What is it about the slippery handfeel of a scuba-adjacent fabric blend that feels so appealing? I can trace my affinity back to a few particular things: Opening Ceremony’s ye olde Magritte collection; this awe-inspiring Muehleder top; a missed connection I had with a pair of Trademark stirrup pants. I tried on the latter on August 28th, 2016 and still regret not buying them, even though they were a size too big. I also dream of running my hands through a rack of Veronica Beard’s scuba offerings and COS’s zip-up jacket with a slight peplum waist. It all leads me to wonder… can I trade my sweatsuit for a wetsuit? Is this the summer I wear my scuba gear in and out of the water?
My most consistent quality is that I’ve always loved to swim in cold, salty water until I can’t shrug the numbness off any longer. I would wear anything that could extend my tolerance for staying in the water as long as possible, so I’m not sure why I never considered shopping for a wetsuit until now. When I recently floated (haha) the thought by my parents, they told me the same thing they said when I asked if we could get a Toy Poodle every day of kindergarten: “You can only get a wetsuit if you’re going to take care of it.” This maintenance includes hosing it down after every use, and ensuring that there’s a spot to let this unwieldy, life-size and heavy mass of material dry.
Not to be a hero or anything, but I did not let this deter me! I started looking into ways to sustain my enthusiasm for scuba fabric both on- and offshore, and found a few innovative brands that sell wetsuits that check both of my boxes: ideal for a dunk in frigid waters while also functioning as good styling fodder for landlubbing summer outfits.
I Learned a New Word: Yulex!
While, eh-hem, surfing the web in pursuit of wetsuits, I began to read about all of the ways that the original iteration of neoprene is non-renewable, energy-intensive and sometimes toxic in its manufacturing process. Patagonia now makes all of their wetsuits with Yulex, a natural rubber alternative to neoprene they’ve developed and shared with other brands. The Seea and Ansea are two womens’ surf brands that have followed suit (I honestly don’t even like puns!). The cherry on top: Yulex even has its own accessory line. I’ve got big plans to trade in my Aqua Sox for a fresh pair of Yulex boots, and ward off the barnacles underfoot in the process.
Swapping out Petroleum for Limestone
Cynthia Rowley, Ride Engine, and La Bamba are narrowing in on better practices by using earth-mined limestone and recycled materials like tires and plastic bottles rather than petroleum in their neoprene manufacturing. (Limestone serves as the lesser of the two evils as a resource that isn’t an oil derivative. If you’re curious about how certain brands score in terms of sustainability and ethical practices, the Good On You directory is a great resource.) I like these sleeveless or pants-less options because they look slightly less daunting when it comes to finding a place to let these puppies dry.
While I’ve seen bucket hats take on a second life after being upcycled from designer toweling, I haven’t seen much in the way of upcycling and patchworking old-fashioned neoprene beyond this Marine Serre gown that once had a five-figure price tag. Is this a million dollar idea? My calling? The next frontier? If you have any wetsuit recommendations you swear by, please deposit them in the comments.
Photo by Edith Young.