Image credit: Claire Tote

The rise of the dry robe

Half-towel, half-coat, the dry robe began as an outdoor swimming essential. So how has it become the latest high street fashion staple?

Whether you’re a seasoned cold-water swimmer or just someone who likes to browse the shops on a Saturday afternoon, you are bound to be familiar with dry robes. A cosy mixture of coat and robe, the dry robe has moved way beyond its origins as an outdoor swimming must-have, and has now taken the high street by storm. With an array of colours and designs to choose from, everyone and their dog seems to have one. But what is the hype all about?

Back to the roots

Featuring on every must-have list imaginable, dry robes were originally intended to make the life of the outdoor swimmer a lot easier. The robes are styled to have a loose fit to provide a handy solution to getting changed outdoors. Instead of stripping down and exposing yourself to the cold sea air, the dry robe is big enough for you to get changed underneath it. Complete with a water-resistant outer material and a fleece inside lining, the robes are designed to withstand every climate; keeping you warm before and after you slip into your costume and head to the water.

There are many different changing robes on the market, but it all started with the company Dryrobe. On their website, Dryrobe founder and experienced surfer Gideon Bright recalls that their success is all thanks to his mum! After accompanying him to surfing sessions, she spotted a gap in the market to make getting changed outside a more enjoyable experience. This inspired her to create the first Dryrobe prototype. After some refining, the Dryrobe launched for real in December 2010, and the rest is history.

Since then, it is unlikely to see a cold-water swimmer without their trusty changing cape in tow. Fourteen years since the launch of Dryrobe, many other brands have begun to offer similar attire, all made from practical materials with long sleeves and cosy hoods. From Dock & Bay’s beach ponchos to Regatta’s changing robes, there is officially a dry robe out there for everyone; ranging in price points and styles. 

From the sea to the streets

Given its background as an outdoor swimmer’s best friend, many people have been surprised to find that the dry robe has now moved far beyond this. Dry robes have not only begun to flood the highstreet, but this latest fashion frenzy has also sent social media into meltdown.

For the past few weeks, dry robes have really been given the spotlight on our screens. A Facebook community group, controversially named Dryrobe W*nkers, have taken it upon themselves to post pictures of people inappropriately wearing dry robes. In other words, if you’re seen sporting a dry robe anywhere but the beach, these watchful Facebook fiends will snap your picture and share it to the 52,000 members who are also part of this online community.

Clearly, wearing a dry robe outside of its intended context is controversial. Some can’t fathom why people are taking the robes for a spin around the shops, while others seem more onboard with the latest trend. Newport-based hip hop group Goldie Lookin’ Chain even went as far as releasing a song in solidarity with dry robe wearers, labelling anyone who doesn’t like the look “a dryrobaphobe.”

Unsurprisingly, many of the dry robe fanatics agree with this sentiment. For them, the dry robe is so much more than a piece of cold-water swimming kit. After all, it’s warm, cosy and practical. Who can blame them? 

Why wear a robe?

In some cases, now-casual dry robe wearers were ahead of the trend, purchasing robes before they became the latest fashion item. For instance, Welsh softball player Sian McCarthy, 41, bought hers well before “the dry robe revolution.”

“I’m aware of the fashion fascination of the dry robe. I’ve seen the TikToks and heard the song,” Sian said, “but I had this already.” Aware of the robe’s intended use for cold-water swimming, this is something that Sian has tried and tested. She said, “I’ve done outdoor swimming and gone to some New Year’s Eve dips. It’s like therapy indeed, but it’s something you have to get used to.” 

Sian McCarthy sporting her Saltrock changing robe, retailing at £100

Although cold-water swimming is something she wants to try and do more of, Sian shared that her dry robe has come in handy for other reasons. “I play softball. When we play all weekend, we camp,” Sian said, “so I use my dry robe for changing outside during camping. We’re not renowned for the weather in Wales, so it is great for playing sports and it keeps me warm and dry.” Despite taking advantage of its more traditional uses, Sian did also admit that she has started wearing her robe casually, “it’s good on the school run,” she said, “hence why I’m wearing it now!”

I wear my dry robe and wellies, and I’m sorted

– Shelley Moorland

Sian is not alone in throwing on a dry robe when she picks up the kids. For girl-guide leader Shelley Moorland, 29, the dry robe is a school run essential. She said, “I bought my dry robe for the school run because I’m sick and tired of walking to school and getting soaked all the way through. I wear my dryrobe and wellies, and I’m sorted.” As well as a comfort blanket in the cold weather, Shelley also said that the dry robe has its uses at work. She said, “I do girl-guiding, so when I wear this to events they can see the back of my coat and the bright pink hood and know that it’s me.”

Shelley Moorland wears her Dryrobe, retailing at £165, for ultimate practicality and comfort

Although, unlike Sian, Shelley is yet to try cold-water swimming. “I’d give it a go in a few years,” Shelley said, “but right now I’m busy with work and children, so the dry robe is purely just for practicality.” 

So, whether you’re already a seasoned swimming pro or simply wondering whether to invest, you can rest assured that the dry robe has many uses. It keeps you warm and makes changing after a swim a lot easier, but also, you won’t be alone if you decide to join the masses and wear your robe when running errands.