A bikini is a women's two-piece swimsuit with a bra for the chest and panties cut below the navel. The design is simple: two triangles of fabric on top cover the woman's breasts and two triangles of fabric on the bottom cover the groin in front and the buttocks in back. What distinguishes the bikini from other swimsuits is its brevity. The size of the panty can range from full coverage to a revealing thong or g-string design. It is often worn in hot weather and while swimming or sunbathing.
Illustrations of Roman women wearing bikini-like garments during competitive athletic events have been found in several locations. Swimsuits grew increasingly smaller until during the mid-1940s the design halted just short of revealing the woman's navel. These were worn in the 1940s by film stars like Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Lana Turner and were also common on American beaches. A French engineer introduced a new minimalist swimsuit design in 1946 that for the first time revealed the woman's navel. Mechanical engineer Louis Réard borrowed the name for his bikini design from the Bikini Atoll, where post-war testing on the atomic bomb had begun on July 1, 1946, and his name stuck in the public consciousness.
French women welcomed the design but the Catholic church, some media, and a majority of the public initially thought the design was risqué or even scandalous. Contestants in the first Miss World contest wore them in 1951, but the design was then banned from the competition. Actress Bridget Bardot drew attention when she was photographed wearing a bikini on the beach during the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. Other actresses like Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner also gathered press attention when they wore bikinis that exposed their navel. During the early 1960s, the design appeared on the cover of Playboy and Sports Illustrated, giving it additional legitimacy. Ursula Andress made a huge impact when she emerged from the surf wearing what is now an iconic white bikini in the James Bond movie Dr. No (1962). Raquel Welch wore a deer-skin bikini in One Million Years B.C. (1966) that turned her into a sex-symbol. In An Evening in Paris (1967), Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore was the first Indian actress to wear a bikini in a film.
The bikini gradually grew to gain wide acceptance in Western society, though it is still unacceptable in many conservative Muslim countries. In 2010, a British woman was arrested in Dubai after she wore a bikini through a fashionable shopping mall. The swimsuit has been designated as the official uniform for women's Olympic beach volleyball, sparking some controversy. And after a number of Muslim countries objected, officials of the Miss World contest decided not to include bikinis in its 2013 contest.
According to French fashion historian Olivier Saillard, the bikini is perhaps the most popular type of female beachwear around the globe because of "the power of women, and not the power of fashion". As he explains, "The emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women." The bikini has boosted spin-off services like bikini waxing and the suntanning industries.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Bikini variants
- 4 Bikini underwear
- 5 Bikini waxing
- 6 Sports bikini
- 7 Men's bikini
- 8 Bikini issues
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
While the two-piece swimsuit as a design existed in classical antiquity, the modern design first attracted public notice in Paris on July 5, 1946. French mechanical engineer Louis Réard introduced a design he named the "bikini," borrowing the place name of the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where, four days earlier, the United States had conducted its first peace-time nuclear weapons test, part of Operation Crossroads. The island's English name is derived from the German colonial name Bikini, given the atoll when it was part of German New Guinea, which itself is transliterated from the Marshallese name for the island, Pikinni, ([pʲi͡ɯɡɯ͡inʲːii̯]), meaning surface of coconuts.
Réard named his design the "bikini" because he hoped its revealing style would create an explosive commercial and cultural reaction, similar in intensity to society's response to the nuclear test on the atoll. Réard's name stuck with the media and public.
Through inappropriate analogy with words like bilingual, bifocal and bilateral, which contain the Latin prefix "bi-" (meaning "two" in Latin), the word bikini was first misinterpreted as consisting of two parts, [bi + kini] by Rudi Gernreich when he designed the monokini in 1964. Later swimsuit designs like the tankini and trikini were also named based on the erroneous assumption that the "bi-" in bikini denotes a two-piece swimsuit. These new coinages falsely presumed that the back-formation [bi + kini] was purposeful.
