Friday, June 8, 2012

And You Don't Even Want To Wear Pants In This Heat

You know how in old-timey novels people are always fainting all the time? Well when you see what people used to wear to the beach, it's not exactly surprising. This is Sunnyside in about 1914 or so, back when people were very clearly out of their minds. In the early 1900s, it wasn't just considered improper to show a little bit of skin at the beach in Toronto. It was totally illegal. A law passed in 1904 said that only people "wearing a proper bathing dress, covering the body from the neck to the knees may bathe at any time in the public waters within the city limits." And while people did try to fudge it a bit, if they fudged it too far they would run afoul of the Toronto Police Morality Department. (Yup, that was a thing.)

It wasn't until the 1930s that things loosened up a bit. But only a bit. The law was changed to say a bathing suit was required to "prevent indecent exposure", but no one was quite sure what that meant. The Morality Department and even the Mayor took it to mean that men had to wear tops. Hundreds of "filthy" "ape-men" were arrested for taking off their shirts at the beach, sparking legal and political battles over what exactly people were and were not allowed not to wear. (Kevin Plummer's got the lowdown over at Torontoist here.)

By 1953, a teenaged Brigitte Bardot was wearing a bikini on the beach in Cannes and things were about to get a whoooooooooole lot less stuffy. Fifty years after that, Toronto would get our very first nude beach. Hanlan's Point was officially declared "clothing optional" in 2002.

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