Brief history of the rashie

Most Australians know the term “rashie.” It’s one of those affectionate names we give to familiar objects or places, a bit like Freo or servo, barbie or Vege, Swannies or schoolies. A rashie isn’t something you get when you’ve got a virus or have an allergic reaction, it’s something you wear to prevent, well, rashes. Or sunburn.

The functional purpose of a rashie (rash vest in Australia, rash guard in USA), is to provide sun protection, or rash protection if you’re a surfer. They can also add warmth as an insulating layer in cooler months. Rashies can be worn under wetsuits (wetties) when the ocean temperatures are low, or as a stand-alone garment.  They’ll help prevent skin irritation from the wetsuit if worn under, and help minimise surfboard rash if you’re in tropical water in Hawaii or Indonesia. Rashies provide effective sun protection, up to UPV50+, which is why they've become a regular fixture on Australian beaches.

If you’re new to the rashie, here’s some basic information. Rashies are lightweight and designed for a snug or tight fit. Essentially, they are worn as a second skin, which makes them far more comfortable in the water. If you’d prefer a looser fit, then buying a size up should do the trick. Rashies are designed for an easy transition between the sand and the surf. That is, they are designed to wear wet or dry. They come in short or long sleeve and pretty much anything in between. A more recent element, one that has crept in over the past couple of summers, is the front zip. The zip offers a stylish and practical element, and means you don’t have to pull it over your head (ask any mum who’s had to tug a wet rashie off their toddler and you’ll know the squirms and squeals that come with that!)

*Surfing tip: full length front zips not so good for lying on a board as they’ll rub when wet.

For any other ocean sport – SUPs, snorkeling, kayaking or even aqua aerobics at an indoor pool – rashies provide a layer of warmth, sun protection and a barrier to stingers or bluebottles.

Like any garment, rashies have evolved over the years. They used to be solely for surfers and were a utilitarian garment that addressed a discomfort associated with long periods of time in the waves. Then parents who grew up under the harsh Australian sun realised that their little kids would fry on the beach without sun protection. So the mini rashie was born.  All those parents then had school age kids who wondered why they had to wear a rashie but the parents didn't, so role modelling good sun protection behaviour began….and many parents preferred a bit more style and a bit less dagginess.

In the last five years or so, there’s been an evolution in sun wear that’s taken it all the way from sand to street. The rashie is quintessentially Australian, and right on trend this summer. It's all about surf, sun, sand and style.