The rash guard used to be an athletic swimwear item reserved for water sports like surfing. They protect surfers from rashes that occur when skin chafes against a waxed and sandy surfboard. Over time, the rash guard also became a fashionable and practical swimwear look — especially for kids — because it offers effective UV protection. In other words, it provides an alternative to wearing sunscreen, which can rub off when spending long periods of time in the water. 

Rash guards, which some retailers refer to as “swim shirts”, are made of swimsuit fabric and vary in style. They can be bought as mismatched standalone items, or as items that match a one or two piece swimsuit. Most are long-sleeved and hipbone length to provide extra protection. But short-sleeved, sleeveless, and shorter lengths do exist. For extra sun protection, most necklines are high, but half zip, full zip, and notched V-neck styles are also available. Lands’ End offers styles with side ruching which are forgiving on the midriff. The styles with zippers seem like an easier option to pull on and off. 

The ladieswear rash guard is designed to wear over a swim top (full piece, tankini or bikini), although you can wear them on their own if you’re comfortable with the lack of support and the sheerness of the fabric. The idea is that you swim in them, lie or walk in the sun, or pop them on when things cool down by the pool or beach. 

My experience with rash guards is limited because I have never worn one, nor have I assisted my clients with the look. Most of my clients wear tankinis or one piece swimsuits with cover-ups, and pop rash guards on their children. So I started a discussion about rash guards on the forum. It’s well worth a read. Apparently rash guards dry quite quickly after a swim because they’re lightweight. They aren’t nearly as uncomfortable as they look, and they provide effective protection from the sun.  

Visually, I love the sporty vibe of the rash guard. Call me crazy, but I think that in a matching set it’s an attractive swimwear silhouette despite it covering the top part of the body. The sun protection factor is a bonus, and so is the warmth it may provide when it’s breezy by the water. On the other hand, when I’m at the beach or pool, I do enjoy the warmth of the sun on my bare skin (slathered in sunscreen of course). It’s relaxing and therapeutic somehow. That said, perhaps wearing a rash guard won’t feel all that different. And since I’d be wearing it over a swim top, I can take it off at any time, which achieves the best of both worlds. 

Over to you. Would you wear a rash guard? If you already wear one, do you find it comfortable and attractive? Or do you wear it purely for practical reasons.

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