Is the 'rashie' Australia's go-to garment?
The rash vest is as synonymous with Australian fashion as high vis work gear or the flannelette shirt.
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 flanno, 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 in particular, sunburn.
Sunburn, as most of us know, happens after a long day in the beach with insufficient sun protection. There aren't many downsides to our famous beach-loving culture, but this is one of them. It's a lifestyle health issue - Australia has one of the highest rates of sun-related skin cancer in the world.
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 temperature is low, or as a stand-alone top. 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, UPF50+, which is why they've become a regular item in the beach bag.
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 prefer a looser fit, buy a size bigger than you usually wear. Rashies are designed for above and below the waterline, 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 parent who’s tugged a wet rashie off their toddler and you’ll know the squirms and squeals! *pops cork*)
For any ocean sport – surfing, swimming, 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 practical garment to reduce 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. Then all those school age kids wondered why they had to wear a rashie but the parents didn't, so role modelling good sun protection behaviour began. Many parents wanted a bit more style and a bit less dad joke daggy.
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 and beach to beach bar. It's all about surf, sun, sand and style.
Surfing tip: full length front zips not so good for lying on a board as they’ll rub when wet.