Your one stop bikini guide

It’s that time again, folks. Time to suspend your body from the ceiling and pull your butt upward to touch the gravity boots. Remember to breathe deeply as you whittle away the fat so you can squeeze into last year’s bathing suit—the one you had to blow the dust off when you finally found it at the bottom of the drawer.

In time you will learn to love the burn, as extra weight from all that beer or junk food evaporates from your pores, dancing into the atmosphere like an invisible cellulite circus of balloon-popping clowns.

Or maybe that’s just me having flashbacks again. You see, I’m currently in training for that ever-elusive two-pack stomach because, don’t laugh, I’m considering purchasing my first adult male bikini. You heard me.

When I visited the Greek Isles a few years ago, I discovered that most guys outside the United States wear only bikini-style suits—the kind I haven’t owned since I was a kid on a swim team and it made sense to knock a few seconds off my time.

After puberty, most guys I know abandoned the use of “nut-huggers,” or whatever slang for male bikinis your high school favored—banana slings, monkey holsters, weenie wraps, fruit rollups, dong sarongs, porta-peckers, the list goes on in the teenage joke pantheon.

So why aren’t male bikinis more popular on American beaches (not counting Miami or Key West)? Plenty of females trot out bikini styles ranging from the traditional string to the illegal-in-some-states butt-floss thong known for its famed disappearing capability.

Maybe the low profile of male bikinis has something to do with a gesture of privacy between heterosexual males, the “don’t ask don’t tell” credo that values non-disclosure of male dimensions. Or like the ‘70s sentiment, “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

Whatever the case, teenagers find them hilarious. Male bikinis conjure images of oil-slicked Guidos with glistening gold chains enmeshed in their chest hair—a poor man’s Tom Selleck snoozing on the beach with a Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa hard-on in front of a group of giggling passersby.

Unfortunately, this piece isn’t about Guido erotica or my personal quest for the perfect Speedo. Sorry to disappoint, but this is a local bikini guide that caters primarily to the only demographic I could find that would accompany me on such a mission. College girls gone wild!

Or more specifically, my neighbor Angelina gone wild. A young woman who prides herself on staying fit year-round, she agreed to be our model because she wanted a few photos for her acting résumé ("You’re going to see me on TV one day,” she told me). Note to Baywatch producers out there: Rev up the wack-o-meter and let’s see how she spins!

IF YOU GOT IT, FLAUNT IT Friendly neighbor “Angelina” tries on several tie-side suits at The Rainforest, one of several stops on the Rev. Gus Wagster’s local bikini guide tour.

Photo by Tom Angel

Now, I can already hear the other voices—"women (like men) come in all shapes and sizes.” But of course. Although the model for this piece may be of the “smaller” variety, I tried to include valuable information for bikini shoppers of all dimensions. So read on, if you dare, about the wonderful world of bikinis though the fascinating information I’ve compiled for this local swimwear report by visiting three popular local stores.

Oh, and if you ever happen to catch me sporting my own Speedo, perhaps in the process of dismounting a wild black stallion on the red beach of Santorini, shower me with flower petals and whistle like you mean it.

Our first stop finds us at The Rainforest store downtown, an eclectic little shop that offers everything from new-age knickknacks to bathing suits, women’s club wear, shoes, skateboards, porn rentals and a smoke shop. Everything the growing young adult needs.

A decorated thatch “swimsuit hut” sits in a corner, with a medium-size selection of different women’s bikinis hanging on the inside walls.

“They have a nice selection of cuts here,” Angelina tells me, pointing at the Brazilian cut, the full-bottoms and tie-sides from companies like Sassafras, Girlstar and Jelly swimwear while noting a nearby selection of $14.95 sarongs.

She informs me that there is no one particular style in fashion this summer and that everything from floral prints to solids will work. I notice that some of the other bathing suits have little foam breast cups in attached baggies to help artificially fill the tops for certain women. I can’t help wondering if I have ever mistaken a detached, waterlogged one of these for a jellyfish.

