A VIEW FROM

Campaign Middle East - - RADIO GUIDE -

In 1946, the US tested the first peace­time atomic bomb. They chose a de­serted atoll in the Pa­cific. Two French de­sign­ers thought this was a great op­por­tu­nity to launch their new two-piece bathing cos­tumes.

Jacques Heim and Louis Réard both came up with the same idea, sep­a­rately.

Un­til then, swim­suits had been one piece, never dar­ing to ex­pose a lady’s midriff.

Do­ing so would be such a shock, such a scan­dal, it would cause an im­pact like the US’s atom bomb test.

Heim got in first – he called his swim­suit the “atome” be­cause it was tiny and it would cause shock­waves.

All the ex­perts said it was the bet­ter name, it was a no-brainer.

The only choice Réard had left was the name of the place where the ex­plo­sion hap­pened.

It was on a small atoll, a la­goon, which was called “Is­land of Co­conuts” in the lo­cal Ebon lan­guage.

Co­conut was “pikki” and is­land was “ni”, so the Atoll was named Pikki-ni. For sim­plic­ity, the Amer­i­cans just called it Bikini atoll. So Réard called his bathing suit the “bikini”. And amaz­ingly it stuck. Be­cause ev­ery­one thought the “bi” meant two and “kini” meant teeny-weeny.

So “bikini” must mean teeny-weeny two-piece swim­suit. No-one re­mem­bered it came from Pikki-ni. And sur­pris­ingly no-one re­mem­bered the other swim­suit name: the “atome”.

The one that all the ex­perts thought was the far bet­ter name.

But mar­ket­ing isn’t about what ex­perts think, it’s about what or­di­nary peo­ple think.

Réard then mar­keted his swim­suit as the tini­est, with the line: “It’s not a gen­uine bikini un­less you can pass it through a wed­ding ring.”

It was so shock­ingly skimpy he couldn’t even find a pro­fes­sional model to pose in it.

He had to hire a dancer, Miche­line Bernar­dini, to be pho­tographed wear­ing it.

Such a gar­ment hor­ri­fied the au­thor­i­ties, es­pe­cially in the US.

In Hol­ly­wood, biki­nis had to have a huge top half and a huge bot­tom half – in fact, they were shown in films with just a two-inch gap be­tween the top and bot­tom.

The idea of show­ing a woman’s belly but­ton was just too shock­ing, verg­ing on ob­scen­ity.

Even in Beach Blan­ket Bingo – the 1965 rock ’n roll surfer movie with Frankie Avalon and An­nette Fu­ni­cello – the bot­tom half of the bikini al­ways had to cover her navel.

But de­spite the au­thor­i­ties’ out­rage, biki­nis did be­come skimpier and skimpier.

Ex­perts will tell you this was be­cause men de­manded women dress that way.

Ac­tu­ally the re­verse is true – it wasn’t any­thing to do with men, it was women who wanted it.

Women didn’t want a two-inch band of tanned f lesh just around their mid­dle, they wanted a nice even tan all over.

And they didn’t care if it meant show­ing their belly but­tons.

Be­cause the bikini wasn’t ac­tu­ally a swim­ming cos­tume at all.

The bikini was a new kind of gar­ment, much bet­ter for women to sun­bathe in.

The proof of this was that 80 per cent of biki­nis never went in the water. Which is some­thing else the ex­perts got wrong. But ex­perts don’t care what ac­tu­ally hap­pened. They have to pre­tend to know what the pub­lic is go­ing to think in fu­ture.

So they rein­vent the past, or the fu­ture, based on what they know about the pre­sent.

Sur­pris­ingly, the thing ex­perts re­ally are ex­pert at is find­ing peo­ple to pay for their opin­ion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.