The origins of the two-piece swimsuit can be traced to antiquity, in Çatalhöyük and the Greco-Roman world. In the Coronation of the Winner, a mosaic in the floor of a Roman villa that dates from the Diocletian period (286–305 AD), young women appear in bikini-like garments playing sports including weight-lifting, discus throwing, running and ball-games. The mosaic, which is located in the Sicilian Villa Romana del Casale, features ten maidens who have been dubbed the "Bikini Girls". Other Roman archeological finds, particularly in Pompeii, depict the goddess Venus in a bikini. A statue of Venus wearing a bikini was found in a cupboard in the southwest corner of Casa della Venere, while others were found in the front hall. Another statue of the bikini-clad Venus was recovered from the tablinum of the House of Julia Felix, and yet another was unearthed from an atrium in the garden of Via Dell'Abbondanza.
In the 1920s, swimsuits were made from burlap. During the 1920s and 1930s people shifted from "taking the waters" at spas along the Riviera and in Florida to "taking the sun" and swimsuit designs accommodated them. Rayon was used in the 1920s to manufacture tight-fitting swimsuits but its durability and appearance retention is low, especially when wet. Rayon also has the lowest elastic recovery of any fiber. Jersey and silk were also used in the 1920s. By the 1930s, manufacturers had lowered necklines in the back, removed sleeves, and cut away the sides. Hollywood endorsed the new glamor in films like Neptune's Daughter in which Esther Williams wore provocatively named costumes such as "Double Entendre" and "Honey Child".
With new materials like latex and nylon, by 1934 the swimsuit started hugging the body and had shoulder straps that the wearer could lower to allow more tanning. By the early 1940s two-piece swimsuits were frequent on American beaches. During World War II, war production required vast amounts of cotton, silk, nylon, wool, leather, and rubber. The War Production Board issued Regulation L-85 in 1942 that rationed the use of natural fibers, including reducing the amount of fabric in women's beachwear by 10 percent. To meet the regulations, swimsuit manufacturers produced two-piece women's suits with bare midriffs.
The modern bikini
The modern bikini design was first introduced in May 1946 by fashion designer Jacques Heim, who owned a beach shop in the French Riviera resort town of Cannes. Heim began advertising a two-piece swimsuit that he named the “Atome,” the world's "smallest bathing suit". The bottom of his design was just large enough to cover the wearer's navel. To promote his new design, Heim hired skywriters to fly above the Mediterranean resort advertising the Atome as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.”
Louis Réard, a French mechanical engineer, was running his mother's lingerie business near Les Folies Bergères in Paris. He noticed women on St. Tropez beaches rolling up the edges of their swimsuits to get a better tan which inspired him to produce his new design. Not to be outdone by Heim, he hired his own skywriters three weeks later to fly over the French Riviera advertising his design as “smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world."
Réard's design was a string bikini consisting of four triangles made from only 30 square inches (194 cm2) of fabric printed with a newspaper pattern. When Réard sought a model to wear his design at its debut presentation, none of the usual models would wear the suit, so he hired 19 year old nude dancer Micheline Bernardini from the Casino de Paris to model it. He introduced it to the media and public in Paris on July 5, 1946 at Piscine Molitor, a public pool in Paris. It was a shocking swimsuit design that for the first time revealed the wearer's navel.
Heim's design was the first to be worn on the beach, but the name given by Réard is the one that stuck. Despite significant social resistance, Réard received more than 50,000 letters from fans. He also initiated a bold ad campaign that told the public a two-piece swimsuit was not a genuine bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring." According to Kevin Jones, curator and fashion historian at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, "Réard was ahead of his time by about 15 to 20 years. Only women in the vanguard, mostly upper-class European women embraced it."
Sales did not pick up around the world as women stuck to traditional two-piece swimsuits. Réard went back to designing orthodox knickers to sell in his mother's shop. In 1950, Time magazine interviewed American swimsuit mogul Fred Cole, owner of Cole of California, and reported that he had "little but scorn for France's famed Bikinis." One writer described it as a "two-piece bathing suit which reveals everything about a girl except for her mother's maiden name." Modern Girl Magazine, a fashion magazine from the United States, was quoted in 1957 as saying, "it is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing".
