Top of the crops: the hottest swimwear trend of the moment.

Top of the crops: the hottest swimwear trend of the moment.

The reign of the itsy-bitsy bikini is officially over. Surfing the ocean wave from the far reaches of Australia and the States, to Blighty's shores, is the rash guard, a long-sleeved swimwear top formerly worn to prevent chafing during water sports. Sexy, right?

Love it or hate it, it looks like this new trend is here to stay. Seen at Mara Hoffman and Belusso last week at Fashion Week Swim 2014, the rash guard has already hit the high street with versions popping up in Victoria's Secret and ASOS.

But are you ready to surrender your most flattering bikini for this sporty look? It certainly has its perks. Trend-setter Rihanna showed us just how versatile the long-sleeved swim top can be, pairing a leopard-print Cia Maritima version with denim cut-offs to greet fans in Rio, before heading off for a moonlit swim in the matching two-piece. A glamorous look that works for both day and night? We’ll take it.

Devotees of the rash guard are also drawn to its flattering nature. Proud of your hard-earned holiday abs? A cropped rash guard lets you flaunt your best bits without flashing too much flesh.

It’s worth remembering that this look was originally borne from practicality, and pale-skinned beauties like Nicole Kidman have long been aware of the rash guard as a go-to beach cover-up to avoid dreaded sunburn. So if your skin turns more salmon than sun-kissed when you’re out in the heat, this new swimwear trend might be the one for you...

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By Francesca Specter / @ChezSpecter