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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

July 5, 1946

Are you ready for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline?  Believe me, I've got a topic that is sure to make all of you take notice for the summer - especially if you happen to be a male with ogling eyes.  Or, if you're a female with ogling eyes, that's okay too!

For now, let's see what sorts of things took place on July 5 throughout history, shall we?

1687 - The Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is published by Isaac Newton

1811 - Venezuela declares its independence from Spain

1814 - American Major General Jacob Brown defeats British General Phineas Riall in Chippewa, Ontario

1884 - Germany takes possession of Cameroon

1915 - The Liberty Bell leaves Philadelphia by special train on its way to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

1928 - Actor Warren Oates (d. 1982) is born in Depoy, Kentucky

1934 - Several striking longshoremen in San Francisco, California are shot at by police

1935 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act into law

1937 - SPAM, the canned luncheon meat, is first sold in stores

1940 - Diplomatic relations are broken between Vichy France and the United Kingdom during World War II

1943 - The Battle of Kursk takes place

1954 - Elvis Presley records his very first single "That's All Right"

1962 - Algeria declares its independence from France

1971 - President Richard Nixon passes a bill which lowers the voting age of American citizens from 21 to 18 years of age

1975 - Tennis player Arthur Ashe becomes the first African-American man to win at Wimbledon

1980 - Bjorn Borg becomes the first player to win Wimbledon for five straight years (1976-1980)

1989 - Oliver North is sentenced to a suspended prison term of three years, two years probation, twelve hundred hours of community service, and a $150,000 fine for his role in the Iran-Contra affair

1996 - A sheep named Dolly becomes the first mammal cloned from an adult cell

2002 - Baseball player Ted Williams dies at the age of 83

2006 - Actress Amzie Strickland passes away at the age of 87

2012 - London's "The Shard" building becomes Europe's tallest building, standing at 1,020 feet tall

And join me in wishing the following famous faces a happy birthday; Katherine Helmond, Shirley Knight, Robbie Robertson, Paul Smith, Huey Lewis, Goose Gossage, Jimmy Crespo, Patsy Pease, Doug Wilson, Bill Watterson, Marc Cohn, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Edie Falco, Susannah Doyle, Kenji Ito, Kip Gamblin, Rufus Arthur "Bizarre" Johnson, Pauly D, Jason Wade, Tess Holliday, Stephanie McIntosh, and Jason Dolley.

Okay, so how far are we going back in time this week?  Well, for some reason I feel like going back quite a way back.  Like, maybe six or seven decades in the past.

How about July 5, 1946?  That sounds like a delightful date.

And no matter what year it says on the calendar, July 5th could very well be a great day to spend at the beach.  Just think about it.  You're packing a picnic lunch, spending the day with the person you care about the most in the world.  The waves are crashing along the beach.  You can hear people laughing and having fun in the background.  And unless you are on a nude beach for whatever reason, you've probably got on a bathing suit.

When it came down to men's bathing suits, we started off with one piece suits that sort of looked like a union suit.  From there, they turned into topless suits with just the swim shorts.  For a brief period in the 1960s to the early 1980s, men wore Speedo swimsuits, but somehow the thought of swimming in a garment that covered less than our underwear didn't quite appeal to most men, so by 2016, most of us guys seem to have adopted the baggy trunk style of suit.

For women, their bathing attire was even more conservative, with some of the earliest looking swimsuits almost looking as if someone was marching in an Easter parade!  Sure, the bonnets, stockings, and dress design looked cute, but it was far from practical.  Later swimsuit designs for women looked a lot like the men's swimsuits from the early 20th century, but they still didn't show a whole lot of skin - which according to most people in those days was perfectly fine as too much exposed skin was considered taboo.

Well, it was 70 years ago in Paris, France that one man decided to destroy that taboo, and came up with a design for a women's swimsuit that broke all boundaries and made the uber-conservative population gasp in horror.

The man was Parisian engineer Louis Reard.  And his design was a little - and I do mean little - swimsuit that he christened the bikini.

Yes, it was seventy years ago today that the bikini was first worn by nude dancer Micheline Bernardini on July 5, 1946.  The origin of the name "bikini" stemmed from the place where the atomic bomb was first tested - Bikini Atoll. 

Interestingly enough, the bikini wasn't the first two-piece women's swimsuit to be released right around that time.  French fashion designer Jacques Heim had released his own depiction of the bikini - only he referred to his creation as the Atome - named after the smallest particle of matter.  Both the atome and the bikini were similar in creation as well as appearance, but with one minor detail.  The atome covered the belly button.  The bikini did not.  And given that Barbara Eden's navel courted a lot of controversy when "I Dream of Jeannie" first started airing in the 1960s, you can imagine the outcry when the bikini first made its appearance.

But you know, crimes against modesty aside (well, at least that was the charge that mobs of people protested against when the bikini was introduced), the bikini was actually a clever, economical way to manufacture swimwear during the fabric shortage caused by World War II.  Because sales of swimwear decreased as a result of the shortage, it was necessary to create a garment that still did what it was supposed to do, but with much less fabric. 

And although the atome initially outsold the bikini when it was first introduced, the changing tide of what was considered acceptable was starting to emerge as the turbulent 1960s made their debut.  By 1970, the bikini was very much considered a staple for beachwear, and by 1988, the bikini was considered the most popular style for female swimsuits.  And with famous faces such as Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot began wearing bikinis in various films, bikinis certainly found their audience.  Women loved wearing them, and men loved to see women wearing them!

But of course, it did take time for the general public to warm up to them.  For a while, the bikini was only successful in France - mainly because some countries actually banned them from their own beaches!  At some point, the French Atlantic coastline, Spain, Australia, Italy, and Portugal all banned the controversial swimsuit from public beaches!  Obviously, those bans have all been lifted by now.  And I suppose a part of it could be linked to the feminist movement of the 1970s. 

I mean, think about it.  Up until that point, women were more or less forced to dress a certain way, act a certain way, work in certain jobs.  But once the feminist revolution kicked into high gear, a lot of those barriers were smashed into tiny pieces.  And while some might argue that the bikini swimsuit set the women's movement back several years and doesn't garner wearers of the swimsuit with any respect, I would argue that the bikini was a symbolic piece of clothing that allowed women to be free to wear whatever they wanted and not be judged for it. 

And let's face it...bikinis allow for much greater and faster movement in the water than those big and bulky swimsuit dresses of the early 20th century!

Though, I have to admit - while I do find bikinis sexy on women, I find one-piece swimsuits to be even sexier.  Maybe it's the number of episodes of "Baywatch" that I watched in my teen years talking, but the right cut of a one-piece suit can make any guy's heart drool.

As for thanks.  I look terrible in bikini bottoms.

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