In 1951, the first Miss World contest, originally the Festival Bikini Contest, was organized by Eric Morley as a mid-century advertisement for swimwear at the Festival of Britain. The press welcomed the spectacle and referred to it as Miss World, and Morley registered the name as a trademark. When the winner Kiki Håkansson from Sweden was crowned in a bikini, countries with religious traditions threatened to withdraw delegates. The bikinis were outlawed and evening gowns introduced instead. Håkansson remains the only Miss World crowned in a bikini, a crowning that was condemned by the Pope. Bikini was banned from beauty pageants around the world after the controversy. Belgium, Italy, Spain and Australia also banned the swimsuit that same year.
The National Legion of Decency pressured Hollywood to keep bikinis from being featured in Hollywood movies. The Hays production code for US movies, introduced in 1930 but not strictly enforced till 1934, allowed two-piece gowns but prohibited the display of navels on screen. The swimsuit was declared sinful by the Vatican and was banned in Spain, Portugal and Italy, three countries neighboring France, as well as Belgium and Australia, and it remained prohibited in many US states. As late as 1959, Anne Cole, one of the United State's largest swimsuit designers, said, "It's nothing more than a G-string. It's at the razor's edge of decency." Feminist groups published fliers against bikinis in the contest in 1970.
Rise to popularity
Though a success in postwar France, Americans deemed the bikini too risqué until Hollywood stars like Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner were photographed wearing them. During the 1950s, Hollywood stars such as Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Tina Louise, and Marilyn Monroe took advantage of the publicity associated with the brief swimsuit and were photographed wearing bikinis. Esther Williams, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot all used the swimsuit as a career prop to their sex appeal. Pin ups of Hayworth and Esther Williams in the costume were widely distributed. Bikinis became more accepted in parts of Europe when worn by fifties "love goddess" actresses such as Bardot, Anita Ekberg and Sophia Loren.
Brigitte Bardot, photographed wearing similar garments on beaches during the Cannes Film Festival (1953) helped popularize the bikini in Europe in the 1950s and created a market in the US. Photographs of Bardot in a bikini, according to The Guardian, turned Saint-Tropez into the bikini capital of the world, with Bardot identified as the original Cannes bathing beauty. Cannes played a crucial role in the career of Bardot, who in turn played a crucial role in promoting the Festival, largely by starting the trend of being photographed in a bikini at her first appearance at the festival. In 1952, she wore a bikini in Manina, the Girl in the Bikini (1952) (released in France as Manina, la fille sans voiles), a film which drew considerable attention due to her scanty swimsuit. During the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, she worked with her husband and agent Roger Vadim, and garnered a lot of attention when she was photographed wearing a bikini on every beach in the south of France.
Vogue magazine's June 1953 issue featured suits by California company's like Cole of California, Caltex, Catalina and Rose Marie Reid. Brian Hyland's novelty-song hit Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini became a Billboard No. 1 hit during the summer of 1960. The song tells a story about a young girl who's too shy to wear her new bikini on the beach at a time when bikinis were still considered risqué. Playboy first featured a bikini on its cover in 1962. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue debuted two years later (Babette March in a white bikini).
Ursula Andress, appearing as Honey Rider in the 1962 James Bond film, Dr. No, wore a white bikini (also known as the "Dr. No bikini"). It is cited as the most famous bikini of all time and an iconic moment in cinematic and fashion history. Andress said that she owed her career to that white bikini, remarking, "This bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent." In 2001, Andress sold the Dr. No bikini she wore in the film at auction for £35,000 ($61,500).
In 1965, a woman told Time it was "almost square" not to wear one. In 1967 the magazine wrote that "65% of the young set had already gone over." Raquel Welch wore a deer skin bikini in One Million Years B.C. (1966) that made her an instant pin-up girl. Welch was featured in the studio's advertising as "wearing mankind's first bikini" and the bikini was later described as a "definitive look of the 1960s". In 2011, Time listed Welch's B.C. bikini in the "Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture".
