Suit up: For Swimsuit Issue’s 50th anniversary, we consider pop culture’s top swimsuits
It started in 1964 as a way to hopefully boost readership during winter months when the sporting calendar slowed.
The football season was done. Baseball season hadn’t started. And basketball? Well, it wasn’t as popular at the professional level, so Andre Laguerre, Sports Illustrated magazine’s editor, decided to put a bikini-clad woman on the cover and several inside pages.
On Jan. 20, 1964, SI’s first “Swimsuit Issue” was released.
During the past 50 years, the Swimsuit Issue has been transformed from a small supplement to a stand-alone issue with numerous female models — sometimes athletes — wearing swimsuits, or parts of swimsuits, in a growing number of exotic locales such as French Polynesia, Brazil, Namibia and even Antarctica.
In honor of the Swimsuit Issue — an issue consistently met with mixed reactions — and its anniversary edition set to come out on Feb. 11, we compiled a list of some top swimsuits in pop culture history.
Besides, it’s mid-January, which is about the time people dream of swimsuit weather, anyway.
Wearing a white bikini with a large diving knife on her hip, Honey Ryder (actress Ursula Andress) emerged from the Caribbean Sea in the 1962 film “Dr. No” to the surprise and delight of James Bond, and the concept of the “Bond Girl” was born.
All smiles and curly blond hair, Farrah Fawcett wore a red one-piece in a 1976 poster that sold millions of copies and helped propel Fawcett to stardom in, among other things, TV show “Charlie’s Angels.”
As a dog pulled the swimsuit bottoms off a pig-tailed little girl on the beach, an iconic character was discovered for Coppertone sunscreen in 1953. The Coppertone girl became a symbol for sun protection thanks to that one image of her exposed little cheeks.
Actress Annette Funicello, the original Disney star, appeared in 1963’s “Beach Party,” wearing a modest a two-piece suit, and, according to a photo of her on Shape.com, made “the bikini seem wholesome.”
Any swimsuit that competitive swimmer, model and actress Esther Williams wore was iconic. Nicknamed “America’s Mermaid,” she made synchronized swimming popular in film in the 1940s and ‘50s. There’s a line of vintage swimsuit styles for sale at esther-williams.com.
The red one-piece swimsuit signature to the TV series “Baywatch” was recognized worldwide, particularly anytime actress Pamela Anderson ran along the beach. “Baywatch” episodes originally aired from 1989 through 2001, in various forms.
STARS AND STRIPES
U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz posed for a poster shortly after the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany, wearing nothing but his seven gold medals and the stars-and-stripes Speedo he wore en route to winning the most gold medals anyone at that time had ever won during a single Olympics.
Truthfully, the color and style wasn’t all that vibrant, but the nude-colored, one-piece suit actress Bo Derek wore in the 1979 film “10” certainly turned heads, particularly when pared with cornrow braids and a slow motion beach jog.
The “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was just a song, but when Brian Hyland sang it in 1960, it went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart at a time when bikinis weren’t yet mainstream in the United States.
French actress, singer and model Brigitte Bardot left an impression on fashion, most notably for her bikinis in the 1952 film “The Girl in The Bikini” and 1956 film “...And God Created Woman,” as the two-piece suits were more popular in France than this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Who knew wet animal skin “clothes” would become so popular? But actress Raquel Welch’s skimpy bikini from the 1966 film “One Million Years B.C.” has remained one of the most iconic swimsuits of the past 50 years.
Although actress Marilyn Monroe’s most famous image arguably is the one of her standing in a white dress over a subway grating, her swimsuit photos have remained memorable as well, particularly the 1949 photo of her in a one-piece white swimsuit or the 1951 picture of her in a polka-dot bikini.
The 2005 movie “Into the Blue” wasn’t a box-office smash, but the promotional posters featuring actress Jessica Alba in a mismatched bikini may have given swimsuit buyers permission to purchase tops that didn’t necessarily match the bottoms, which remains a popular way to wear bikinis today.
And last, but certainly not least,
Betty Grable’s iconic bathing suit poster that highlighted her famously long legs made her the top pin-up girl of the World War II era.
In the 1943 poster, Grable wore a one-piece swimsuit that was simplistic and modest by most standards as stood with her back to the camera and looked over her right shoulder.