Wednesday, December 28, 2011
In classical antiquity swimming and bathing was done nude, a practice that was common in natural settings until it was banned in England in 1860. To the extent that any single date can be assigned to a form of clothing, that was the beginning of the men's bathing suit.
Bathing suit wearers tend to fall into two categories. Competitive swimmers and those men who swim regularly for exercise usually swim indoors, in pools. The rest of us swim in the sun, at the sea shore or in lakes and other natural settings.
At this time of year, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing winter for a week in the sun, and when unprotected winter skin is exposed to the sun, a painful burn usually follows. Getting badly sunburnt on the first day of a sun and sand holiday can ruin the rest of a trip. Sunburn is one of those things that cannot be cured and has to be prevented.
Sunburn prevention is a combination of avoiding over-exposure, wearing sunscreen, and proper clothing. Swimming is best done in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not at its peak, and time in the sun should be limited. The tropical sun will burn unprotected skin in as little as an hour unless several days of careful limited exposure preceed full-on sun bathing.
Sunscreen also helps to prevent sunburn, however it cannot do the job on its own. Even the highest factor sun lotions only provide partial UV-protection, and none are suitable for two hours of exposure to strong sunlight. That said, they should be thoroughly applied on skin that will be exposed to the sun in or out of the water.
Dressing for the beach is the third leg of sunburn protection. Short sleeved polos may look appropriate with a bathing suit, but much better is a white, collared, long sleeved and baggy shirt, which is just as cool wearing but protects from the sun. The old, oversized Brooks Brothers oxford cloth shirts were perfect for the sunshine. Turn the collar upwards to shield the neck. And wear shoes, and a hat with a large brim.
In the photo, winter white skin and a Vilebrequin bathing suit. A tan has to start somewhere.