. It will probably be my main swimsuit for the next couple of months. The other one is a bit plainer and I like it far more than the plainish black Speedo I’ve been wearing for the last two weeks. I hope to be down another size when they need to be replaced.

There are two swimsuits the next size down in my swimming drawer which are not black and which I do like, so I don’t expect to have to revisit the swimsuit thing for another year at least. But the truth is, my loyalty to Speedo for swimsuits is gone. Arena’s suits this year are just so much nicer. I still don’t get their nose clips or their goggles, so Speedo will continue to get money of me for those.