International voters nominated actress Raquel Welch for ‘world’s best bikini body.’ The results were published as part of International Bikini Day festivities. As the name suggests, this is a day to revel in the two-piece bathing suit created by Louis Réard in 1946. Its popularity exploded in the 1960s and has since become part of world culture. Its lesser cousin, the Facekini, does not have the same pedigree or universal appeal.
For those viewing the Facekini for the first time, a common reaction is to ask why a Lucha libre wrestler is splashing around in the ocean. Think of the Facekini as a ski mask, or baklava, for the water. Debuting in 2004, the masks are popular throughout China. Commonly seen in cities along China’s east coast, the attire is most prevalent in Qingdao, where the face covering was invented. Made out of the same material as bathing suits, the fashion accessory has become widely adopted by middle age women. Some individuals have even gone so far as to accessorize the Facekini with full body swimwear, making them look like they’re more ready to invade a country than enjoy a day on the beach.
As weird as their appearance is, the Facekini provides substantial health benefits. For those worried about sunburns, the material provides protection equivalent to sunscreen with 50 SPF. Additionally, the headwear protects against jellyfish stings. This is particularly important, as the waters off China’s coast have some of the highest jellyfish concentrations in the world. The coverings were originally handmade. However, mass production now allows for worldwide distribution. Even in temperatures approaching 34 C (94 F), the stretchy, breathable material prevents the wearer from overheating.
Despite their extensive popularity in China, efforts to market the product in other sunny locations have failed. So far, the company has targeted Miami; Los Angeles; Cap d’Antibes; and Bondi Beach. In all likelihood, someone in the Facekini sales department probably lost their job for selecting those vacation markets. Nothing about those locations screams ‘put on more clothes.’
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