Humans are a weird breed of animal. Despite being only a few genetic steps away from monkeys that expose themselves without batting an eye, we’re still a little uncomfortable with the notion of nudity. So great is our aversion to nakedness that we even wear clothes to jump into the water. If dogs could talk, one wonders what they might think of hundreds of humans all changing into special water clothes. But, then again, if dogs could talk we might have a long list of other questions to ask first. Regardless, dogs have a point: Swimwear is kind of silly.
But humans are silly in general, and to question the logic behind anything we do is futile. So, instead, it’s perhaps worth more to examine it bemusedly rather than find meaning in it. In particular, bikinis have changed their shape considerably over the past several decades. As obscenity laws have loosened, women have felt more and more comfortable exposing skin and embracing the fashion of swimwear. Bikinis began as eyesores akin to what Olympic divers wear nowadays, and have since become literal strings of fabric, clinging precariously on to hips across the world.
What inspires some of the stranger, more revealing trends in bikini-wear? Most likely a desire to express individuality and, at some level, femininity. But that’s a discussion for another place and time. This list, in no particular order, is just a few of the trends in swimwear that we’re incredibly thankful to have around, if only to demonstrate how far aesthetics have come.
15. The First Two-Piece circa 1946
Thereby ending the reign of the dreaded full-body pantsuit of the ocean, the first two-piece bathing suit was introduced in 1946. Not so coincidentally, this is around the time that the term “bikini” was introduced into the global lexicon. Coined by the French designer, Louis Réard, he questionably named it after Bikini Atoll, a site famously used to test atomic bombs and undoubtedly the originator of the term “bombshell.” Though that is up for debate. Bikinis were not forever changed, necessarily, as they had just begun, but swimwear certainly became a whole lot sexier and a lot less boring. Two-piece bathing suits meant that customization and fashionable choices were now in the hands of the consumer. It also must have caused at least a few clutched pearls.
14. The Bandeau/Strapless Bikini Top
At some point along the way, someone decided the straps had to go. In their place, bare shoulders graced beaches across the world, and the delightfully named ‘bandeau’ arrived on the scene. You’d think this was recent, but the bandeau can actually be traced back to Ancient Greece. Meaning, for all intents and purposes, it predates the bikini as an item of clothing. As swimwear, however, it didn’t return until the 1940s, around the same time the bikini was taking off. What does this mean? Not much besides the fact that even from the get-go, women preferred to have marginally more than one option for anything. Considering men were often the designers of such things during this time, eye-rolling and exhaustion among women was most likely at an all-time high and the introduction of something besides the aforementioned Olive Oyl-esque swimwear was welcomed gleefully.
13. The Cutout
Speaking of strategically exposed skin, the cutout bikinis take this concept to the next level. Cutout bikinis are, in essence, what occurs when you leave a typical one-piece swimsuit and a pair of scissors with a kindergartner and instruct them to “Go nuts.” The results are, surprisingly, decent looking. Beyond decent, even, depending on the sort of cutout bikini you get. As you might imagine, there are a bevy of options, ranging from tiny holes all over your body to “one inch away from exposing a nipple.” But despite the emphasis here on exposed skin, most of these bikinis are decidedly wholesome and, as you can see pictured here, not at all scandalous. Borderline, perhaps. But nothing that will inspire a need for smelling salts, except among the most modest of individuals. But unless you’re planning on going swimming in Utah (why?) these suits should be suitable (why??) for your beach-going needs.
12. The Steamy One-Piece
As remarkably bland as early one-piece swim suits were, recent years have seen an uptick in far more interesting one piece suits back on the market. This time, however, they look quite a bit better. Owing in part to the almost complete death of swim caps, one-pieces make the wearer look less like someone wearing the skin of dead seals and more like someone making a bold fashion statement. Indeed, one-pieces can actually look sexier than their two-piece counterparts, often offering deeper plunges and more exposure of the glutes. Also, as seen in the picture above, they now come in colors other than navy and black, though it’s hard to say if those were the only colors available in the past considering the lack of colorized photographs at the time.
