Bikinis. They’re just like a bra and underwear, except for some reason far more socially acceptable to wear in public. The two piece swim suit was first invented in 1946, by a frenchman named Louis Réard, who doesn’t seem creepy at all.Originally a mechanical engineer, Louis took over his mothers lingerie business in 1940. He noticed that women on the beach would roll their swimsuits down to expose their stomachs for a better tan, which inspired him to produce a two piece swim suit that, controversially for the time, displayed the belly button. Although two piece bathing suits had been available for some time prior to the bikini, Louis’s design covered the least amount of flesh, which he proudly boasted a in skywriting announcement which read “smaller than the smallest swimsuit in the world.” Deciding to name the garment ‘bikini’ is where this story gets really interesting.
After World War Two, the Cold War between Russia and America began, which was characterised by a rapid nuclear arms race. The power and devastation of the nuclear bomb developed by America which was dropped on two Japanese cities at the end of the war became something that the Russians had to have, so as not to be at the mercy of America. America refused to be outdone, and so the two super powers got into what was essentially a pissing contest to produce the biggest, most powerful bomb. This arms race came to a head during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when both parties realised that if one were to drop a nuke on the other, the retaliation would be swift and both countries would be in ruins – this convenient failsafe is known as Mutually Assured Destruction, or M.A.D, which is really quite fitting due to the madness of the whole thing. During the Cold War, hundreds of nuclear warheads were tested, and these tests continued well into the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
In 1946, the US army asked 167 Micronesian residents to evacuate their island home at Bikini Atoll, in order for them to test their destructive new weapons there. The Micronesians begrudgingly agreed, and between 1946 and 1958, the US army detonated 23 nuclear devices at this site. The initial operation on July 1st 1946 was known as ‘Crossroads’ and it was the first nuclear test in the world to be witnessed by the public. On the day, two tests were conducted – Able, which was a bomb dropped from the sky, and Baker, a bomb detonated underwater. Onlookers were somewhat disappointed by the explosion of Able, which seemed pretty small from the distance they could view it from. It was the Baker test that really showed people the power of these weapons. The below image was taken during that test, and the wall of water the explosion produced was 28 meters high.
It was these tests at the Bikini Atoll which inspired the name ‘bikini’ for Louis Réard’s swimsuit. Louis thought that the level of shock and horror people would experience from the ‘risqué’ display of belly buttons and exposed flesh was akin to reactions to the nuclear bomb – so he decided that ‘bikini’ was the most appropriate name. He was right. The bikini caused an uproar amongst hard line conservatives, but was also embraced by a huge number of people, leading the swimsuit to eventually become a staple of modern society.
On the show Spongebob Square Pants, the anthropomorphic sea creatures live in an underwater town called Bikini Bottom. This fictional location is actually a part of the very real Bikini Atoll, a fact which has been confirmed by Nickelodeon, who air the show. A popular fan theory suggests that the characters in Bikini Bottom are actually nuclear mutants, who developed the ability to talk, have a society, and be so un-sea-creature-like because of the nuclear fallout of Baker, which as mentioned was detonated under the sea. If that isn’t evidence enough for you, notice how every explosion you see in Spongebob Squarepants perfectly replicates the mushroom cloud produced by a nuclear warhead.
Bikini swimsuits, nuclear weapons, the Cold War, and Spongebob Square Pants are eternally linked, like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, or chickens and eggs. One simply cannot exist without the other.