The film An Evening in Paris (1967), is mostly remembered because Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore was the first Indian actress to wear a bikini in a film. She also posed in a bikini for the glossy Filmfare magazine. The costume shocked the conservative Indian audience, but it also set a trend of bikini-clad actresses carried forward by Zeenat Aman in Heera Panna (1973), Dimple Kapadia in Bobby (1973), Qurbani (1980), and Parveen Babi in Yeh Nazdeekiyan (1982).
On September 9, 1997, Miss Maryland Jamie Fox became the first contestant in 50 years to compete in a two-piece swimsuit during the Preliminary Swimsuit Competition at the Miss America Pageant. By 1988 the bikini made up nearly 20% of swimsuit sales, more than any other model in the US, though one-piece made a big comeback during the 1980s and early 1990s. That year, Réard's company folded in France, four years after his death. By the end of the century, the bikini went on to become the most popular beachwear around the globe, according to French fashion historian Olivier Saillard due to "the power of women, and not the power of fashion". As he explains, "The emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women", though one survey tells 85% of all bikinis never touch the water. Actresses in action films like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Blue Crush made the two-piece "the millennial equivalent of the power suit", according to Gina Bellafonte of The New York Times,
Huludao City, Liaoning, China set the world records for largest bikini parade (2012), achieved by 1,085 participants and the largest bikini photo shoot, involving 3,090 women. According to Beth Dincuff Charleston, research associate at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "The bikini represents a social leap involving body consciousness, moral concerns, and sexual attitudes." By the early 2000s, bikinis had become a US$811 million business annually, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail information company, and had boosted spin-off services like bikini waxing and the sun tanning industries.
While the name bikini was applied to the skimpy fashion that first revealed the wearer's navel, the fashion industry considers any two-piece swimsuit a bikini. Modern bikini fashions today are characterized by a simple, brief design: two triangles of fabric that form a bra and cover the woman's breasts and two triangles of fabric on the bottom forming a panty cut below the navel that cover the groin in front and the buttocks in back. The amount of coverage can vary widely, from a string bikini with very little coverage to a full design with maximum coverage. A topless swimsuit may still be considered a bikini, although naturally it is no longer a two-piece swimsuit.
The bikini has spawned many stylistic variations and an array of spinoff styles like the "monokini" (single, topless swimsuit), "seekini" (transparent swimsuit), "tankini" (tank top and a bikini bottom), "camikini" (camisole top and bikini bottom), "granny bikini" (bikini top and boy shorts bottom), and "hikini".
The "-kini family" (as dubbed by author William Safire), including the "-ini sisters" (as dubbed by designer Anne Cole) has grown to include a large number of subsequent variations, often with a hilarious lexicon — string bikini, monokini or numokini (top part missing), seekini (transparent bikini), tankini (tank top, bikini bottom), camikini (camisole top and bikini bottom), hikini, thong, slingshot, minimini, teardrop, and micro. In just one major fashion show in 1985, there were two-piece suits with cropped tank tops instead of the usual skimpy bandeaux, suits that are bikinis in front and one-piece behind, suspender straps, ruffles, and daring, navel-baring cutouts. To meet the fast changing tastes, some of the manufacturers have made a business out of making made-to-order bikinis in around seven minutes. The world's most expensive bikini was designed in February 2006 by Susan Rosen. The bikini, made up of over 150 carats (30 g) of flawless diamonds, was worth a massive £20 million.
