History and Development of Wetsuits

History and Development of Wetsuits

A wetsuit is an outfit that is made from neoprene and is made to fit and cling to the body and is usually worn by swimmers sea divers, windsurfers and other water sportsmen and women. The outfit provides some heat insulation through some layer of nitrogen gas bubbles placed in the suit material. This layer of air reduces the rate of loss of heat from the body. Since water is a good conductor of heat and easily takes the heat off your body or transfers heat fast to your body, the air layer works to reduce this loss of heat. Suits such as the Xcel wetsuit and the O’Neill wetsuits use some more advanced designs to ensure that more air is trapped between the suit and the body and thus providing the wearer better thermal insulation.


The first wetsuits were made in the 1950s and then, they were made from nylon and had little effect in terms of significant insulation. Various design houses and designers contributed towards having the introduction of the wetsuit. Research from the University of California Berkeley and the University of San Diego is usually credited with the invention of the wetsuit. The original suit brought out the air-trapping technology not only to affect insulation but also to enable buoyancy to keep the wearer afloat. The invention was adopted by design houses and the Xcel wetsuit and the O’Neill wetsuits came to being. The companies marketed and spread wetsuits across America and throughout the world.

Modern Outfits

Over the years, the technology and designs of the wetsuits have greatly improved and diversified. The traditional way of stitching the seams seemed to cause water to sip into the suit and thereby nullifying the thermal insulation effect. Therefore, there was a need for a way of joining the parts without leaving any room for water to leak. The O’Neill wetsuits used rubber tape to seal off the seams. A chemical solution is used to bond the tape and the material and thereby strengthening the bond. Various modifications such as applying the tape on the inside and layering with polyester were made to maintain the aesthetic beauty of the suit. On the other hand, the Xcel wetsuit used the technology of seam gluing to seam the outfit. However, this technology was good for trapping the air but the bond was not strong enough and the outfit was not too durable with the wetsuit tearing along the glued seam. Blind stitching is also in use. Blind stitching uses a machine with a curved needle that does not make complete holes onto the material when sewing but instead places the stitches from within the materials and hence the material does not let in water.

Further diversification in the making of the wetsuit used by design houses such as the Xcel wetsuit and the O’Neill wetsuits include the use of other materials besides neoprene. These elastic materials include Lycra, Spandex, and other elastic fabric that is comfortable when it clings to the body. Rubber has also been in use by some design houses. Besides the technology and materials used, there is also a variety of colors and designs in use to give buyers a wider choice.