"... aficionados who rail about the damage high-tech suits have done to the record books can't help but admit that male athletes look much cooler in technically advanced, long-length suits than skimpy Speedo briefs.
Phelps's longtime coach Bob Bowman deplores the idea of young, developing swimmers wearing the speed suits, but he happily encourages boys to wear a modified version -- tight-fitting, thigh-length shorts known as jammers -- simply because they discourage self-consciousness.
Bowman, Dolan and others blame the traditional tiny briefs for nothing short of driving young boys out of the sport.
"I honestly think they were a barrier for getting boys into the sport on the entry level," Bowman said. "..."
"..."Ten years ago with the younger kids, we'd have 16 or 20 girls and only three boys," Bowman said. "It's a difficult environment when you have those ratios. ..."
The image above is from the Speedo site. Michael Phelps has obviously been cut out and dropped in front to the L.A. Coliseum Pool, the pool where the 1932 Olympics took place.
UPDATE - I have to include this note from Scott of the Canuckswimmer:
I don't agree with this. For one: the boy/girl ratio isn't anywhere near that - research I've done for a long pending post shows shows in 1992 the ratio was 4:5 in favor of girls while today it's closer to 2:3 (source: ).
This means the discrepancy in participation has grown in the years jammers were gaining in popularity. Furthermore the actual numbers of males in club swimming have increased by nearly 28,000 over that period. Ergo jammers aren't the reason.
I'd like to add that I personally can't believe there would be many boys under the age of twelve who would be self-conscious about their suits; and for those over twelve I'd have to believe the attraction of being in a sport dominated by girls wearing wet skin tight suits would be more of a draw than worrying about showing off your 'package' (other than those embarrassing situations which attractive girls wearing wet skin tight swimsuits can bring on).
The real reason for the increasing number of girls vis-a-vis boys in swimming is due to the relative lack of high profile sports available to girls compared to those available to boys and a society which now encourages women to participate in sports. Consequently it is entirely logical to see swimming take in more girls than boys in recent years.