A Man in a Bikini

The bikini turns 70!  Come to Bacchus as you are (or in your skimpy swimwear), it's 2-4-1 Wooden Nickel Wednesday. DJ/VJ Matt will be entertaining us tonight 10PM-2AM.

What was scandalous in the 1940s is second nature now....

On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit at a popular swimming pool in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Reard dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week.

Before long, bold young women in bikinis were causing a sensation along the Mediterranean coast. Spain and Italy passed measures prohibiting bikinis on public beaches but later capitulated to the changing times when the swimsuit grew into a mainstay of European beaches in the 1950s. Reard’s business soared, and in advertisements he kept the bikini mystique alive by declaring that a two-piece suit wasn’t a genuine bikini “unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.”

In prudish America, the bikini was successfully resisted until the early 1960s, when a new emphasis on youthful liberation brought the swimsuit en masse to U.S. beaches. It was immortalized by the pop singer Brian Hyland, who sang “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960, by the teenage “beach blanket” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and by the California surfing culture celebrated by rock groups like the Beach Boys. Since then, the popularity of the bikini has only continued to grow.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN? When did men's "bikini" swimwear debut?
Well, by now, you have most likely seen this video about the evolution of men's swimwear. While sexy, it's very US-centric. To explore the true history of the men's bikini, we look down under and pay homage to the "Speedo."

First, let’s define our terms: though a “Speedo” is technically any swimsuit made by the Australian Speedo brand, colloquially, a “speedo” is a men’s aquatic brief. A Speedo is a swimming costume with a minimum of fabric baring a legal maximum of skin. As with its cotton underwear cousin—the much-maligned “tighty whitey”—the Speedo is often an object of ridicule, except perhaps when worn by an Olympic champion, a child, or the French. As conceived of in contemporary American culture, the Speedo is unacceptable—too small, too tight, too European, and too gay.

However, there is something even more mysterious to this issue: American dudes are driven by a Wizard of Oz–like desire to “curtain off” their genitals. They are impelled to gird up their loins with yards of fabric, thereby protecting—symbolically and literally—their reproductive equipment, while sinewy Spaniards, hard-body Greeks, bronzed Aussies, diverse Latin Americans, and pale squishy Brits take a reverse approach.

These fellows prefer to wear swimsuits that say, “In case you wondered, I am the proud possessor of male genitalia, and in case you don’t believe me, here it is!”

Bacchus wants (the) US to get over it. In truth, the Speedo is a prideful, taut, and glorious garment. Here’s why.

Wearing a Speedo forces a clear-eyed reckoning with your body, whatever its shape. Baggy board shorts (in our eyes, a more legitimate object of ridicule) are clumsy and sartorially lazy, obscuring cellulite and uneven thigh hair. A Speedo, magnificently, allows the summer air to caress your weird, bulgier bits.

What a Speedo gifts its wearer—an honest bodily regard—is valuable not in that it serves as a precursor to a weight-loss regiment, but because wearing such a revealing suit is freeing: a Speedo lets it all hang out, and affirms whatever’s hanging. As testimony from toupee-wearing men or, recently, Caitlin Jenner underscores, obfuscation of a part of oneself is a stressful, losing game. Embracing and baring those parts of ourselves that society deems unruly—be it a transgender identity or a lumpy butt—is an important step towards personal freedom. While the dream might be to flaunt rippling abs in a Speedo, the achievable reality—and more accessible pleasure—is flaunting whatever-shaped self you have. The presentation, not the body, brings the joy.

The confident man, no matter how fit, is VERY SEXY. And nothing says confidence more than wearing a Speedo, no matter what your size, shape or prowess.

As generations of flustered American tourists have discovered, most municipal French pools do not allow swim trunks in the water. Luxuriant, Bermuda-style shorts collect dirt and debris, and make for a dirtier swimming environment. In addition, the French rightly assume that men wear trunks as street-wear, which brings in further detritus. The French law was legislated in 1903 and is going nowhere fast, but fortunately for tourists who arrive unprepared, most French public pools feature Speedo vending machines.

Join us for your 2-4-1 cocktails today. And don't forget Trivia tomorrow at 7PM. :-)