Wednesday, September 9, 2015
The very mention of the term skinny-dipping immediately conjures up images of boys and men, stripping off their clothing in a mad rush to head into a body of water and frolic about splashing water over themselves and their buddies. Without a care in the world nor one piece of clothing on their bodies, they dive and create mayhem together while enjoying the warm rays of sunshine that cover their nakedness and afford them the freedom of the summertime.
As in the above photograph, there is some mystical attraction between bare men and the water, especially during the height of the summer season. Once the clothes come off, there is an inexplicable force of nature that works as a magnet to draw naked men to the aquatic shores.
This ritual, as old as mankind itself, is repeated over and over throughout the world every summer season. What this means is that some men are always stripping to swim every day, somewhere on this planet we all call home.
Skinny-dipping is a fairly recent term used to describe the act of swimming nude/naked. Originally, it was primarily a colloquial phrase used in the USA Deep South region to mean swimming completely clothes-free. It didn't gain widespread usage throughout the USA until after the massive mobilization of American men to fight on two battlefronts during World War II. By the time of the surrender of Japan, most Americans understood exactly what skinny-dipping meant.
Prior to World War II, swimming was almost universally understood to be an activity/sport that was always performed in the nude. From the earliest of times, both men and women engaged in swimming in segregated spaces and times and almost always clothes-free. It wasn't until midway through the Victorian period in Great Britain that women began using loose-fitting gowns for swimming while men and boys always swam naked. This was common everywhere.
Swimming suits for men didn't appear until the latter years of Victoria's reign. The first male swimsuit, created in the 1890's, was made of wool, which became heavy when wet. For most men at the time, the weight alone proved unacceptable and the cost of the garment was prohibitive to all except the wealthy. The vast majority of the middle and lower classes of people continued to swim naked, or skinny-dip.
"The Swimming Hole" Thomas Eikins, artist, 1885
Because of the predominately agricultural and rural nature of most societies, natural bodies of water was the location of most swimming opportunities for the world's populations. In the few industrialized cities, the expense of public bath-houses was restricted to only a few. Most bath-houses were segregated by gender and the heavy woolen fabric used in male swimsuits continued to encourage most men to practice nude swimming.
The growth of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and that organizations establishment of athletic facilities brought to the middle classes the idea of large indoor pools for year-around swimming. Well into the 20th century, YMCA's maintained a strict policy of mandatory naked swimming in all of their local affiliates. It wasn't until the 1960's when the YMCA's began to admit women that swimsuits became the norm for swimming. Up until the early 1970's, YMCA's continued to host advertised "skinny-dip" swims for male members only and their male guests.
The expansion of the middle classes didn't occur universally until the manufacturing growth caused by World War II in most countries. The war production led to the rapid growth of synthetic fabrics and this in turn introduced affordable male swimsuits for virtually all men everywhere. As a result of the availability of swimming attire and the accessibility to indoor pools, the widespread custom of skinny-dipping began to decline in popular culture.
However, skinny-dipping or naked swimming never disappeared from popular culture. The naturist/nudist community kept the spirit alive within the clothes-free culture and the renaissance of that movement following World War II fostered a renewed interest in the creation of areas where skinny-dipping or naked swimming can occur legally and without stigma.
The social nudity experience has led to the popularity of nude beaches, resorts and to the number of clothing-optional sites. This growth has helped to maintain an affordability to skinny-dipping or naked swimming and in some ways to respectability. The very fact that one has merely engaged in a skinny-dipping experience no longer has the marginalization or judgment attached as it once did.
As more people are discovering the joys of swimming naked, the demand has grown and more resorts and indoor pools are offering guests opportunities to enjoy themselves while completely bare. In the past decade, there has been a rapid growth in same gender loving oriented destinations providing optional nudity experiences for patrons as many more travellers are opting to "go bare."
For many teens and young adults today, skinny-dipping is often considered a rite-of-passage action where the young people begin to assert their independence of adult supervision. They're at last able to enjoy swimming without parental chaperone's and can at last experience the joys of skinny-dipping with their comrades and even spending the entire afternoon hanging out without wearing one iota of clothing. For most, this experience provides the epitome of the phrase, "the carefree days of summer."
A number of social nudists have attributed adolescent and/or young adult skinny-dipping as their initiation into their world of social nudity. This is as true for same gender loving social nudists as it is for the heterosexual. Most adolescents are extremely body-conscious as they begin to experience puberty and the accompanying physical development. If they are able to achieve enough confidence to skinny-dip among their peers and others during this developmental period, the chances are likely that they will continue to practice some form of social nudity later in life, even if it just occasional visits to a clothing-optional beach.
It's never too late to try skinny-dipping. There are a few more weeks of summer left here in the Northern Hemisphere. Have fun!
Peace! Get naked. Enjoy!
Bare With Pride