“The traditional string bikinis usually fit the best,” Angelina says, although she admits that precaution must be used when frolicking.

Women who may have difficulty filling out the form-fitting tops can also look for a more tightly constructed suit that functions as a bra, a sales clerk informs me—like an under-wire set-up.

As I look around the store, I don’t see too many male bathing suits, a trend I notice at several local shops. Sure, there are a few long-cut (surfer style) board suits on sale, but most of them have some large flashy logo that turns you into a walking advertisement (a personal pet peeve). Of course, I don’t see any male bikinis. Damn.

Another downtown stop is Beach It!, an 8-year old store devoted to the beach lifestyle in general, as the name implies. Friendly owner Debbie LaPlant says the motto here is “everything but the water,” meaning you can pick up not only your swimwear, but also any accessories you might need, from sunglasses to hats and sunscreen.

“We carry suits from pre-teen to size 22,” she tells me from inside the colorful store, which features men’s suits in front (mostly board shots, Quicksilver and Billabong for example), while women’s wear fills the rest of the store. LaPlant seems especially proud of the junior market (high school through college) items that she explains can be hard to find.

HAVING A BALL Angelina goes for the sporty look in a solid-colored bikini accessorized by the “let’s play” enhancement of a brightly colored beach ball.

Photo by Tom Angel

Light sundresses hang nearby, alongside shoes, bags, pretty much anything you need for your trip to the beach. The shop carries bathing suits year-round, so if you’re going on a vacation in December you can still find a new suit; it also carries winter wear in the off-season.

LaPlant tells me that triangle top bikinis, the “itsy-bitsy” ones that hang everywhere around us, are selling well this summer—in addition to the patriotic colors of red, white and blue.

“There’s also a lot of embellishments coming into style,” she explains, pointing to the wooden ring adorning a nearby bikini top. “Basically they can be anything from rings to beads … anything added to the suit for more flare or style.”

I am beginning to picture my own personalized bikini: jet-black mesh held together on the sides by weathered, plastic shower curtain rings. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out.

And, for a final bathing suit stop, let’s try Weekend Wearhouse, located in the Chico Mall next to Sears. This is store that carries only women’s suits and that also offers the option of mix-and-match tops and bottoms.

“We have by far the biggest selection in town,” says manager Amy Wolfe. “Our staff is friendly and will take the time to help each individual out, which a lot of people need.”

Wolfe says bikini shopping for women can be an ordeal, since most people are either self-conscious or just unsure what to purchase. The store carries a wide variety of brands, from Rampage and Playboy to Lucky swimwear, while tops run from itsy to back-breaking F-size and bottoms run from extra small to size 18. Like the other merchants, Wolfe says tight triangle tops and tie-side bottoms have been big sellers so far this year. Prices for the suits range from $45 to $90, with an average purchase of about $60.

“We always get a lot of shoppers before big weekends like Labor Day or Memorial Day. … Tubers always come in at the last minute,” she says.

What about shady reverends looking for black-mesh male bikinis—surely they come in a lot, right? OK, I’ll leave now.

Of course, there are many other local stores that carry bathing suits, and it would be hard to list them all here. Perhaps the News & Review will one day submit to my idea for a special issue on bikinis, but until then all you need to do is find your own style, get out there, show some flesh and soak up the sun until you shrivel like a raisin!

No matter what kind of body you have, remember everybody is unique, and bikinis just accentuate the differences! For those too ashamed to mess with bikinis, think about this: With future gene technology, one day physical imperfections may become the new beauty standards by virtue of their singularity. Weirder things have happened.

Otherwise, when you bust out the bikini this summer, let the glorious, eye-winged beauty of the flashing peacock be your inspiration.

And, as the song goes, “Bounce wit’ me, bounce wit’ me. C’mon, bounce wit’ me!”

Summer scoops