A Mandatory History of Bikinis in Time for Tan Line Season
Photo: Daniel Viero / EyeEm (Getty Images)
Bikini. The word alone says it all. It’s fun, sexy, playful, and strangely suggestive. And though it may be the perfect tan’s perennial nemesis, it happens to be one of the best things about summer. But where does this holy shroud come from? And how long has it been enhancing the lives of men?
In celebration of perhaps the greatest outfit ever invented (sorry, ass-less chaps), we take you back through the decades to uncover the rise (and fall) of the bikini.
Barely-there summer clothes have been a thing since forever. In fact, it was just another stop on the way from naked to dressed. But thanks to thousands of years of repression and guilt, we managed to make nudity a sin.
Tan lines used to be from the knees down. What fun they must have had frolicking the sandy beaches in these ultra stylish get-ups.
Louis Réard introduced the bikini in 1946, four days after the first peaceful atomic bomb test destroyed the Bikini Atolls in the South Pacific. Réard wanted to make an explosive statement with his new garment -- and he did. The only woman who would model his design was a nude dancer named Micheline Bernardini.
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Because it frightened people's sensibilities, the bikini was rejected by the masses and by the 1950s, women gravitated toward the still-saucy-by-their-standards one-piece bathing suit. It would take another decade before the world would embrace the exposed midriff.
Thanks to European movie stars like Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress (aka Honey Rider) famously sporting the look in major motion pictures, the taboo of wearing a skin-tastic bikini wore off. Sports Illustrated joined the fun in 1964 with its first swimsuit cover, featuring Babette March.
By now, all bets were off. Not only had bikinis become a cultural norm, clothing in general seemed to be optional. Still, men were falling over themselves.
The bikini stagnated through the '70s and '80s. The shape had settled into a sedentary life, with the emphasis placed more on exotic patterns and bright colors. It was a rough decade for the outfit-that-could. Complaints were filed.
Tired of the same old thing, this fledgling beachwear evolved into slinkier straps and higher waistlines. The once sacred buttocks had now gone rogue, letting the sun shine everywhere.
The bikini hit its stride in the aughts, embracing a lowered waistline and strong, solid colors. Diversity became a keyword, with styles running the gamut from conservative and sporty to eyebrow-raising. For a time, the world was at peace.
Now that the front thong has arrived, it may only be a matter of months before the bikini goes extinct. Why buy a piece of expensive swimwear when you can just use a shoelace? Sometimes it's nice to leave a little something to the imagination.
If this is truly the end, let's take a moment to enjoy some of the bikini's finer moments as we say goodbye to a good friend, gone too soon.