|String bikini||1974||A string bikini gets its name from its design that consists of two triangular shaped pieces connected at the groin but not at the sides, where a thin "string" wraps around the waist connecting the two parts. The first formal presentation of string bikini was done by Glen Tororich, a public relations agent, and his wife Brandi Perret-DuJon, a fashion model, for the opening of Le Petite Centre, a shopping area in the French Quarter of the New Orleans, Louisiana in 1974. String bikinis are one of the most popular variations of bikini.|
|Monokini||1964||A monokini (or unikini) is a women's one-piece garment equivalent to the lower half of a bikini. The term monokini is also now used for any topless swimsuit, particularly a bikini bottom worn without a top. In 1964, Rudi Gernreich designed the original monokini in the US. His version looked like a bikini bottom suspended from two halter straps between breasts that were left bare. Peggy Moffitt, who modeled the suit for Gernreich, said it was a logical evolution of Gernreich's avant-garde ideas in swimwear design. The modern monokini, which is less racy than Gernreich's original design, and is also described as "more of a cut-out one-piece swimsuit," with designers using various materials to link the top and bottom sections together.|
|Microkini||1995||A microkini is an extremely skimpy bikini. The designs for both women and men typically use only enough fabric to cover the genitals and, for women, the nipples. Any additional straps are merely to keep the garment attached to the wearer's body. Some variations of the microkini use adhesive or wire to hold the fabric in place over the genitals. Microkinis keep the wearer just within legal limits of decency and fill a niche between nudism and conservative swimwear.|
|Tankini||1998||The tankini is a swimsuit combining a tank top, mostly made of spandex-and-cotton or Lycra-and-nylon, and a bikini bottom introduced in the late 1990s. Tankini has rendered its name to things ranging from a lemonade-based martini (Tankini Martini) to server architecture (Tankini HipThread). Designer Anne Cole was the originator of this style, When her label introduced the tankini in 1998 it became and instant hit, and she scored the biggest hit of her career. Tankinis can be made of spandex-and-cotton or Lycra-and-nylon. A variation is named camkini, with spaghetti straps instead of tank-shaped straps over a bikini bottom.|
|Trikini||1967||The trikini appeared briefly in 1967, defined as "a handkerchief and two small saucers." It reappeared a few years ago as a bikini bottom with a stringed halter of two triangular pieces of cloth covering the breasts. The trikini top comes essentially in two separate parts. The name of this woman's bathing suit is formed from bikini, replacing "bi-", meaning "two", with "tri-", meaning "three". Dolce & Gabbana designed trikinis in summer 2005 as three scintillating sequined fabric pieces that barely covered the essentials. In a variation the three pieces are sold as part of one continuous garment. A variation called a strapless bikini or a no string bikini by various manufacturers, this swimwear is often a combination of pasties with a matching maebari-style bottom.|
|Pubikini||1985||Designer Rudi Gernreich unveiled the pubikini, a bathing suit meant to expose pubic hair, in 1985. The pubikini is a small piece of fabric that hugs the hips and buttocks but leaves the pubic region exposed, described as a tiny V-shaped fabric strip and a piece de resistance totally freeing the human body.|
||A bandeaukini, Alternatively called a bandini, is any bikini bottom worn with a bandeau as the top. It is the oldest form of bikini, with earliest examples found in Sicilian Villa Romana del Casale (dubbed the "Bikini Girls) dating back to 4th century AD. Reintroduced, its appeal grew fast among young women, with bandeau tops edging into the sales of the classic tankini. Sometimes the same design has been called a bandeaukini and a tankini. Actress Halle Berry wore a skimpy bikini top with matching pants to the MTV Video Music Award, fueling the trend of wearing a bandeau top asan out-of-home dress.|
||The skirtini, which features a bikini top and a small, skirted bottom, is also an innovation for bikini-style clothes with more coverage. Two-piece swimsuits with usual skirt panels were popular the US before the government ordered a 10% reduction in fabric used in woman's swimwear in 1943 as wartime rationing. In 2011, The Daily Telegraph identified the skirted bikini as one of the top 10 swimwear design of the season.|
||The sling bikini (also known as sling-kini, suspender bikini or sling swimsuit) is an unbroken suit, technically one-piece, which leaves the entire sides of the torso and, like a thong most of the buttocks uncovered. There are monokini types, too. When designed for or worn by a men, it is has been called a mankini. Usually, a slingshot resembles a bikini bottom with the side straps extending upwards to cover the breasts and go over the shoulders, or encircling the neck while a second set of straps pass around the midriff (also known as pretzel bikini or pretzel swimsuit). Corresponding to the advent of Lycra, sling swimsuits first emerged in the early 1990s, and are more popular on the beaches of Europe. Sling bikinis were introduced in the mainstream in 1994, and became an instant hit for New York's major stores.|
Modern bikinis were first made of cotton and jersey. When DuPont introduced Lycra (spandex), it completely changed how suits were designed and who could wear them. "The advent of Lycra allowed more women to wear a bikini," said Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a former model and author of The Bikini Book. "It didn't sag, it didn't bag, and it concealed and revealed. It wasn't so much like lingerie anymore."