11. The 50s-inspired Bikini
Speaking of a time where men were exhausting and clueless, the 1950s brought us a mixed bag of sexiness. On the one hand, Frank Sinatra was one of the most attractive men in Hollywood. In better news, the bikinis were quite a site. So much so that the modern day has revived the style and brought the high-rise shorts of the sea back on to the scene. Seen here, the style is slightly more, how shall we say, form-fitting than its predecessors likely were. But the belly button disappearing-act is definitely still a factor and, in the theme of nostalgia that runs so rampant these days, swimsuits like these are flooding beaches all across the planet. We’re not complaining, of course, as with this style comes cheerful reminders of the beautiful women of old. Women who, arguably, etched the very definition of modern sex appeal into the warm beach rocks of the California coastline; women like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
10. The Sling Bikini
And then, there are those who want to draw all of the attention to their belly buttons. Why? Maybe they have particularly aesthetically-pleasing belly buttons, as seen above. Or maybe it’s the cleavage. Regardless, the sling bikini looks good. Like, insanely good. With strategically exposed skin, it leaves little to the imagination while still remaining public beach-friendly. Perhaps the only downside of the sling bikini is the actual donning of the swimwear. How does one put this thing on? Do you step into it or slide it over your head? Undoubtedly it’s self-explanatory upon purchasing one, but just looking at this contraption conjures up hours of struggling in a hotel bathroom while your friends tap their feet outside, wondering if you slipped and broke your neck on the bathtub. Which, depending on how you try and put this bikini on, is entirely possible.
9. Mesh Detailed
If the cutout bikini is what happens when you give a one-piece swimsuit to a child, then the mesh detailed bikini is what happens when you give one to a senior fashion design student. In other words, it’s a tad experimental. Maintaining the soul of the one-piece while giving a conspicuous nudge and wink to the cutout, the mesh detailed bikini is the prudish mother’s nightmare. While technically all-encompassing in its coverage, mesh detailing gives the viewer a sneak peek at what lies underneath, with sheer fabric woven into the suit. Forget exposure of the belly button, as the mesh detailing often does its best to just barely skirt around some of the less-publicly-accepted parts of the human anatomy. As you can see, this particular suit is teetering on the line between PG-13 and R, and most definitely causing every adolescent boy (or girl) within a hundred mile radius to break a sweat.
8. The String Bikini
On the topic of delicately walking the line between run-of-the-mill and jaw-dropping, the string bikini of the 1970s was a dramatic departure from the modest swimsuits that preceded it. Electing to liberate their hips, women began eschewing the extra fabric popular in the 40s and 50s and, instead, decided that string would be quite enough to hold their bikinis in place. And they were right. The string bikini can be seen on almost every beach in America these days and, chances are, if you saw one you probably wouldn’t bat an eyelash at it. But that’s because you’ve had decades of getting used to them. The world in the 1970s was a contentious one and with hippies growing their hair out and feminists burning their bras, all the establishment needed was another blow to the collective American morality. Luckily, sexier hips prevailed and the string bikini remained a fixture on the beach scene, ushering in a new age of prepubescent drooling young men and women.
7. The Fringe Top
Whoever designed the fringe top bikini must have been an interesting person to say the least. After all, it’s really just a bikini with added fringe. Hence the name. It neither detracts nor adds anything to the experience, but instead just adds more fabric, an odd concept in an age where increasingly less fabric is the norm. And yet, it looks damn good. Why it does is anyone’s guess. Though, surely, someone skilled in the art of aesthetics has a notion as to why. This is not a list for that sort of deduction, however. This is about admiring the attractive nature of bikinis over time, and fringe certainly has a vaunted place in that history. Ok, wait. Perhaps it’s the likeness to tassels? One theory is that it resembles the hippie-era dresses and fringe cowboy outfits that defined the perpetually sexy 60s. Honestly, we’re just happy to have them, regardless of reason.
