Boxers or briefs?
May 7, 2007 12:32 PM   Subscribe

What's up with Europe and their aversion to swimming trunks?

In doing some research on bathing suits, I've found several sites that mention in France, Germany and other European countries men must wear Speedo or brief-style swim suits in public pools. Trunks (boxer shorts-style) are prohibited for "hygienic reasons." What is unhygienic about swim trunks? Oh, and why does France require even bald men to wear bathing caps?
posted by Oriole Adams to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah erm, is this a joke?

I've never heard of any such thing in the UK or in Spain - I'm very much a big-baggy-swimming-shorts kinda guy myself and live in the UK and holiday in Spain frequently.
posted by dcbarker at 12:45 PM on May 7, 2007

It'd be helpful if you provided a link to one of these several sites.
posted by vacapinta at 12:53 PM on May 7, 2007

It isn't a joke. I was told the goal was to prevent people from swimming in the shorts they've been wearing all day. The rule applies all year round, to shorts you would obviously not wear outside, nothing would stop you from wearing speedos all day, and some enlightened swimming pools just don't care, so I'm not sure the explanation holds water.

Bald men and caps, this I just don't know.
posted by stereo at 12:55 PM on May 7, 2007

No, this is not a joke, I've heard it too. While in France, I stayed at a campground with a pool, which had a posted sign very clearly outlawing trunks for hygenic reasons. I wore my trunks anyway, since it was all I had, and I was not the only one. I wonder if it is perhaps a thing of the past.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:57 PM on May 7, 2007

To answer your broader question of what "hygenic reasons" might arise:

In North America as well as many other places, those who maintain pools seem to seek to avoid, as much as possible, having any hair get loose in the pool and its filters. Loose shorts, especially if they lack a lining, are thought to let more hair escape than tighter swimsuits would allow. I have been at pools in various places where anyone wearing boxer-type suits has to flip down the waistband a little to show that there is a lining.

More philosophically, it would seem to make sense for people, regardless of gender, to wear Speedo-type suits since these are optimized for moving through water. It likewise makes sense for anyone, regardless of gender, to wear something looser and less revealing if he or she feels more comfortable that way.
posted by sueinnyc at 1:01 PM on May 7, 2007

Several years ago I went to a public pool in France and was forced to wear a speedo; they were horrified by my boxer style swimsuit. It can't be about hygiene because they gave me someone elses used speedo!
I say its because they are ignorant superstitious idiots--just like the rest of us.
posted by Osmanthus at 1:10 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've never heard of it in Germany. I'm not saying it isn't the case in some places, but I've been to a few Freib├Ąder and I have always worn Grade A USA-style trunks. The Speedo style is quite popular though.
posted by chillmost at 1:19 PM on May 7, 2007

Maybe it's the fashion police reacting to American male bathing suits.

When I see a man wearing a Speedo at the beach I have to or european?
posted by MtDewd at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2007

No, not a joke. Sorry if it's a stupid question, but I thought it might make for an interesting factoid if true.

"Slip de bain obligatoire, shorts interdits" ("swimming briefs required, no shorts allowed").,36577.html
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:36 PM on May 7, 2007

I always thought the french-campground-american-swimsuit-ban was kind of cute. Seeing as package-revealing male swimsuits are effectively, culturally banned in the US, it's no surprise the opposite in true in some French pools.

And damn, that rule of showing a mesh lining is the worst of all worlds. I usually wear a little maillot under short, meshless boarding shorts and it's a real hoot displaying and explaining the various layers to suspicious NYC parks personnel. Meanwhile, obese children are permitted to wear white tees in the pool. Vive l'amerique!
posted by Doctor Barnett at 1:40 PM on May 7, 2007

Here in Brooklyn, in the good ole USA, at the giant public pool in Red Hook, you must have a swim suit with a lining and you must show it at the door. I'm guessing it is to cut down any hair or other such stuff that might float off yer twigs and berries were it not for the bikini-type lining. So, it ain't just Europe.
posted by spicynuts at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2007

