Established practice[ edit ] Bathing by both sexes together had occurred since time immemorial and is documented in neolithic cave drawings and Roman mosaics and frescos. When working people started visiting the coast to be 'dipped' for health or to 'bathe' for leisure cannot be determined but had been happening for 'some time' in Bathing in the sea by the lower classes was noted in Southampton by Thomas Gray in , and in Exmouth by shoals of Exeter damsels in unsufferable undress in He became interested in the curative properties of the waters and he wrote A discourse of Bathe, and the hot waters there.
Also, Some Enquiries into the Nature of the water in This brought the health-giving properties of the hot mineral waters to the attention of the aristocracy. Treatment was received in the nude.
Until the s nude female bathing in the spas was the norm and only after that restrictions were imposed. As time progressed the resorts had to address two questions; was it right that men and women bathed together, and was it right that clothes should be worn. Establishments sought to impose dress codes.
Each town was free to make its own laws , and some chose to. For example, the Bath Corporation official bathing dress code of prohibited men and women to swim nude either in the day or in the night. Bath's specific rules were prescribed as follows: It is Ordered Established and Decreed by this Corporation that no Male person above the age of ten years shall at any time hereafter go into any Bath or Baths within this City by day or by night without a Pair of Drawers and a Waistcoat on their bodies.
No Female person shall at any time hereafter go into a Bath or Baths within this City by day or by night without a decent Shift on their bodies. Sea bathing resorts[ edit ] In the early s, fashionable sea bathing initially followed the inland health seeking tradition. At English resorts such as Scarborough and Whitby , natural springs emerged from the cliffs allowing fresh water to be ingested and cold dip in the sea.
Women and girls were encouraged to dip wearing loose clothing. Scarborough was the first resort to provide bathing machines for changing. Some men extended this to swimming in the sea and by it was seen at Brighton and Margate , and later at Deal , Eastbourne and Portsmouth. Working people also started to visit the coast to be dipped or bathe.
In , Walton records a man from Crosby having his daughters dipped in the sea to cure a skin complaint. The genteel classes were bathing for health from using bathing machines, the men and boys swam naked while the girls and women dipped alongside them.
The rise of the influence of Christian Evangelicals caused arrangements for mixed bathing to be reassessed. Moral pressures forced some town councils to establish zones for the women and men to bathe separately. A half-hearted attempt was made to suggest to men that torso-suits would be fashionable, but this was resisted by genteel swimmers who believed that torso-suits restricted the contact between the skin and the saltwater.
Mixed bathing was a popular activity for families, who would take their custom to the next resort along the coast if mixed bathing was forbidden. Even then there were many who protested against them and wanted to remain in the nude. Francis Kilvert , an English nude swimmer, quoted by Cinder described men's bathing suits coming into use in the s as "a pair of very short red and white striped drawers".
Excerpts from Kilvert's diary show the transition in the England of the s from an acceptance of nude bathing to the acceptance of bathing suits. Kilvert describes "a delicious feeling of freedom in stripping in the open air and running down naked to the sea.
In Cosmopolitan reported: Commercial pressure defeated the moral pressures. Sea bathing had ceased to be done for health reasons, and was done overwhelmingly for pleasure. As the segregated beaches in town disappeared, bathing costumes for men became part of the commercial package, and nude bathing ceased. The introduction of mixed bathing throughout Europe and elsewhere certainly created pressure towards bathing costumes being worn by both genders. However, well into the latter days of the Victorian Era, whereas all females were routinely wearing modest bathing attire, many boys well into their teens in Victorian England, even when in a mixed gender setting, were still swimming and playing at the beach resorts completely naked.
An article published on August 23, in the Syracuse Sunday Herald suggests naked boys of up to 15 years in age were problematic for American parents with daughters, and read: A 'Bewildered American' writes to the London Standard that he can't take his little girl to play in the sand at a British seaside resort without her being surrounded by crowds of naked boys.
