The REAL Anniversary
I saw a flurry of online articles, posts and news stories regarding something that seems to have happened on July 4, (I didn’t catch precisely what it was) but it is dismaying that so few outlets are covering the real anniversary of note, which is July 5. It was on this date, 62 years ago, that Louis Reard unveiled the bikini. (Inventor credit also goes to another Frenchman, Jacques Heim. This earth shattering event took place at a swimming pool in Paris, France called the Piscine Molotor, and it quickly turned the world on its ear.
The modern term “bikini” for a particular bathing suit design was first used by Heim and Reard (who were, in reality, the re-inventors of the bikini). Heim was a couturier designer from Cannes, France, who had designed a very small bathing suit called the “Atome” (french for atom). He hired a skywriting plane to advertise his design by skywriting “Atome — the world’s smallest bathing suit” Three weeks later, Reard, a mechanical engineer, had another skywriting plane write “Bikini — smaller than the smallest bathing suit in the world.”
There was controversy aplenty, and nobody in the United States would even wear the revealing garment at first. (It was later adopted by a couple of movie stars, and then its popularity took off here in America.) Reard stirred things up even more with his choice of name, which he later indicated was inspired by the testing of the nuclear bomb at the Bikini Atoll. This was thought by some people (primarly, I assume, married women) to be in bad taste.
Earlier versions of such attire were more commonly referred to as “bathing costumes” and were far less revealing. While they clearly achieved the desired goal of modesty and social propriety, they were somewhat lacking in efficiency. Some styles had multiple layers of highly absorptive fabric which would quickly become waterlogged and threaten to send the wearer to the bottom of the pool. But, be it for safety reasons or aesthetics, we were well rid of them.
So, take a moment to put down your sparklers, fire crackers and bottle rockets and give a warm salute to the real holiday of this season. Long live the bikini. (NOTE: Bikinis, just as with thongs, are a privilege, not a right. Consult your doctor and the standard Body Mass Index chart before wearing one of these items out in public.)