The fabrics and other materials used to make bikinis are an essential element of their style and crucial modifiers of swimsuit design. Bikinis have been made out of just about every material known. The use of cotton made the swimsuit more practical, and the increased reliance on stretch fabric after 1960 simplified construction; alternative swimwear fabrics such as velvet, leather, and crocheted squares surfaced in the early '70s.
Types of underwear worn by both men and women are identified as bikini underwear, similar in size and revealing nature to the bottom half of a bikini bathing suit. For women, bikini underwear can refer to virtually any tight, skimpy, or revealing undergarment that provides less coverage to the midsection than traditional underwear, panties or knickers. For men, a bikini is a type of undergarment that is smaller and more revealing than men's briefs. Bikini briefs can be low or high-side bikini briefs but are usually lower than true waist, often at hips, and usually have no access pouch or flap, legs bands at tops of thighs. String bikini briefs, another style have front and rear sections meet in the crotch but not at the waistband, with no fabric on the side of the legs.
Bikini waxing is the epilation of pubic hair in and around the pubic region (also known as bikini line), commonly by women, by the use of wax. With certain styles of women's swimwear, pubic hair may become visible around the crotch area of a swimsuit. The bikini line delineates the part of a woman's pubic area which would normally be covered by the bottom part of a swimsuit. In the context of waxing, it is generally understood to describe any pubic hair visible beyond the boundaries of a swimsuit. Visible pubic hair is widely culturally disapproved of and considered to be embarrassing, and so is at times removed.
With the reduction in the size of swimsuits, especially since the coming into fashion and popularity of the bikini after 1945, the practice of bikini waxing has also come into vogue. People who wax or shave their bikini areas also face the risk of folliculitis, an infection around the hair follicle. Some of these infections can develop into more serious abscesses that require incision with a scalpel, drainage of the abscess, and antibiotics. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of folliculitis. Family physician Emily Gibson, M.D. expresses the view that shaving pubic hair "removes a cushion against friction, leaves microscopic open wounds and exposes you to infections". A study originating in Nice, France, also found an association between pubic hair removal and an increased risk of sexually transmitted Molluscum contagiosum, a skin virus causing raised bumps or growths.
There is evidence of ancient Roman women playing Expulsim Ludere, an early version of handball. Skimpy bikinis have become a major component of marketing various women's sports, raising some objections.  The bikini is an official uniform for beach volleyball, and is widely worn in athletics. Towns like Porto Seguro in Brazil have become an attraction for beach athletics in bikini for the tourists.
In 1994, the bikini became the official uniform of women's Olympic beach volleyball, with some sports officials considering it exploitative and unpractical in colder weather, Competitors such as Natalie Cook and Holly McPeak agree with the FIVB's statements that the uniforms are practical for a sport played on sand during the heat of summer, but British Olympian Denise Johns argues that the regulation uniform is intended to be "sexy" and to draw attention.
In 1999, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) standardized beach volleyball uniforms, with the swimsuit becoming the required uniform both for men and women. This drew the ire of some athletes. According to FIVB rules, female beach volleyball players have the option of playing in shorts or a one-piece swimsuit. Most players, however, prefer the two-piece bikini. In early 2012, the International Volleyball Federation announced it would allow shorts (maximum length 3 cm (1.2 in) above the knee) and sleeved tops at the London 2012 Olympics. Richard Baker, the federation spokesperson, said that "many of these countries have religious and cultural requirements so the uniform needed to be more flexible". At the time of the event, the weather at the evening games in London during 2012 was so cold that the players sometimes had to wear shirts and leggings. At the 2006 Asian Games at Doha, Qatar, only one Muslim country fielded a team in the beach volleyball competition because of concerns that the uniform was inappropriate. The Iraqi team refused to wear bikinis.
