AOL's Skirt Poll

:Yes, everyone should wear whatever they want. 37174  44% (Down from 46%)                                                                                   

:No, men should wear pants or shorts.  37262  39%  (Up from 34%)

:Only if they were very masculine-looking skirts.  13850  16%  (Down from 18%)

:Total votes 83786.

That means that 60% of those polled here would be for men wearing skirts, even if 16% would only want to see them in masculine skirts.  It's also still 51,024 people.

:Men:  Would you ever wear a skirt?

:No chance.  19106  36%  (Up from 32%)

:Maybe I'd don a kilt in Scotland.  18116  34%  (Down from 36%)

:Sure.  Women wear pants all the time.  10861  20%  (Down from 21%)

:I already do.  4799  9%  (Down from 10%)

:Total votes:  52882


That's 29% who have no problem with it, plus 34% who would consider a kilt in Scotland thus making the men who would consider the idea to be 63% of the males polled.  Also, that is 33,776 men of which already do wear skirts.

:Women:  What do you think of men in skirts?

:Kilts are great, but forget about the rest.  20757  32%  (Down from 35%)

:Makes no difference.  A good man is a good man.  17999  28%  (Down from 29%)

:It's just not attractive.  17108  26%  (Up from 22%)

:They're all very cool and very sexy.  7641  12%  (No change)

:Total votes:  63505

32% of them would like a man in a kilt.  40% who think it either doesn't matter or are into the idea.  That's 72% or 46,397 of the women who took that poll.

This is a considerable market.  29% of a million men is 290,000 men.  If we sell a skirt at $20 and each of these men bought one, it would be $5,800,00.00.  If they bought two it would be over 11 million dollars.  This will happen because there is no place else to go with male fashion.  Women turned it around many years ago and are better for it.



As a kid growing up on the beaches of Wollongong I was frequently told by my mother to rinse the sand out of my dps and hang them on the line. It was only later that I found out that this seemingly innocent word (pronounced dee pees) for swimming costume (the kind that Thorpie wore before donning the bodysuit) was an acronym for dick pointers . I also discovered that the acronym was almost exclusively used in Wollongong--confirming my growing belief that we speak a different dialect in that part of Oz. Further research revealed a plethora of Australian terms for this iconic article of men's beachwear, the numerous terms for which can only be compared with the Inuit's inventiveness in describing snow. But this should come as no surprise when we consider that most Australians live near and frequently visit the beach.

The evolution of the swimming costume from neck-to-knee to dps reflects a history of cultural attitudes to the body and to the beach in Australia. Thorpie's bodysuit or fastskin would probably have created less controversy in the first years of the twentieth century, when various state and council laws required swimmers to wear a costume that went from the neck to the knees. Other laws banned swimming at beaches between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. In 1911 the New South Wales Government set up a Committee on Surf-bathing, whose recommendations included making bathers choose the quickest route to and from the water, and creating sunbaking enclosures. One of the ordinances deriving from this committee became known as the 'mackintosh rule', which required bathers who had just left the water to wear an overcoat or mackintosh (L. Huntsman, Sand in our Souls, 2001). The mayors of Manly and Waverly councils provoked an outcry when their proposed regulations called for men to wear skirted costumes. A poem by Crow's Nest called 'The Skirt Scare at Manly', published in the Daily Telegraph on 27 September 1907, is only one of the many responses recorded in the local newspapers of the time:

In the land of Topsy Turvy

The Women are donning shirts

And the men in the seaside places

Have taken to wearing skirts.


Sing hey, for the whiskered women

In trailing skirts encased

Sing ho, for the dainty fellows

And clasp them round the waist.

After a large protest in Sydney that included male swimmers wearing ballet skirts, embroidered petticoats, and sarongs, the proposal for the swimming skirt was dropped.

When Australians did venture into the surf in these early years they had a number of Standard English words to describe what they wore. Words including costume, attire, gown, trunks, and suit were used in England and were often qualified by 'swimming' or 'bathing'--hence swimming costume, bathing attire, bathing costume, etc. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) provides evidence from the nineteenth century of words including 'costume', 'drawers', and 'trunks' that refer to a swimming costume. The evidence points to the growing use of the beach in England and also provides clues to the kind of clothes English bathers were wearing. The use of familiar clothing terms to describe the swimming costume was perfectly logical given that people often wore whatever could be adapted for the requirements of bathing and modesty. There were no standard costumes--what were undergarments one day could become a swimming costume the next. And due to the almost puritanical view of the body held by many people at the end of the nineteenth century, efforts to cover up the body could become quite ridiculous. A typical women's swimming costume from this time consisted of a full-skirted, knee-length dress, long bloomers, and stockings--a costume that could require up to nine metres of fabric (A. Joel, Best Dressed, 1984). Cultural attitudes to public bathing and the vocabulary used to describe experiences at the beach in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century were imported from England.

