Did a Third Reich Photo Slip Into The Weather Channel’s Vintage Beachwear Slideshow?

Posted on June 21, 2013

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Happy Friday, all.  School’s out, summer has arrived with the Solstice, and it’s a perfect day to contemplate… the history of swimsuit fashions.  Check out more than 350 vintage beach photos in this slideshow at the Weather Channel online.

I am a little surprised by just how revealing those clingy wool knits could be on both men and women, but most specifically, I am wondering mightily at this photo (number 87 in the slideshow, if you’re looking for it).

Circa 1929: A group of teenagers enjoy a game of jump rope on the beach. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Circa 1929: A group of teenagers enjoy a game of jump rope on the beach. (General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

GString-croppedWhat has me wondering is the men, who – at second glance (okay, I have a wandering eye, sue me, I still have a pulse)- are dressed in teeny little g-strings hardly suitable even for today’s beaches, yet this photo is labeled “Circa 1929,” without any geographic location.  It seems a bit out of place!  You kind of want to get your dollar bills out, ya know?

Other beachgoing men of the 1920s and 1930s are dressed more like the guy in the photo below, from the same slideshow.  Some might dare to go bare-chested, but the teeny g-string to the right is not to be found in any of the other 350 photos.

Circa 1935: A male model poses wearing a swimsuit on a beach in Paris. (Luigi Diaz/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Circa 1935: A male model poses wearing a swimsuit on a beach in Paris. (Luigi Diaz/General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

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Not to mention that I suspect the woman’s bare-midriff suit on the left side of the photo was not introduced until around the mid-1930s

So what gives with this picture?  I have my suspicions!  I know I have seen this sort of incongruously vintage, buff, g-string-clad male form somewhere before… ah, yes.  Now I recall.

Let’s take a quick detour to Nazi Germany, where in 1936 Hans Surén’s handsome picture book Mensch und Sonne was published.  According to a researcher at Spiegel Online, the many photographs of naked or near-naked men and women frolicking outdoors might have been seen as a sort of precursor to the sexual revolution and “free body culture” of the 1960s, except that the accompanying text was blatantly racist and full of quotes attributed to Hitler, Goebbels and the like.  This makes the book come across as a sort of ode to the human body as a tool for breeding the perfect race.  The pictures have intrinsic artistry and merit, but the appeal of the book “couldn’t be saved” in the postwar era, according to Spiegel Online.

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From Hans Surén’s illustrated work “Mensch und Sonne,” 1936. I knew I had seen this naked-ubermensch look before…

Now, I don’t think the Weather Channel’s photo was lifted from Mensch und Sonne (the women are far too clothed), but other than Nazi Germany, I am unaware of any other early-20th-century setting where men frolicking outdoors in g-strings would be so seemingly acceptable.  So Lila’s conclusion is that the slideshow’s photo number 87 is less about beachwear and more about the Aryan physique.

But hey, it’s just a theory.  Anyone else out there know any more details about this?  It’s something to think about while you head for the beach this weekend!

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