Dancers, sex appeal and bikinis worn by women players as much as athletic ability made beach volleyball the fifth largest television audience of all the sports at the Games at Bondi Beach in Australia in 2000 Olympics. Kimberly Bissell conducted a study on the camera angles used during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games beach volleyball games. Bissell found that 20% of the camera angles were focused on the women's chest and 17% were focused on their buttocks. Bissell theorized that the appearance of the players draws fans attention more than their actual athleticism. The popularity of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, a video game for Xbox, was attributed to the scantily clad women. In 2007, fans voted for contestants in the WWE Diva contest after watching them playing beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis.
During the 2004 Olympics, an exotic dance team from the Canary Islands entertained fans but drew some criticism from female competitors. During breaks in between points and matches, the group, wearing bikinis, raced on to the sand and danced to techno-pop music. Australian athlete Nicole Sanderson commented, "It's kind of disrespectful to the female players. I'm sure the male spectators love it, but I find it a little bit offensive."
Often the women in athletics also wear bikinis, not much larger than in beach volleyball. Amy Acuff, a US high-jumper, wore a black leather bikini instead of a track suit, at Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. Runner Florence Griffith-Joyner mixed bikini bottoms with one-legged tights in Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics, which earned her more attention than her record breaking in Women's 200 meters. Towns like Porto Seguro in Brazil has become an attraction for beach athletics in bikini for the tourists.
In the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, inclusion of bikini-clad athletes raised eyebrows. In the 2007 South Pacific Games, the rules were adjusted to allow players to wear less revealing shorts and cropped sports tops instead of bikinis. At the West Asian Games in 2006, organizers banned bikini-bottoms for female athletes and asked them to wear long shorts.
Female bodybuilders in America are prohibited from wearing thong or T-back swimsuits if contests are being filmed for television, though they are allowed to do so by certain fitness organizations. The University of California 4-H program specifically forbids "string, thong or crochet" swimsuits for women. For men, the dress code specifies "swim trunks only (no shorts, cut-off pants, or Speedos)." A similar policy by Virginia FCCLA bans "skimpy bikini or thong type suits" for women and specifies "swim trunks" for men ("no speedos").
String bikinis and other skimpy clothes are also common in surfing. During the Ocean Pacific Pro Surfing Championships in 1983 and in 1986 at Huntington Beach, a disturbance broke out when men tried to pull the bikinis off of women on the beach and at a bikini competition. In 2001, Vicky Botwright, then 16th seeded in women's squash circuit and dubbed as the 'Lancashire Hot Bot', was prohibited by Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) to wear her trademark outfit, a thong and a sports bra, in the British Open Championships. In 2004, Alexander Putnam competed in the London Marathon in a green thong and painted as a tropical tree to protest against logging in Congo.
The term men's bikini is used to describe types of men's swimsuits, men's underwear, or similar garments. Men's bikinis can have both high or low side panels, string sides or tie sides, and most lack a button or flap front. Unlike swim briefs, bikinis are not designed specifically for drag reduction and many do not have a visible waistband like swim briefs. Suits less than 1.5 inches wide at the hips are less common for sporting purposes and are most often worn for recreation, fashion, and sun tanning. An example of this style, known as the posing brief, is the standard for competitions in the sport of bodybuilding. Male punk rock musicians have performed on the stage wearing women's bikini briefs. The 2000 Bollywood film Hera Pheri shows men sunbathing in bikinis, who were mistakenly believed to be girls from a distance by the protagonist.
Swimsuits shown in men's wear collections by Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana or Paul Smith have tended to be black and snug fitting, throwbacks to the designs of the 1930s and '40s, while Gianni Versace's ads with their heroic depictions of Miami bathers in contrast to popular, sports-inspired beach wear—bright and baggy Bermudas or boxer shorts. The Greek designer Nikos Apostolopoulos put a different spin on his bathing suits (for both sexes, but with the focus on the male), making them anatomical creations, cut and stitched to outline the body and its sexual characteristics. Bikini tops for men are seen as an amusement factor.
