Men and The Speedo: In The Flesh

In honor of this week’s fashion theme, I decided to discuss the ins and outs of everyone’s favorite swimwear: the Speedo.  And by “favorite,” I mean, “butt of every joke.” What we colloquially call Speedos are more generally called “swim briefs” but, like Kleenex and Rollerblades, sometimes the brand name catches on. Speedo was originally an Australian company, which seems quite appropriate to me given the Aussies’ love of all things athletic. They were designed for use in competitive “water sports” because they reduce “drag.” Imagine where my mind was going with this.

Aussies take great pride in their colorful slang and, appropriately, they have a great one for Speedos. They call them “budgie smugglers.” In case this needs to be spelled out, budgie – like the little parakeet – is meant to describe the shape of the bulge.  I giggled for days when I heard this one.

However, in my (albeit limited) experience on Australian beaches, I have seen very few men in Speedos. Interesting, given that the Speedo was born Down Under. When I asked about this trend, my male Australian friends insisted that no self-respecting Aussie man would be seen in budgie smugglers outside of a swimming competition.

But anyone who’s visited a beach in Europe is familiar with the non-sports related popularity of Speedos. The UK’s Telegraph ran an article in June about the soaring popularity of Speedos on British beaches and few can dispute the sexiness of Daniel Craig’s swim briefs in Casino Royale. But even in the US and Australia, where Speedos are less popular among the general public, there’s often that one overly tanned older man who has managed to find one in leopard print.

One such man is Tony Abbott, the conservative politician who nearly won the Prime Minister seat in last month’s election. They may not have been animal print, but he has become extremely well known for his penchant for budgie smugglers, inspiring countless cartoons and YouTube videos. He even auctioned them off, for charity, on eBay for $3400 AUD. This famous image has become the butt (or bulge?) of every joke for months. I’m still laughing.

Image of Tony Abbott by Jim Trifyllis, Source: Herald Sun

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About Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs, MPH is a NYC-based sex educator + blogger. She's the founder of Sex Geekdom, a global community for sex educators, researchers, and other folks who love having geeky conversations about sex.

  • Tim

    To wear these things, one must be extremely confident or completely oblivious. I am neither, so I wear board shorts.

  • Heather B. H.

    As I sit here on the floor in a living room bereft of furniture due to our upcoming monumental move, reading your blog brings a lovely memory to mind.
    Just last week we had a moving sale and I celebrated as my fiance-to-be pouted while he set out his red and black tiger-striped swim briefs to sell. Needless to say, there were no takers, but I wouldn’t have them return to our possessions so he sadly said goodbye to his little budgie smugglers that had “once upon a time received giggled exclamations of ‘Heeeey Tiger’ from young hotties on the beach” he said.
    He has a gorgeous body, and an especially nice ‘budgie’, but I, for one, am relieved his tiger-print tight briefs have moved on and only pity the woman who’s husband gets a hold of them and claims them as his new favorite beachwear.