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FINA and the Speedo LZR Racer: slippery suit, slippery slope

July 27, 2009 |  6:44 pm


It appears that FINA, the international governing body of swimming, has finally realized what the fashion world has known since the first caveman had the hem on his saber-tooth tiger skins taken up so he could quickly leap for the nearest antelope unencumbered. What you put on your body is sometimes as important as what you put in your body.

On Friday, FINA issued a fashion edict of sorts, banning the type of full-body swimsuits that include some styles of Speedo’s LZR Racer, which some think give competitive swimmers an unfair edge because they use NASA-developed technology to decrease friction. Michael Phelps wore one to break records at the Beijing Olympics.

To add insult to style injury, FINA stipulates that men’s suits are to extend no more than knee to waist and women’s suits from shoulder to knee. (Heaven forbid anyone dare make the humble patella the slightest bit more aerodynamic.) The best part is the requirement that swimsuits be made only from “textiles.” No longer can a mediocre swimmer rely on swim trunks crafted from the souls of sea anemones or butterfly wings dipped in polyurethane.

Christian-bale-batman Let’s face it, Phelps is a bong-smoking human dolphin who could probably have won the same medals wearing one of those metal-helmeted atmospheric diving suits, but now that the door seems wide open on banning “performance-enhancing” apparel, where will the fashion police turn next?

Batman, Turn in Your Tights The next logical step is getting Batman, Spider-Man and their costume-clad ilk to turn in their tights. It’s far too easy to strike fear into the hearts of criminals when you’re sporting Underoos and a pair of bat ears. A true crime fighter should be able to clean up Gotham wearing an Ed Hardy “Love Kills Slowly” foil-screen T-shirt, True Religion Big Stitch jeans and a scowl.

Spanx? No Thanx! While we’re at it, why not go ahead and outlaw Spanx at the same time? This line of slimming, smoothing undergarments is designed to swathe a variety of body areas and includes an insidious secret weapon: the Hide & Sleek full body suit. Spanx is used by women the world over for one reason and one reason only: to gain competitive advantage over their less svelte-seeming sisters in the battle to attract the attentions of men. Let’s level the playing field by letting it all hang out. (Obviously the same goes for the various assortment of man-Spanx on the market – but is a woman really going to be fooled by the fake six-pack abs offered by Equmen, the man girdle flying off the shelves at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Alexander mcqueen cod piece Trash the “Tummy Tuck” Jeans Less obvious than the full-body Ace bandages above, and therefore perhaps even more dangerous, jeans that offer to lift and shape that generous figure into something a bit less so, would certainly qualify. One popular brand trumpets it thusly at its website: “Not Your Daughter’s Jeans are here to flatten your tummy, lift your butt and allow you to wear one size smaller.” In the fight for the scarce natural resources that are loving, supportive, appearance-obsessed life-partners, there is no better competitive advantage than looking like you’re wearing your daughter's jeans.

KO the Codpiece
It might not have been in vogue since Shakespeare (or in “Vogue” since the last fashion issue) but it bears mentioning that the full-frontal fakery that is the codpiece (essentially an athletic cup minus the athletics) would be a verboten accessory under FINA’s reasoning. Anyone who scoffs at the idea of the codpiece as performance-enhancing apparel probably hasn’t seen the legendary Tom Jones in concert. (You didn’t think all those ladies were howling to hear “What’s New Pussycat?” did you?)

From here it’s not much of a leap to the banning of underwire bras, belts, high-heel shoes and power ties. Start banning clothing that gives any kind of competitive edge and the slippery suit leads down a slippery slope to the point that we could all be right back to wearing saber-tooth skins and chasing antelope again.

And then we’d have to deal with PETA.

-- Adam Tschorn

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Photos: Top, Michael Phelps begins the first leg of the 800 freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympics. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times. Center, Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight."  Credit: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros. Bottom, a codpiece-wearing model at Alexander McQueen's Fall 2009 fashion show in Milan. Credit: Peter Stigter