There is some controversy over what age is appropriate to both begin and stop wearing a bikini. A 2011 survey, conducted by Diet Chef in the United Kingdom, asked 2000 women when women should stop wearing certain kinds of fashion, including bikinis. The respondents surveyed felt that women should stop wearing a bikini at age 47. The Today Show posted a similar online survey on May 13, 2011 asking if women over the age of 47 should stop wearing bikinis. Sixty-seven percent of respondents voted for "No. Rock it if you've got it."
In June 2013, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who also is interested in fashion, produced a bikini for her clothing line that is designed to be worn by girls 4 to 8 years old. She was criticized for sexualizing young children by Claude Knight of Kidscape, a British foundation that strives to prevent child abuse. He commented, “We remain very opposed to the sexualisation of children and of childhood.... is a great pity that such trends continue and that they carry celebrity endorsement.”
The body ideal
As early as in 1950, American swimsuit mogul Fred Cole, owner of Cole of California, told Time magazine bikinis were designed for "diminutive Gallic women", because "French girls have short legs" and "swimsuits have to be hiked up at the sides to make their legs look longer."  New York Times reported the opinion that the bikini is permissible for people are not "too fat or too thin." In the 1960s Emily Post decreed, "(A bikini) is for perfect figures only, and for the very young." In The Bikini Book by Kelly Killoren Bensimon, responding to a question on who should not wear a bikini, swimwear designer Norma Kamali says, "Anyone with a tummy." Since then, a number of bikini designers including Malia Mills have encouraged women of all ages and body types to take up the style. The 1970s saw the rise of the lean ideal of female body and figures like Cheryl Tiegs, who possessed the figure that remains in vogue today.
The fitness boom of the 1980s led to one of the biggest leaps in the evolution of the bikini. According to Mills, "The leg line became superhigh, the front was superlow, and the straps were superthin." Women's magazines used terms like "Bikini Belly", workout programs were launched to develop a "bikini-worthy body", while the tiny "fitness-bikinis" made of lycra were launched to cater to the hardbodied ideal. The ideal was carried further by models like Elle Macpherson, featured six times on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 1993, Suzy Menkes, then Fashion Editor of the International Herald Tribune, suggested that women had begun to "revolt" against the "body ideal" and bikini "exposure." She wrote:
So exposure has become an issue. It is as if the sexy stretch outfits, the bras, corsets and carelessly revealed flesh of the 1980's reached a flood tide that is now on the ebb. Faced with the sexpot supermodels and the cult of body consciousness, women have begun to stage a silent revolt, offering passive resistance to the concept that if you've got it, you have to flaunt it. Significantly, on the beaches as on the streets, some of the youngest and prettiest women (who were once the only ones who dared to bare) seem to have decided that exposure is over.
Wearing a bikini exposes large amounts of skin to potentially dangerous UVB light.[notes 1] Overexposure to UVB radiation can cause sunburn and some forms of skin cancer, among other harmful effects. In humans, prolonged exposure to solar UV radiation may result in acute and chronic health effects on the skin, eye, and immune system. Moreover, UVC radiation can cause adverse effects that can be mutagenic or carcinogenic. On April 13, 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization classified all categories and wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning "there is enough evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer in humans".
As a result, medical organizations recommend that bikini-wearers protect themselves from UV radiation by using sunscreen, which contain ingredients that have been shown to protect mice against skin tumors. However, some sunscreen chemicals produce potentially harmful substances if they are illuminated while in contact with living cells, and the quantity of sunscreen that penetrates the skin may be sufficient to cause damage. Chemical company BASF has incorporated nanotechnology into bikinis for better UV protection as wet clothes have reduced protection against UV light. Made of Day-Glo leopard skin polyamide (nylon)-6 these bikinis have titanium dioxide embedded and provide a variable sunblock factor-80 for the beach and 15 for a spring day.
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- R. Bissonnette, MD, FRCPC, Innovaderm Research, Montreal, QC, Canada, Update on Sunscreens
- Clodagh O'Brien, "Sunblock without the mess... wear a nano bikini and hat on the beach", The Daily Telegraph (UK), May 26, 2003
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