A growing interest in swimming in the early years of the twentieth century brought to public attention the issue of acceptable and non-acceptable swimming costumes in Australia. In the first decade of the century the Australian Annette Kellermann pioneered the brief one-piece swimming costume while performing high dives at the Melbourne Aquarium. She went on to make attempts at swimming the English Channel, performed vaudeville aquatic acts in Chicago, and was judged the 'perfect woman' out of ten thousand contestants in the USA. Everywhere Kellermann went her swimming costume attracted much attention and controversy. In 1907 she was arrested on a Boston beach for wearing a one-piece swimming costume. Another woman who became prominent in the one-piece swimming costume was Australia's first female Olympic gold medallist Fanny Durack. Before winning the hundred metres event at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, Durack had controversially flouted the New South Wales Ladies' Amateur Swimming Association's directives by working with lifesavers on the line and reel at Coogee beach. The association's president told the Sydney Sun :

We are essentially a clothes-wearing people. ... It is immodest for ladies to appear on open beaches amongst men in attire so scant that they would be ashamed to wear the same dress in their own drawing-rooms (as quoted in H. Gordon, Australia and the Olympic Games, 1994, p. 80).

The notoriety and publicity surrounding these celebrities and the influence of fashion led to calls in Australia for restrictions on public bathing. As we have already seen, a number of regulations were introduced before the First World War to discourage the wearing of immodest swimming costumes. Manufacturers of swimming costumes and costume patterns reinforced this conservative attitude; one common swimming costume was the Canadian costume . It consisted of a pair of woollen knickers extending halfway down the thighs and a sleeveless guernsey, usually in dark blue with white contrasting bands (A. Joel, Best Dressed, 1984). Both men and women wore this costume in the first decades of the twentieth century. At the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) we have evidence of the term Canadian bathing costume from 1914, but I have not yet determined if this word is Australian, or why 'Canadian' is used in this context. The multi-piece and two-piece costumes became less fashionable and by the 1920s David Jones was advertising the 'Orient One-piece Canadian Costume from ten shillings and six pence'. But while the less cumbersome one-piece swimming costume became more popular, there were many who believed that it was too revealing. A common practice of men before and after the First World War was to wear Vs over the costume. These were like an athlete or circus performer's trunks and, although worn ostensibly for decency, they only served to accentuate the male anatomy. The demand for a swimming costume that was prescribed by the authorities and that could stem the tide of experimentation laid the foundations for the neck-to-knee costume.

The first Australian word used for a swimming costume, neck-to-knee, indicates the competition between the forces of imported English culture and the newly emerging Australian culture. The Australian National Dictionary (AND) has evidence of neck-to-knee from 1910, although it cites a 1902 G overnment Gazette that says:

All people bathing in any waters exposed to view from any wharf, street, public place, or dwelling-house in the Municipal District of Manly, before the hour of 7.30 in the morning and after the hours of 8 o'clock in the evening, shall be attired in proper bathing costume covering the body from the neck to the knee.

Even with these restrictions an increasing number of Australians were going to the beach in the years leading up the First World War. In 1906 the first Surf Life Saving Club opened--in Bondi--with many others soon following. The increase in the number of Australians visiting the beach meant that the legal prescriptions regarding swimming were often challenged and in a sense the word neck-to-knee is not simply descriptive but intimates the restrictions that enforced its use. Many photographs and drawings of people at the beach in the early years of the twentieth century show that the prescribed neck-to-knee was competing with other more revealing costumes. It is in this period when the prescribed dress codes were being challenged that we find the first evidence of the Australian words togs, swimmers, bathers, and cossies .

The word togs is an abbreviation of the sixteenth-century criminal slang togeman, meaning 'coat'. Togeman itself comes from the Roman 'toga', which comes from the Latin tegere 'to cover'. The first citation for togs in the OED dates from 1708, when it was still considered a part of the flash language of the criminal underworld. Later in the eighteenth century togs was used as slang or humorously for clothes--the OED has a 1779 citation for this sense. So by the time the First Fleet left Portsmouth bound for Botany Bay there were many aboard who knew this word. But it is not until 1918 that we have our first written evidence of togs used in a swimming context. The citation comes from the Kia-ora coo-ee, which was the official magazine of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces: 'Some of the Queenslanders are revelling in the opportunity of getting out in this hot weather in their bathing togs!' By 1930 in Australian English togs had become synonymous with 'swimming costume' and had lost the general meaning of 'clothes'.

The next evidence the AND has of an Australian word for swimming costume is the simple abbreviation cossie, first recorded in 1926. The evidence for cossie points to the still common use of 'swimming costume' and 'costume' in Australian English between the wars. Cossie is a less cumbersome and less formal way of denoting an item of clothing used primarily for pleasure. Other early examples of Australian words for swimming costume show this tendency of shortening a word or modifying the meaning of an existing word. The OED marks swimmers as a chiefly Australian word, although the first evidence for it comes from an English newspaper in 1929. Our first evidence for bathers comes from Katharine Susannah Prichard's Haxby's Circus (1930). In the eighteenth century, bather was used to describe someone who had a bath. By adapting these existing nouns used to describe a person who swims or bathes to the clothes worn while swimming or bathing, the Australian vocabulary was able to keep pace with new cultural attitudes to swimming and, importantly, to the fashion emerging on the beach.