6. The Triangl Bikini
The Triangl bikini, on the other hand, needs no explanation for its sex appeal. More like a half top, does an excellent job of drawing attention to the wearer’s assets. Whether it also assists in the process of making them look better is up to you. But there’s no doubt that Triangl’s bikini is meant for the buxom, intent on showing off. Then again, what bikini isn’t meant for showing off? The design is aided here by the black trim, a slimming color that further brings out the pastel colors of the suit. Pastel, by the way, also makes certain things look better. Hint, hint. But the question one should be asking themselves throughout this entire list: Do all of these bikinis look good because they’re being worn by insanely attractive people to begin with? Probably.
5. The V-Shaped High Rises of the 1980s
The 1980s was a weird time, man. Cocaine and Ronald Reagan reigned supreme and sex wasn’t just accepted, but outright demanded. Gone were the milquetoast sensibilities of the 1940s and 1950s. Instead, we had a world that worshipped at the altar of exposed ribs and numb noses. And somehow we also arrived at the v-shaped bikini bottoms. Pretty much the equivalent of taking the high-rise bikini bottoms of the 1950s and shaving off anything that covered the hips (or bellybutton), the v-shaped bikini bottom was an odd choice of fashion in a time where odd choices in fashion were the norm. One might even argue that they don’t look sexy and, instead, confusing. But one would be discounting the notions of attractiveness from the 1980s. Also, they’re not a bad way to show off the ole derriere.
4. 1980s High Rise One-Piece
Seen here being worn by 1980s darling, Morgan Fairchild, the high rise one piece was another head-scratcher from the 80s. Presumably a variation of the aforementioned high rise bottoms, this outfit opts for the least amount of coverage really available at the time, resulting in some serious side-boob and, one supposes, the beginning of the trend of shaving below the belt. Otherwise, the beach experience would be a tad hairier. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but the people, while clearly open-minded to some degree, probably weren’t ready to accept big hair down there quite yet. Regardless, this may be the most 1980s picture in existence, with a 1980s television star wearing a decidedly 1980s swimsuit that is, and this is the kicker, freaking leopard print. One wonders when that will come back into style.
3. Bikinis With Zippers
Because everything else (pants, shirts, jackets, gloves, maybe socks?) has zippers, why not bikinis? Let’s dispense with the easy “hur hur hur easy access” joke and be done with it. Mainly because it presumes every woman wearing a zippered bikini is looking for some neanderthal with a trumped-up notion of his own humor to unzip her. Keep dreaming, fellas. Otherwise, though, this bikini is absolutely worthy of adoration. Mainly because it offers a customizable level of cleavage, suitable for the office pool party (is this a thing?) and a bachelorette party in Vegas. This is, however, another one of those confusing suits that begs the question of how one gets in and out of it. If the zipper went all the way down, perhaps it would be more obvious. But it ends right above the waistline, raising a whole other set of questions along the way.
2. The Spider Bottom
Full disclosure: the name of this particular bikini is probably not The Spider Bottom. But lacking another name for it and noticing its particular resemblance to the Spiderman logo, we decided to go with Spider Bottom for ease of communication. That being said, whatever this thing is, it looks good, yo. Really covering just about as much as typical bikinis do (where it counts, anyways) it still manages to look enticing and sexy. It might have something to do with the cheek-flashing nature of the back of this bikini, but it’s also just the attention it draws to the hips. Rather than go with one strap on either side, this eight-stringed bikini gives the hips a more teasing nature and does particularly well for wearers with wider hips. Presumably, that is. Having never worn one, this is purely conjecture.
1. The Push-Up Bikini Top
The true friend to all supermodels, the push-up bikini top is the uniting garb for anyone who finds looking at women in bikinis to be enjoyable (despite how dirty you may feel). It has a very clear and very simple directive: make boobs look bigger. Even when men know it’s the top doing the work, it has an effect. Because it’s magical. Sure, there’s all sorts of complex technology and foam padding and whatever going on underneath the thin layer of fabric, but all of that gets thrown to the curb when these are seen on the beach. Boom, just like that. Freakin’ magic. Gnomes maybe? Did elves make these bikinis in a secret tree somewhere? There’s not much else to be said about the push-up top, as it requires no introduction nor any form of marketing. It speaks for itself and, when worn, speaks for you too.