I worked at a tourist hotel in Europe, and I have seen firsthand that the fur from a procession of Mediterranean ball sacs will clog pool filters in a little over a day. Speedos retain more detritus.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:08 PM on May 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

Mayor Curly: That was eponysterical, and completely uncalled for. I'll not be able to get that mental picture out for ages now :(
posted by Chunder at 2:11 PM on May 7, 2007

Mayor Curly: A funny but disturbing thought
posted by cgfoz at 2:22 PM on May 7, 2007

Oh, I should also add to my earlier comment that I was travelling with a couple of Swiss guys who also had only trunks with them, and were also somewhat perplexed by the rule. Maybe it really is a Mediterranean thing? Though this particular campground was in the north of France. I too am quite interested in the historical origins of this rule.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:42 PM on May 7, 2007

Thanks for the enlightenment, sueinnyc and Mayor Curly; seems reasonable to me. And I have been forced to wear a rental "speedo" (although I thought of it as a bikini bottom) in a Hungarian bath that was supposedly a textile-free zone, according the quidebooks, but now some covering is required (I'm guessing due to in-water homosexual behavior, which was still ongoing, according to my observation).

What I want to know is ('specially given the regulations mentioned above) why approved boxer-style swimming trunks with linings have become so rare stateside, at least in the stores where I'm shopping.
posted by Rash at 2:47 PM on May 7, 2007

Perhaps American-style swimming trunks are so rare, that the ban on trunks is really just a broad interpretation of a rule banning swimming in regular shorts or boxers?
posted by kickingtheground at 2:54 PM on May 7, 2007

I lived in Germany and went to our (inexplicably huge) small-town swimming place pretty often. Nobody wore speedos for regular swimming (swimming laps), but the cool kids did when doing timed trials (it does make a big difference, drag-wise). If you'd rather wear trunks, maybe bring both and only use the speedo as a backup. FWIW, I always wore trunks, and nobody batted an eye.
posted by !Jim at 3:49 PM on May 7, 2007

Well, when it comes to Italian tourists, I don't know that mere swim trunks alone would help with that whole hair thing. Just sayin'.

I keeeeeeeeeeed.

posted by miss lynnster at 3:53 PM on May 7, 2007

Selon Curley le Maire:
Quand dans l'Europe, Honorez votre Balzacs!
posted by rob511 at 4:00 PM on May 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Shorts in general are fairly rare, at least among Southern/Latin Europeans, except for sports; I never saw an Italian man wearing shorts except when he was playing soccer. There was definitely a sense that shorts = exercise gear, that they had a very specific purpose and were considered gauche outside that context.

I would think that pool authorities might therefore look on someone wearing swim trunks in the pool in the same way we'd look at a guy wearing basketball shorts and a jersey in the pool or a woman wearing a sports bra and yoga pants in the pool. It would feel like they were wearing gym clothes, and I suspect we'd instinctively think of it as unhygenic.
posted by occhiblu at 4:35 PM on May 7, 2007

why are swimming trunks less likely to have a lining?

elementary: The rise in popularity of Board Shorts. Surfers don't wear trunks with a lining for a myriad of reasons, and the board shorts have become increasingly more "hip" to wear instead of the looser gathered waist swimming trunks (which ARE likely to have a lining.)
posted by othersomethings at 5:02 PM on May 7, 2007

I say screw the warnings, just swim in trunks. Speedos just look silly, even on guys with nice bodies.
posted by zardoz at 3:25 AM on May 8, 2007

Since I don't have a speedo compatible physique, I was greatly delighted when trunks become available and fashionable perhaps 18 to 20 years ago. I never saw a sign nor was I required to wear speedo type swimwear in any pool here in Germany. It's true though that speedos are quite normal an fashionable not only for professional swimmers.

I am now afraid to go to French pools.
posted by mmkhd at 8:25 AM on May 8, 2007

I attended a meeting in Padova, Italy some years ago. It was my first time in Italy. There were several thermal baths near the hotel. I was enjoying the scenery outside when someone blurted, "This sure is a great place to see fat German men in Speedos!" I'm still trying to get the image out of my mind :-)
posted by lukemeister at 9:12 PM on May 9, 2007

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