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You may have seen these wetsuits before, they are like the more standard wetsuits that you see on the beach but in most or all white. So why are white wetsuits bad or not the choice of people on the water? In this blog post, we will discuss why white wet suits are typically avoided and why a black wetsuit has become the “de facto” default choice.
White wetsuits are prone to showing aging, like yellowing, where black hides this. In addition, white reflects heat once you are exposed to the sun leading to slower warmth recovery. This leads them to be valued less and what makes a black wetsuit the preferred base color.
There are still white wetsuits available on sites like Amazon, but these aren’t big sellers and since they aren’t very popular or sell well they tend to have less produced by manufacturers which also leads to higher prices.
Let’s take a look into reasons why a white wetsuit wouldn’t perform the same and what may be overall limiting factors as to why which start with the way suits are created.
Difficulty Adding Colors like White to Black Neoprene
Your wetsuit is made, in most cases from neoprene, the neoprene is black in color, and then it is covered with a nylon topcoat. This topcoat is typically the color seen by people outside but it can limit color use as black is the underlying base color.
To achieve a better color would mean adding more layers or thicker nylon to help get the colors to show or “pop” out like expected which can add more weight and cost to the production of the gear.
Cleaning and Aging of White
As most of us know white is not easy to color and maintain, it shows aging issues like discoloration much more than other colors like black.
Over the lifetime of a wetsuit, this can lead to some yellowing from constant sun exposure and any issues with white from the seawater forcing faster breakdown in the materials.
Visual Appeal of White
While white is a “classy” color it doesn’t lend itself to looking good on most people, while black tends to be flattering to nearly everyone.
Since I have extra pounds on my body a skin-tight suit in white would make me look much more like a huge iceberg or stuffed trash bag than a black wetsuit would since it hides the shadows and curves better.
Performs Poorly to Heat Regulation
When you wear a wetsuit you are using the suit to keep you warm while underwater by insulating you against the cold ocean water temperature as heat is lost by convection, or contact, with the cold water.
With more atoms in a given space for liquids, vibrations are transferred from one object to another easier than in air. Convection happens when atoms with high kinetic energy (hot) vibrate and bounce off atoms with lower kinetic energy (cold), transferring some energy from hot to cold until equilibrium is reached.
So in the end you need to limit this exchange as much as possible while under the water as neither white nor black can help conserve differently. The true issues come once you surface though and the black wetsuit can help absorb heat from the sun.
Once you end up above water the white fabric will limit your ability to get warm and this is a hindrance to enjoying your time out in the water and on the water.
Can Help Boost Your Performance
Mentally the use of specific colors has been shown to change the performance of athletes. At Rice University, they found that people wearing color-specific uniforms linked to a “role” or “profession” were more likely to do better in tests.
So those who wear “performance” enhancing colors believe it enhances their ability so much that it actually can. This applies to water sports also, the way people want to buy what the best surfer wears, etc, as they assume wearing the same clothes will get them closer to their idol’s performance.
Many have a belief that the shark attacks in the oceans occur due to the color of the wetsuit and gear that are used and that somehow there are “shark avoidant” colors that they would avoid.
Sharks though respond to movement far more than any color as they don’t have the same cones in their eyes to detect color like a human may, in fact, as we will discuss more below, near all color is lost once deep enough and out of direct sunlight, almost everything looks grey, at least to humans.
Regardless of the color or movement debate, shark attacks are incredibly rare on humans even though the media love to play up the worry factor. More often than not you being in the wrong place at the wrong time will play more into it than the color and movement ever did.
Just thinking that by sheer math you are far more likely to be struck by lightning than being attacked by a shark shows that it shouldn’t be a factor in wetsuit choice.
Loss of Color At Depths
A large reason for black being the choice is the fact that black reflects very little light and helps to contrast a human body in the water, as you get deeper into the water you lose out on nearly any color due to the lack of sunlight darker color only exists.
There has been the development in recent decades of colors that use fluorescent dyes that can show better colors when underwater as they don’t just reflect the color from the sunlight but actually emit colors when stimulated by shorter wavelength light.
While these dyes are still pretty expensive they are getting cheaper and cheaper and may reach a point where they can become more standard allowing for greater colors at a depth where black wins now.
Final Thoughts on White Wetsuits
Overall colors really only matter above the water, like with a surfer on their board. Once you move deeper into the water the colors all bleed out to greys and blacks which makes the color choice less necessary which is why black and greys are just more prevalent.
As newer dyes come out at good costs that will hold up to consistent use we may begin to see those used in more suits, until that time though everyone wants the cheapest costs which come with blacks and greys, especially if your use is mostly underwater.