RSS
Why Barneys style guru Simon Doonan wants you to overcome your aversion to the Speedo
And why you probably never will
Sadly, far too few Americans have the bodies to really pull off such a skimpy suit.
Sadly, far too few Americans have the bodies to really pull off such a skimpy suit. Al Bello/Getty Images
F

or many American men, donning a skimpy bathing suit — the dreaded mankini — is not an option. "There are some things I absolutely know at my core would be a bad thing," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has trimmed down recently with the help of belly-band surgery, quipped recently. "Me in a Speedo is one of them."

Enter Simon Doonan. In an essay at Slate, the Barneys style guru urges guys to get over their Freudian fear of putting their manly attributes on display. "Embrace a little European savoir-faire," and start wearing Speedos to the beach instead of billowy board shorts, he says.

At times, it appears almost as if Doonan's argument is a bit tongue in cheek. Like when he says his reason for making the plea is concern for the American male's safety:

Dudes are getting waterlogged, and dudes are sinking. In the course of my far-from-extensive research, I spoke to legendary West Coast swimwear magnate Mr. Turk. He shares my conviction that "board-shorts aficionados are drowning because their swimsuits are so voluminous." A California lifeguard pal of Turk's has been obliged, on more than one occasion, "to pull guys out of the surf because they get tangled up in huge baggy shorts." [Read Doonan's entire article at Slate.]

Doonan says that American men, perhaps due to their Puritan heritage, "gird up their loins" protectively, "while sinewy Spaniards, hard-body Greeks, bronzed Aussies, diverse Latin Americans, and pale squishy Brits take a reverse approach. These fellows prefer to wear swimsuits that say, 'In case you wondered, I am the proud possessor of male genitalia, and in case you don't believe me, here it is!" He asks: "Are most American dudes simply too fat to wear a Speedo?"

Judging from the visceral reaction from commenters on his post, some people think the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Rebecca Adams at The Huffington Post notes, however, that, while American men do appear to have an aversion to what Doonan calls "sassier swimwear," they're not alone. "Even refined men across the pond sometimes shudder at the thought of wearing the revealing bottoms. When Prince Charles was asked to don a Speedo during his recent tour through the Pacific, he explained that he had to 'hit the treadmill first.' But hey, Italian men don't seem to mind them."

Guys were not the only ones who cringed at the thought that some male beachgoers might follow Doonan's advice. "Many women also expressed distaste towards the Speedo style — despite Mr. Doonan deeming the cut 'fun' and 'sassy,'" says Sadie Whitelocks at Britain's Daily Mail. "One wrote on Slate: 'Oh, dear god, I hope to high heaven that American men DON'T embrace the Speedo anytime soon."

The Slate commenter said that "only a tiny fraction of the men who are even willing to go out on the beach or pool deck in any kind of swim wear have the physique to carry off this look." If that's the reason American guys avoid Speedos, maybe in the interest of promoting a healthier attitude toward body image, people should be taking Doonan's playful pitch a bit more seriously.

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week