In many part of the world Speedos are now regarded as a bit of a joke or at least out dated – in France they are compulsory.
The skimpy male swimwear item – also known as a budgie-smuggler or a banana-hammock – has been out of fashion for many years in other countries, but in France they are not just popular but compulsory in some places. If you want to swim in a municipal pool you need to follow strict guidelines on dress. For men this means Speedos – baggy swim shorts or trunks are not allowed.
Men and women must also wear a bonnet be bain (swimming cap) except if one is totally bald!
More controversially, women must wear either a standard one-piece swimsuit or a bikini – the full-body ‘burkini’ swimsuit favoured by many Muslim women (as well as non-Muslim women who are not comfortable with revealing swimwear) is not allowed.
The above rules apply only to local-authority run pools, private pools can set their own rules while beaches allow a variety of different clothing.
So what is the obsession with Speedos in the pool?
The French pools guide lists ‘hygiene and public welfare’ as the reason for the strict guidelines on appropriate poolwear.
When it comes to male attire, the guide explains:
It’s a question of hygiene. Swimming trunks, as well as Bermuda shorts or boardshorts, can be worn all day long. The main reason for banning this type of clothing is to reduce pollution of the pools in order to preserve the quality of the water.
Moreover, long shorts are loose fitting and often have pockets. When swimming, it is possible to forget to remove objects such as tissues from the pockets. These objects have no business being in the pool and can end up floating on the surface of the water – ugh!
There is a little flexibility here though, as well as the classic ‘budgie smuggler’ Speedo, Speedo shorts are also permitted as long as they are tight fitting and these are much more popular with younger Frenchmen (and my beloved husband).
Hygiene is also given as the reason for compulsory swimming caps – they prevent hair shedding into the pool where it pollutes the water and clogs up the filters.
It’s worth pointing out that these rules do not apply on the beach, though, so men can cover up in baggy shorts while women can do as they please too.