At the turn of the 20th century, women wore long swimwear and it was the social norm. If you'd asked a person then they would have told you that wearing anything less long was indecent. Nudity is a bit of an anomaly here, since inconvenient swimwear surely convinced more people to swim nude, but people swimming nude probably didn't have much of an impact on the course of swimwear. As for things like swimwear that allows for partial or whole nudity, those are anomalies that are made to drive overanalyzers like me nuts. Not a word on monokinis.
Nowadays, though, swimsuits are much shorter on average, and the smallest, bikinis, are far shorter than that swimwear, a radical polarization from those attitudes. What once wouldn't have even been construed as sufficient clothing is now normal.
Here's why I believe this happened. There wasn't anything left to do but shorten the swimsuit. If you wanted to try a different set of materials, but they were expensive, you had to make a smaller swimsuit. If you wanted to be more creative with its design, you were guided towards creating a smaller swimsuit. The shortage of materials during wartime helped contribute towards smaller women's clothing in general, but this was a hard trend to avoid and such shortages could likely have come from somewhere else.
And let's face it, men liked seeing women wear shorter swimsuits. And that's what our culture is all about right now, getting more for less, or at least, letting the people who desire to do little do it. Nowadays you can wear any size of swimsuit and it's considered if not desirable, acceptable. Now we get to let people wear what they like, the way it should have been all along, right? But it won't last. The game's gotten old and there needs to be a new game to sucker people along, so we've got surfing suits and diving suits. Sure they don't mean much now, but wait until they become a little bit cheaper.
Headline from tomorrow! If you aren't diving 20 feet under the water, then you aren't swimming and we've got a fast maglev train to get you there to the beach quicker than before. Aren't you tired of all the people showing off skin and doing the same old strokes? Meet more people like you who are athletic but like to have fun and help us help you set the sharks on beach bums.
This doesn't mean that a catastrophe can't happen and keep people out of the water or that the people making swimsuits and diving suits aren't talented. You can still bring progress to a halt even in the most mainstream of activities. I'm also not saying that this is the only way to be progressive. But what I am saying is that if nobody's playing this game, there can be no progression at all.
People aren't all that different on the whole, so we have to keep dressing up in new ways to maintain our interest in each other. That way political figures can throw out the word unity without making us all feel cheap. If your neighbors keep dressing up in new outfits you won't have to meet anybody new, and right now we've got a general idea of how many neighbors there are in the world. All we can do if we don't like having so many neighbors is to like less neighbors and hope that the neighbors we don't like are somewhere else. I'm convinced that if every person in the world could stand in a place where they could see each other nude, that would be the end of the world.
All there's left to do is to put on the mask that hasn't been put on yet and keep the costume party going. Find some people who are pretending different things, then keep looking and see where the party game's falling short. No nudity and a name just helps to play the game and helps to spread the blame and all to keep alive the flame that brings us here and lets us call ourselves ourselves and keep us all the same.
It's the material truth that matters, our best guess of what things truly are, what they've been and what they're going to be.