Novelty Bathing Caps – 1960s

One of the greatest things about studying fashion history is that there is always something new to discover. Just when you think you have seen it all from an era, something like the swim cap above pops into your etsy  suggestions. Yes, this is a bathing cap, made from acrylic yarn fused to a rubber base.

For those of you not around in the 1960s, bathing caps were on their way out, but archaic rules about women’s hair made them mandatory in many public pools. I can remember that my public pool had such a rule, but as men’s hair grew longer in the mid 60s, we began ignoring it. After all, many of the boys had hair longer than that of some girls. There was no big protest, but the caps quickly disappeared after about 1964.

I was hoping to find an ad for this pigtail cap, as there is a brand name – Cole of California – in the cap. Unfortunately, I came up empty, so I decided to think about style. When were pigtails fashionable? It seems odd that any adult would put little girl braids in her hair, but in the time of little girl looks, also known as the mid 1960s, pretty much anything youthful went. I wore my hair in pigtails, and not when I was seven. I was probably around twelve, now that I think about it.

So starting with the year 1967, the year I turned twelve, I did some research. To be honest, I spent a few pleasurable hours looking through 1967 and 68 Seventeen, Teen, and Glamour magazines. What I discovered was that 1967 does seem to be the year of the pigtail. I found examples in all three magazines, and the December, 1967 Glamour even had a young woman in pigtails on the cover. So I feel pretty confident in dating this cap to 1967.

Here is how the yarn is attached to the rubber. There are no stitches in the rubber. This is more like a rubber thread that is fused on the cap to hold the yarn in place.

Cole advertised in the major fashion magazines, so I’m holding out hope that original ad can be found.

The second cap is just as interesting, but in a more sophisticated manner. If you are one of those persons who feels naked when not wearing earrings, this is the cap for you.

I’ve seen swim caps that were molded to look like hair in catalogs and ads as far back as the 1930s. This one is newer, but when exactly? The biggest clues are the earrings. At first glance I’d be tempted to say 1970s, but by then the swim cap was pretty much over except in pools in retirement villages in Florida. So when were dangly earrings popular?

I found lots of long earrings around 1962 and 1963. Could that be when this cap was made? I’m not nearly as confident in dating this one.

Here’s a close-up of the earrings. The dangles are little fake coins. And look at how they are attached. It has to be some kind of miracle that this survived intact. I’m guessing that it wasn’t worn very much. Maybe it was just too outré.

Unfortunately there is no maker’s imprint. To be honest, this looks to me to be the type of thing that was advertised in the cheap ads in the backs of fashion magazines. Maybe this came from the swim cap equivalent of Frederick’s of Hollywood.

As always, your opinions are welcomed and appreciated.

9 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports

9 responses to “Novelty Bathing Caps – 1960s

  1. WOW! I remember the swim caps with cut out flowers all over them These are fun?/weird?! Wonder if anyone actually wore them? Great Halloween stuff! Make your boyfriend wear one – bring down the house! Are YOU laughing (a little giggle) Lizzie?

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    • I don’t know if they were actually worn, but I do know that women bought the ones with flowers. There are always quite a few of them for sale on ebay at any given time. Many of them are in really poor condition, which might indicate exposure to sun and chlorine.

      Ha! I’d have to get him very drunk first!

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      • I meant no disrespect to Cole and/or for the period in which they were worn. Even as a young teen then – they would have snapped a few necks at the pool. Perhaps at the Country Clubs on the Martini set ? Cole designed very stylish suits. Fun stuff Ms. Lizzie thank U!

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  2. I think the black swim cap with gypsy earrings could be from the 1950s. There was a vogue for short black haircuts and big bold earrings in the 1950s, as reflected in 1954’s I Love Lucy Black Wig episode in which Lucy dons a short black wig and gypsy earrings; also Cyd Charisse in very similar wig and earrings in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. Audrey Hepburn cut her hair very short in 1953’s Roman Holiday, and myriad other Hollywood stars sported short dark hair and bold earrings in that era. The swim cap manufacturers may have jumped on the band wagon to create and sell such a cap to American women wanting to look exotic in a fun and inexpensive way.

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  3. What!? This is awesome!!! I had no idea swim caps like this existed!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ruth

    I’m with ocgal on this one, that cap/earring thing looks so 50’s. I’ve seen the actresses mentioned in the short hair and it looked just like that. Seems like Audrey Hepburn may have been an influence also. I vaguely remember wearing a plain white cap once or twice, but avoided it after that,I had long hair then and I don’t remember liking to pull it up under a cap, it wouldn’t stay there and straggly hairs were annoying!

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