Who are the  dapper gents in top hats and scandalous bathing shorts?

None other than some of the original members of The Brighton Swimming Club. This photo was taken circa 1863 by photographer Benjamin Botham.

Seems like the boys of Brighton have been stirring up a lot of conversation on the net, which seems quite remarkable for a one hundred and forty nine year old memory!

It’s remarkable that photographs like this have survived,  helping keep the past alive, and showing all of us here in the {PRESENT} the weird and wonderful moments of the past they don’t teach you in history class.

The Brighton Swim Club was established on May 4th, 1860, following a meeting of swimming enthusiasts at The Jolly Fisherman in Brighton’s Market Street. The members, all serious for the sport, were completely revolutionary to the strict mandates of Victorian dress codes often ditching their scanty shorts to swim the seas nude.

As noted in our story on Men’s Vintage Swimwear Styles, swimsuits were made of heavy cottons or wools and covered most of the body, making it highly uncomfortable and straining.

Due to public outrage over the sight of the naked male swimmers, authorities in Brighton would introduce regulations that insisted that men who wanted to swim on the main beach between the hours of 8 AM and 9PM, would have to wear a bathing costume to “preserve public decency”.

{The club’s  “two-dolphins” crest is embroidered on these suits – a symbol of the seaside town. This photo was taken outside their clubhouse at No. 231 King’s Road Arches on March 1881}

That’s where the calecons, a French creation, came into play allowing for the coverage authorities desired, and the lack of coverage desired by the club members. They were truly rebels of the waters, treading the fine lines of societal morality and the function they knew they (and WE) needed!

The Brighton Swimming Club is still alive and well today! The Swimming Club has gone through great efforts to keep their history in tact so all can see. Floating Memories is an archive dedicated to preserving and curating their collected history, and features a remarkable database of vintage clothing and lifestyle. Their Vimeo channel yields some true wonders!


If you enjoy the beach (I know you do), and vintage styles (I know you do too) be sure to check this out!

Thanks to Callum James for bringing this remarkable tradition to our attention. His blog Front Free Endpaper features many cool vintage treasures to adore. Also David Simkin, whose Sussex Photo History blog featured a brilliant page on The Brighton Swimming Club, including a detailed breakdown of that fantastic picture of the gentleman wearing top hats that’s been buzzing around the place!

Once again, history prevails and shows it’s not going away anytime soon. So have fun! Do what you want!

Hope you’re all having a great summer!

Sincerely,

{theEye}

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