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Did You Know? No speedos. No trunks. Only birthday suits allowed!

Submitted by Victoria Mugambi on April 24, 2017 – 1:00 pmNo Comment

It’s almost that magical time of the year everyone. The heat is stealthily rolling in, ice cream trucks are coming out of their garages, and the smell of sunscreen is creeping up our nostrils. Yup, I’m talking about summer. With freedom of no homework and plenty of down time for Netflix binges, summer brings promises of fun and relaxation. And what can be more relaxing than a nice dip in the cold pool on a hot summer afternoon? But, until recently, those cold dips were extra refreshing for all-boys swimming pools.

Believe it or not, it used to be a requirement that boys swimming in public pools had to be completely nude. But as crazy as it sounds, it originated under rational circumstances. The first recreational indoor pool was opened in 1885, and featured low-grade filtration systems. At the time, men’s swim bottoms were made out of wool, so often fibers from the suits would clog the filters. As a result, the birthday suit was enforced in order to keep the filters from breaking.

By the 1920′s, men’s swimwear had advanced and were made of more comfortable fabrics such as stretchy jersey. However, the practice of going ‘Au naturale’ had stuck, and was now attributed to being more sanitary.

Nowadays, we have chlorine that keeps public pools clean, but in the 20′s chlorine wasn’t in use for pools. So in order to keep the pools “sanitary” the American Public Health Association, or APHA, published guidelines for ‘public pool management in 1926. This included recommending that males shower with soap prior to entering the pool, then swim completely nude.

In order to keep these pools as clean as possible, many places also required a physical examination before boys could enter the water. This was conducted in order to ensure that the males were completely clean, and had no venereal disease or open wounds.

Surprisingly, the guidelines remained in the APHA guidebook until 1962, and were only removed after there was an increase in the number of kids swimming in chlorinated city pools. However, the guidelines were still used in YMCA’s and Boys Clubs across the country for several years afterwards.

As shocking as this is for us today, back then it was perfectly normal behavior for boys to swim nude. The societal norms surrounding nudity and men was very nonchalance. In fact, an issue of LIFE magazine from 1941 featured a half-page photo of nude teenage boys showering in a locker room.

Thankfully men are required to cover up in most public swim areas (excluding nude beaches), and nude swimming is a thing of the past. It is, however, a strange, and often over-looked, part of history that was once a completely normal part of life.

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