Team budgie smuggler. Photo: Simon Alekna
If there is one issue that can divide men more effectively than a controversial football win or if manscaping is socially acceptable, it's whether a pair of Speedos is appropriate swimwear for the beach.
On one side you have the modesty-driven approach, which involves getting dragged through the water by a pair of oversized boardshorts from a major surf brand typically covered in garish neon graphics.
Then there's the more traditionalist approach that's more often associated with professional swimmers, the lifeguards of North Bondi and exhibitionist types.
The boardie brigade. Photo: Helen Nezdropa
I'll admit upfront that I am on Team Speedo. You know – dick stickers, c--k jocks, banana hammocks, lolly bags, sluggos or, more recently, budgie smugglers. The list goes on and rather accurately emphasises the fact that wearing them can leave little to the imagination and potentially resemble – as a friend so succinctly suggested – “cling wrap stretched across a meat tray”. But then again, so can bikinis, and not too many men are complaining about that.
So what's the real problem here?
Adam Linforth is the owner and self-titled “Chief Smuggler” of Australian swimwear label Budgy Smuggler, and a fellow self-confessed minimalist when it comes to a dip in the ocean.
He thinks that the prevalence of “boardies” on Australian beaches is a mixture of American culture and a remnant of those shy formative years that all boys tend to suffer through.
“Boardshorts are the worst idea to come out of the US since prohibition,” says Linforth. “Personally, as a lifesaver and surfboat rower, I've actually been largely unaware that 'smugglers' have ever been out of fashion. I did notice a lot of blokes switch to shorts around the age of 14, largely due to getting NRBs. Continuing to wear them is largely a legacy from this embarrassing teenager period.”
Much like Adam, I spent every afternoon and most Saturdays of my youth and teenage years in little more than a scrap of cloth and maybe a bathrobe between swimming races, thanks to my mother's insistence that I contribute something to the family trophy cabinet (apparently certificates for grammar and penmanship don't count in a house of athletes). So I guess you could say that I'm used to them as well.
But I also prefer them because they provide more freedom of movement when swimming, dry almost immediately, and I never have to worry about forgetting to take my wallet and phone out of my pockets before I rush into the surf.
Obviously not everyone feels the same. Take, for example, this exchange last weekend. I arrived with two mates at the beach for my first real swim of the season and as I dropped my shorts and turned to run, David Hasselhoff-style, into the water, they stopped and stared.
Friend One: “Are you really wearing those?”
Me: “Yes … is that a problem?”
Friend Two: “Well … there's nothing wrong with them. Just ...”
Friend One: “They're a bit much, aren't they?”
In retrospect, the fact my mate used the phrase “a bit much” to describe a minimal scrap of fabric could be considered ironic. But it does highlight that while men have no problem with teeny-tiny bikinis adorning the female figure, they aren't too keen on seeing similar amounts of their fellow man.
“Boardshorts are curtains of shame, as far I'm concerned,” says Linforth, who admittedly has some skin in this particular game – pardon the bad pun. “Seeing guys swim in them is like seeing a guy wear jeans to the gym – there's something just not right.”
Since I lack any sense of shame (and, apparently, decency), I intend to wear my navy blue dick daks for the rest of the summer because, as Lena Dunham told an interviewer who questioned her use of nudity in her scripts, “if you're not into me, that's your problem”.
Is the “budgie smuggler” appropriate swimwear for the beach?