During a speech at the British Museum in April, Prince Charles made some quips about his youngest son’s recent military posting to Australia. “I suspect my old Harry is pretty well acclimatised now,” said the royal heir, “and will probably be eating Lamingtons, Vegemite sandwiches, iced Vo-vo’s and violet crumble bars – and may even be threatening to buy a pair of ‘budgie smugglers!’”
Harry wouldn’t have been the first prince to don those legendary-for-all-the-wrong-reasons swimming trunks, with his older brother William already having been famously snapped in a pair during a university water-polo match. But it’s one thing to wear them for the purpose of streamlining during sporting endeavours, quite another to wear them in public for fun. Or worse still, fashion. Hilariously, one leading British theme park once even banned the controversial togs from their premises on the grounds of public decency. “Our waterpark team observed an increase in the number of men wearing tighter trunk style swimwear whilst enjoying the tropical temperatures at the Alton Towers Resort waterpark,” said sales and marketing director Morwenna Angove. “We feel this small brief style is not appropriate for a family venue so we are advising male bathers to wear more protective swimwear such as shorts.” Oddly, the company then went on to offer complimentary male waxing to, “preserve the dignity of all our guests.”
The trunks, also collectively known as ‘Speedos’ after the firm which first designed them, have long since been adopted by a range of other brands. One such company, also founded in Australia (where else), have whole-heartedly embraced the concept, actually calling themselves ‘Budgy Smuggler’ and producing a range of bedazzling beach briefs with hilarious titles such as Member’s End, Sugar Daddies and Ball Carriers.
There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.” – Roy Lester
Few other items of clothing attract such ridicule, yet astonishingly, also such respect. An international survey by travel firm Expedia found four out of five Aussies consider the tight togs to be perfectly acceptable beachwear attire (though, in their defence, only 20% admit to actually wearing them). Things are just as bad in Brazil where a jaw-dropping 86% favour the crotch-hugging trunks with positive responses in the likes of Germany, Austria and Spain too. New Zealanders, thankfully, seem to have a little more sense and modesty. Just 6% of men said they wore them on their previous beach holiday, though more than double that number, incidentally, opted to ditch the stitching altogether and go nude. So maybe not so modest after all.
Four years ago, however, there came a powerful, lone voice of reason. One brave man decided to take a stand against the Speedo saturation, to ensure that beaches could be, once more, a place to safely eat our lunch. His name is Roy Lester and he’s… an Australian. “I wore Speedos in my twenties,” he told the New York Daily News. “But come on! There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.” It didn’t end there. Lester took it to the courts. The experienced 57-year-old lifeguard, who could swim 100m of seawater in 75 seconds, sued the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation claiming that he lost a job as a Long Island lifesaver for refusing to wear the tight trunks for his annual ocean evaluation. “I could have passed that test in dungarees,” he continued. “At a certain point you have to stand up and say ‘this isn’t right’.”
Roy Lester, we at Verve, along with 94% of New Zealand men, salute you. We wish you a merry Christmas and a budgie-free New Year.
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces