In most countries, swimming lessons are attained during the curriculum process. Swimming test certificates are required for further training in aquatic abilities. Many countries have established a minimum swimming level that children should achieve by the end of primary school, in most cases with the assistance of school swimming classes that are part of the regular curriculum. But did you know male students attended swimming classes in Chicago Public Schools in the nude?
For over 50 years, male students in Chicago Public Schools were required to be naked while attending swimming lessons. Female students were permitted to wear bathing suits.
Skinny Dipping in Public
Bathing in rivers was a popular recreational activity before the twentieth century. All of that changed when the Young Men’s Christian Association, or YMCA, began to expand indoor swimming facilities across the United States widely.
Accessibility came first, followed by practicality. Chlorination technology was lacking in early indoor swimming pools. As a result, algae and dirt accumulate in stagnant water. After quickly accumulating, it would produce slimy bacteria, resulting in cholera outbreaks. The pool would be forced to close for public safety until it had been thoroughly drained and dried.
Swimsuits from the time were also a factor. Their fabrics were mainly made of wool, and the fibers would clog the filtration methods they had. However, once wet, wool is a fabric that holds in moisture, which can lead to the growth of bacteria.
So the swimsuits were only worsening the public hygiene situation, and they weren’t even that comfortable. To make matters worse, ordinary people and families could not afford the additional cost. In the best-case scenario, they were becoming a luxury but not particularly necessary. Swimming naked has become the logical default form and fashion of the day.
When ladies were present, they were expected to wear swimwear, apparently, to protect moral sensibilities.
Women would swim separately because they were expected to maintain their modesty. They were socially expected to be self-conscious, in contrast to men. (Source: WBEZ Chicago)
How was this Rule Changed?
Things began to change in the 1950s. After WWII, fashion designers experimented with nylon fabrics to make paratrooper parachutes. This durable, lightweight, and primarily quick-drying fabric was an obvious choice for swimwear. This was when things began to change.
Swimming naked among men was considered a fraternal activity before the 1960s. In contrast to what it is today, being ashamed was considered very unmanly. True gentlemen would swim naked.
All of that began to change as swimsuits became the norm. It started to cause men and women to swim together more frequently than they had previously. However, in subsequent conversations during the 1960s, boys who took high school swim reported that girls frequently sneaked in to view the boys swimming naked. This was most likely reciprocated, but it made younger generations who had yet to begin swimming feel more anxious about the activity.
Parents began expressing concern about the practice of harming boys and protested it. The majority of these efforts were initially rejected because it was believed that nudity promoted healthy body image ideas.
School districts resisted changing this policy, with some making concessions during the 1970s. However, when federal Title IX rules mandated co-ed classes, all schools were forced to comply. The naked swimming was over. (Source: The Medium)
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