The Bikini Turns 50

I don't know about you, but when I think of international conflict—particularly this time of year, when things get as hot as the inside of a mushroom cloud—I dream of bikini.

No other swimwear item—not the oversized belt, not the cocktail ring, not the leather flip-flops—has the bikini's special brand of history.

In fact, this year is the 50th anniversary of the Bravo Hydrogen Bomb Test, when the U.S. dropped what was then the most explosive bomb ever on Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. U.S. pilots trained their bombsights on the little isle, then let fly. And the bomb exploded, blowing a huge radioactive crater the size of the Bisbee copper mine into Bikini's beach.

Fortunately, the Bikinians had all been told to leave before this happened, but the U.S. was nice enough to let them go back for a while in the late '70s, after we'd determined their island was less radioactive than Three Mile Island. And when they started getting radiation poisoning, we were nice enough to move them out again.

But I digress. This is supposed to be an article about swimwear, and there's lots new in bikini land this year, particularly in Southern California, the bikini's adopted home since we nuked its old one.

Booty-cut bottoms are superhot, local swimwear sellers say.

"They're shorter than the boy-cut shorts," said Lyndsey Brusewitz of Diane's Swimwear in Huntington Beach, three doors from the surf. The booty-cut, she said, is midway between a standard bikini bottom (where Spongebob lives) and the boy-cut short, which is like form-fitting boxer shorts you can swim in without giving the fish a show.

"They've been selling really well 'cause they're really flattering," Brusewitz said. "And they've been doing a lot of mixing and matching—solid top with a printed bottom." Trend ahoy!

All the bikini buyers this summer seem to be Democrats, Brusewitz said—which is encouraging as heck when you realize there's an election in six months and some Democrats are actually stimulating the economy, not just talking about it.

Wondering how reclaiming the economy as a campaign plank is working for the Democrats, I asked Brusewitz: Who'd be more likely to breeze into Diane's and grab a thong off the rack, the thong being, possibly, the bikini's ultimate expression—Democrat or Republican?

"Oh, my word. Christine? Who do you think buys more thongs?" she said, turning to a fellow clerk with the kind of quick wit we demand of our sources.

"Democrats" was Christine's answer.

Which means Republicans would wear those itchy, wool, one-piece suits, I guessed. Brusewitz said I was right; she didn't even have to ask Christine.

"Um, [they'd probably wear] a one-piece, or more like a tank top and shorts," Brusewitz said. "Something more conservative."

 
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