Sometimes, as a journalist, a topic comes across your desk that takes you outside your comfort zone. That was the case recently, when it was suggested that I write about the art of choosing a bikini for summertime in the Hamptons. My apprehension was soon assuaged, when a friend reminded me that many women’s clothing and shoe designers are actually men. So why couldn’t Mr. Sneiv offer some insight into the art of selecting the perfect bikini?
The bikini is perhaps the most popular form of swimwear around the world. It represents not just the power of fashion, but the power of women. Some believe it has represented the emancipation of women. The name “bikini” is credited to Louis Reared, who in 1946 named it after Bikini Atoll, where testing of the atomic bomb took place. But that was just a name.
Bikinis actually show up all the way back in the Greco Roman era, as depicted in mosaics.
In order to report accurately on the subject matter, I decided that I would have to experience first-hand what it’s like to actually wear a bikini. I started my research by going through the dresser drawers of my longtime companion, while she was out shopping at Citarella. Karen had numerous bikinis to choose from. I selected a black number. To my dismay, it didn’t fit. I was going to have to lose 75 pounds or continue my research without the benefit of actually knowing what it feels like to wear a bikini. So that was that.
The groundwork for the modern bikini was laid in 1907, when an Australian swimmer and performer named Annette Kellerman was arrested at a Boston beach for wearing a form- fitting one-piece bathing suit. By 1913, inspired by the introduction of women into Olympic swimming competition, Carl Jantzen made the first functional two-piece swimwear. By 1934 swimsuits starting hugging the body, and they began getting smaller, to enable better tanning.
Hollywood and the media helped fuel the evolution of the bikini. Remember the late 1970s and our very own East End’s Christie Brinkley on the cover of Sports Illustrated?
On many European beaches, it’s acceptable for women to do away with the top part of the bikini and wear just the bottom part. We see this every year in the Hamptons, when someone from Europe visits and is not aware of the protocol on the East End. This is one of the few benefits of being involved in Hamptons law enforcement during the summer.
In the case of going topless, it’s not a true bikini. It’s actually referred to as wearing a “monokini.” I’m not in favor of this for the Hamptons, because I grew up in a conservative household. Besides, it’s better if you leave something to the imagination.
Beachgoers are all familiar with the thong and G-string bikinis, but they may not be familiar with some of the other types, such as the “seekini” (see-through top and bottom), tankini (tank top and bikini bottom) and camikini (camisole top and bikini bottom). There’s also the hikini, but it’s more commonly found in the bedroom than at the beach.
Aside from this, there’s also an entire subclass of bikinis known as microkinis. There’s no need to describe these because the name is self-explanatory. As far as microkinis go, the more micro the bikini, the more attention the wearer is bound to garner.
And if all these options were not confusing enough, within the various bikini fashion lines there are also many different styles and cuts, such as halter, push-up, strapless, etc.
In my research I discovered one simple truth, and it’s that when it comes to selecting the perfect beach attire, it’s much simpler for a man than a woman. With so many options available, I sympathize with how difficult it must be for a woman to pick the perfect beach bikini. For men, the choices are limited and are only applicable to covering that which falls below the waistline.
Or so I thought. As I was seeking an ending to my bikini article, I came across a piece of research that I had previously overlooked. And it was about to change my life and probably that of most men on the East End. There is a bikini for men!
The Mankini, a 95% polyester and 5% Lycra suit was popularized by Sacha Baron Cohen, when he donned one in the popular movie Borat. It provides the support and comfort a man needs and at the same time affords similar benefits a woman gets when she wears a bikini. It may be the greatest beach invention for men since the introduction of electronic devices that accommodate remote sports viewing and the portable ice chest for beer.
Best of all, the Mankini is affordably priced. Online, they are available for less than $20. They come in a variety of colors, including my favorite: leopard print.
When mine arrived, I took it for a test spin around the neighborhood. I instantly knew it was a hit because every time I passed someone while I was wearing it, they started pointing and hollering. Some were even taking pictures.
How funny is this job of being a journalist? What started as an article on women’s bikinis will no doubt end up influencing an entire group of men on the East End, who will now be wearing the Mankini this summer.
Enjoy the season and I will see you on the beach! I’ll be the one wearing the leopard print.