In 1928 the MacRae Knitting Mills in Sydney began manufacturing woollen swimming costumes known as speedos . The company produced a knitted navy-blue woollen one-piece swimming costume in the same style for men, women, and children. The one-piece streamlined Speedo paved the way for other fashions. Men continued to roll their swimming costumes down to their waists even though topless swimming costumes were not legal on many beaches until the 1930s (1938 for Melbourne). Speedo initiated and adapted to changes in fashion and the name became synonymous with the swimming costume. The men's brief one-piece trunk in the V shape became the hallmark of Speedo, worn by Olympic swimmers and life savers Australia-wide. Swimming trunks had existed since the previous century and were worn at the beach with other garments, or were worn alone by the more daring swimmers. However, with all the council and government regulations, they were not a common sight on public beaches before the 1930s. In this decade many councils removed the neck-to-knee regulations and the men's trunk-style speedo would make its full impact on the beach in the following decades. All the puritans' fears proved correct, with the Australian man's anatomy on proud display, albeit behind the proverbial fig leaf of fabric.

Many of the early terms for swimming costume in Australia were the same for both sexes (what they wore often amounted to the same thing) but with changing fashions and the popularity of the men's trunk-style costume, the terms were applied largely to them. Partly because the speedo style of costume proved practical and comfortable in the surf and in the swimming pool, they soon became the most popular swimming costume for Australian men and boys. Many boys grew up calling this particular swimming costume their speedos, cossies, bathers, togs, or swimmers . All these Australian words are descriptive--they describe something in terms of an article of clothing or through association with bathing and swimming. They are all words specific to the object they describe. The next generation of Australian words for speedos highlights what the object covers--the male genitals. Because many of the following words are or were considered vulgar, or colloquial at best, the earliest evidence we have at the Australian National Dictionary Centre is not a clear indication of when these words were first used. Many of them probably emerged in the decades following the end of the Second World War, most likely in the 1960s and 1970s, when challenges to sexual taboos were controversially played out in the public domain. This is the period when bikinis and even topless women were seen regularly on the beaches of Australia.

The earliest evidence at the ANDC of a term emphasising what is covered by the costume (i.e. the genitals) is the word sluggos, from a 1972 edition of the Australian surfing magazine Tracks . The word is probably formed from 'slug' meaning 'penis' (originally from Australian Navy slang), and from the last syllable of speedos . Another possibility is that the word refers to the appearance of having a slug in your speedos . We have evidence that this word is still in use today, although the citations have moved away from the surfing context, and there is growing evidence for sluggers . While I can remember, and still use, the word dps ('dick pointers') from the late 1970s, there is currently only evidence of it from the Internet in the last couple of years and from previous responses to Ozwords --but there are certainly quite a few people in Wollongong who still use it! Our first evidence of dick-stickers is similarly late, coming from a 1993 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald : 'At Whale Beach the boys strutting like roosters in bright board-shorts and "dick-stickers" (Lycra underwear-style togs named for their clinging qualities when wet).' We have evidence of dick togs from 1994, and the Internet provides numerous examples of the acronym dts . One of the more inventive terms from recent years is budgie smugglers . The ANDC has evidence of this one from 2000, and it is probably based on the international English grape smugglers . The Australian penchant for abbreviating has already manifested itself in this neologism, with budgies being heard in the recent television series Australian Idol . The Internet has also provided evidence of budgie huggers . Other Australian words that seem to have emerged in the 1990s and that we are only now beginning to record at the ANDC include meat hangers, lolly bags, ballhuggers, noodlebenders, and lolly catchers .

The Inuit people have had practical reasons for developing an extensive vocabulary to describe snow and ice features. In Australian English the numerous terms for the men's speedo costume are more a result of fashion and sex. The early terms, including togs and cossies, reflect the growing popularity and emerging culture of the beach and swimming. The growth of later terms, including dps and budgie smugglers, shows a common characteristic of English words associated with sex in that they generate many synonyms. The diversity of these terms is also reflected in their apparent regionalism. Togs is more likely to be heard in Queensland and Victoria, for instance, whereas cossies and s wimmers are more likely to be heard in New South Wales. While it is hard to determine with any accuracy when and where all these terms came from, they do present us with an interesting story about the role of the swimming costume in Australian culture. And in Australia, if men fear the brevity of their speedos or are confused about which term to use, they can always wear the more modest board shorts: 'I promise I will not wear speedos, dick togs, dick stickers, or dick pointers. I should be able to find a pair of boardies' (quoted from the Internet).

[Mark Gwynn is a researcher at the Australian National Dictionary Centre.]