Wednesday, September 26, 2007
How I Learned to Love Polyester
Like most lap swimmers, I've been in the habit for years now of buying three or four suits whenever I find a good sale, and then rotating them in the pool. "Good sale" means $29.99 for a smallish piece of nylon and spandex; that's still a ripoff, but not nearly as much of a ripoff as $66.00 for a full-price Speedo.
Indoor swimming pools eat these things. Even rotating them and rinsing them out after each swim, I've learned not to expect more than a few months of life from a suit before the chlorine dissolves the fabric.
Before our first trip to Hawai'i eighteen months ago, I'd done my annual suit stock-up. One of the four suits I bought had a slightly different texture than the others, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I did notice, though, that this particular suit was much more durable than its fellows. Three of the four suits died exceptionally quickly, sagging and stretching and shedding little bits of elastic. The fourth one -- the least attractive of the set, unfortunately, although who cares when you're swimming laps? -- kept its color and shape.
Then, one day in the gym, I complimented a woman on her suit. She told me it was polyester and chlorine-proof. Polyester suits, she said, don't fade or stretch or dissolve in pool water.
So I checked the tag on my ugly-but-durable suit. Sure enough, it was half polyester, whereas the ones that had died were the usual spandex/nylon combo.
After a year and a half of steady use, the suit has finally begun to show signs of wear; the elastic in one shoulder strap has broken, although the fabric's still bright and resilient. So I went online and ordered a 100% poly suit -- a pretty one! -- from a swimming site. Buying a suit without trying it on first is a bit of a gamble, but this is a fairly standard racing tank and shouldn't present too many surprises, and I trust that the company has a reasonable return policy.
For years, I've spurned polyester in favor of natural fabrics. But now I've seen the light!