Thing-a-day 18: Beginning of the End

So sighs a friend of mine upon discovering this page from LIFE Magazine in 1938:

It was quoted extensively in an “on this date” piece in the Lock Haven (Penn.) Express, in 1967:

1-Piece Swim Suit Hit Shore 30 Years Ago

NEW YORK (AP) — Amid dire predictions of moral perdition, the topless bathing suit bit American beaches just thirty years ago this month. The furor was not to be believed. The city fathers of Atlantic City, N.J., home of the Miss America contest, said they would never tolerate such an obscenity on their strands. Across the country there were outraged howls. Bare bosoms? Belly buttons? And worse, Hairy bosoms and stomachs? Because the guardians of public morals were talking about men swimming in just trunks.

Until 1937, the men of America had been swimming in one- piece or two-piece knit bathing suits with more material above the belt than below. Most of the trunk parts had skirts over them, moreover. Like the topless fad for females, the mens’ craze originated on the French Riviera, spread to California and then insinuated its way to the East Coast. Life Magazine commented then that “in the more inhibited East a male costume consisting solely of trunks was, until just recently, cause for arrest on almost all public beaches and raised eyebrows on many a private one.” It wasn’t until the next year that Long Island’s Long Beach allowed men to air their chests and Atlantic City held off until the outbreak of World War

Bathing suit manufacturers complained that there was little chance for originality in design — just plain black knit trunks with a white canvas belt. The next year in its July 18, 1938, issue Life showed pictures with such captions as “trunks do little for faulty posture,” “hairy chests are becoming public,” “trunks should be privately fixed,” and “trunks should be worn high.” Atlantic City, and other hoi* outs, have long since lost their battle: The bathing suit manufacturers have discovered Heeding Madras, boxing trunks, Bermuda shorts, cabana suits and a great many other changes on the black knit trunks they thought were the limit. Will the topless fad for women spread as fast and the objections sound as silly so soon?

Yeah, so, that’s kind of a no on that last thing, although that fad remains popular in Europe and on private beaches of the West Coast — the same places this fad began!

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