An English friend told him that they let their daughters play with naked boys of ten years of age, but draw the line at fifteen. In France discreet nude bathing for both sexes remained acceptable anywhere along the coast or on river banks apart from those in the town or village centres. In Germany, provision for nude swimming is made in major city centre parks such as the English Garden in Munich. The Dixon, Illinois Evening Telegraph published a request: From the town council promulgated measures to control swimming hours, apparel and especially separate swimming areas for men and women.
These regulations were too conservative and constraining for the taste of the residents of this coastal town and for several decades they were the subject of legal battles, or were simply ignored. The dispute was finally settled in when mixed bathing was permitted with the proviso that both men and women should wear suitable swimming costumes. The YMCA was responsible for providing swimming classes to countless numbers of American boys and teenagers.
This included swimming in indoor pools. Swimming trunks were not permitted in their pools. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin in , the Recreation Department reported that youngsters had attended an day swimming course where the boys were unhampered by bathing suits.
In Portland, Ohio in , all boys and girls wore torso swimming costumes. The problem was that woollen bathing suits were unhealthy and harboured the cholera bacteria and typhus bacteria which infected the water in the pool. Both the cholera and the typhus diseases could be fatal. As a precaution, the pool was completely drained every 10 days. In , sand filtration was introduced which reduced the number of bacteria present, but the safest way was not to wear woollen suits, and this approach was endorsed by the American Public Health Association APHA.
American high school and junior high school swimming in many states had policies that followed APHA guidelines. The guideline were published every three years, and from until every edition recommended nude swimming. In other states, all boys and girls bathed in clothes. The Administration of Health and Physical Recreation training manual stated, "Nude bathing for boys is practiced universally, in a few schools girls may swim nude and this is the most sanitary method. The Detroit public schools briefly allowed nude female swimming in ; this policy was revoked after three weeks due to protests from parents.
A simple test was devised in which made chlorination practical. World War II delayed its introduction until the early s. The October 16, Life magazine had a large illustration of boys swimming together in the indoor pool of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois , and the caption did not mention they were naked. During the s, as baby boomers were entering high school, there was a growing backlash against enforced nude male swimming and by the s, it had largely been phased out along with gender integration of pools.
Male students protested the double standard of being required to go nude due to wool lint from swimwear clogging pool filters when it did not appear to cause a problem with girls' swim costumes.
In any case, rising living standards post-World War II created a greater desire for privacy. In some English schools, Manchester Grammar School for example, nude swimming was compulsory until the s. It was discontinued when it started admitting girls.
John Torney in his article on Swimming and Lifesaving programs for summer camps wrote that boys and girls enjoy the thrill of swimming nude and costumes can be discarded for a night swim.
In the United States, states, counties and municipalities may enact their own dress codes, and many have. According to an Australian magazine, "In the early s, women were expected to wear cumbersome dress and pantaloon combinations when swimming. In , at the height of her popularity, Annette Kellerman was arrested on Revere Beach, Massachusetts, for indecency — she was wearing one of her fitted one-piece costumes.
The United States protested that the event was "obscene" and refused to send a female swim team to the Olympics.
Eventually an American women's swim team participated in the Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. However, in some places even that type of swimming is prohibited by law. There is no federal law against nudity.
However, under a provision called concurrent jurisdiction , federal park rangers may enforce state and local laws, or invite local authorities to do so. Today, many swimmers in the United States confine nude swimming to private situations due to concerns about attitudes to public nudity. Modern prevalence[ edit ] In many countries today nude swimming mostly takes place at nude beaches, naturist facilities, private swimming pools, or secluded or segregated public swimming areas.
Some Western countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, have no laws prohibiting nude swimming in public areas, but some countries around the world strictly enforce various laws against public nudity , including nude swimming.
Some jurisdictions which maintain laws against public nudity may turn a blind eye to incidents of skinny dipping depending on the circumstances, as police officers on the spot decline to make arrests. Skinny-dippers generally deal with this by keeping an eye out for local patrols, who generally do not go out of their way to find violators, as long as it is not flagrant.
In Germany nude bathing is more widespread than many other countries.