Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – From the beginning …

Culture | January 9, 2018

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Glasses to make photos look three-dimensional are included in the 37th Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue released at a press conference 22 February 2000 in New York. (Getty Images)

Sports Illustrated magazine has long been the largest circulating sports magazine in the United States, with millions of people subscribing each year, not to mention the countless people that pick it up on the newsstand and/or borrow it after a friend is finished with it. Time, Inc. has been publishing the famed magazine since August 1954.

As the title suggests, the purpose of the publication is, and always was, to keep readers informed of the latest in sports news including stats, accomplishments/milestones and special interests regarding the hottest athletes, both past and present.

Sports are historically known for being a source of interest to many people from all walks of life. It is a mainstream source of entertainment. No matter the sport, people are competitive by nature and love to live vicariously through their favorite team and/or individual athlete; so much so that grown people frequently participate in fantasy sports leagues for fun. Both men and women alike follow sports, but it should come as no surprise that the majority of this competitive demographic is male. Enter the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue!

The first Swimsuit Issue was published in 1964 in an attempt to fill the content of the magazine during the slow, winter months. The magazine decided to follow a fashion model and write a story about her as a way to spark interest with subscribers. It was initially meant to be a cover story that would be more or less of a “filler” to keep the publication going in the lull. Although ultra conservative by today’s standards, the Swimsuit Issue was so well received that it eventually became a regular publication. Again, it should come as no surprise that the demographic is primarily male.

Model, Babette March, was the first swimsuit model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Because of the success of that publication, which included a 5-page layout, Jule Campbell, fashion reporter, had struck gold! Subscribers loved it so it continued on. Models were getting the exposure they needed to launch their careers to the next level. It was a win-win for everyone! Countless other models would follow in her footsteps.

During the 1960s, Americans were still trying to adjust to the loosening morals and modesty issues that were rearing their ugly heads. Being such a well-established and respected publication, Sports Illustrated had broached the subject and gave validity to the fact that the times were changing. The magazine actually made people recognize that the bikini was a legitimate attire option.

Over the years, the Swimsuit Issue has been somewhat of a controversy. Some subscribers even cancelled their subscriptions in protest. The subject has been disputed between both conservative and liberal people as well as between men and women. Of course, men will argue that the publication is a beautiful thing and has fabulous articles, while women might say that is an exploitation of the fairer sex.

No matter which camp you are in, there is no denying that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is well read, if not ogled at times, and is quite popular. Each year the swimsuits get skimpier and skimpier and the models get sexier and sexier.

Little is left to the imagination anymore. There are even people who have no interest in sports that seek out the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue depicting the beautiful models. Let’s face it people… sex sells! If it didn’t, none of us would be here now!

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.