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A New Swimsuit Is Shattering Records and Unleashing Debate

from the Economist

Athletes in the ancient Olympics competed in the buff, on the grounds (among other things) that clothes were a hindrance to performance. Modern technology, however, has changed that. In some sports, notably swimming, the right attire can be an enormous boon. Take Speedo's LZR swimsuit, which was introduced in February.

Fully 38 of the 42 world swimming records that have been broken since then have fallen to swimmers wearing LZRs. Indeed, some of those records have been claimed by less-than-notable racers, suggesting that the difference lies in the apparel, not the athlete.

To make the LZR, four innovations had to come together. The first is the fabric. The new suit is cut from a densely woven nylon-elastane material that compresses the wearer's body into a hydrodynamic shape but is extremely light. Moreover, there are no sewn seams. Instead, the suit is bonded by ultrasonic welding.

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