Can Shopping for a Bathing Suit Get Any Worse? Evidently, It Can

I wonder if the inhabitants of the Bikini Atoll, from which the name of the eponymous women’s swimsuit was derived, have any idea the marketing nightmare the name “bikini” has wreaked on women’s swimwear. Men, you may want to sit down for this—it’s going to get a little complicated, and I assure you that by the time you finish reading, you’ll thank your lucky Speedos you don’t have to buy women’s swimwear.

A bikini, as we all know, is a 2-piece swimsuit that, depending where you live, has varying degrees of coverage, especially around the bottom (think dental floss in Rio, more liberal coverage for the rest of the world). Bikinis reveal the midriff, so they strike fear in even the most toned women. Nevertheless, most women tend to have a love-hate relationship with bikinis—we don’t feel comfortable wearing them, but we would love to be able to.

For quite a long time, ladies swimwear consisted of two options: a one-piece (commonly called a tank) or a two-piece (bikini). That was it—you made your choice and stuck with it.

Enter the tankini, the suit that disrupted the whole taxonomic scheme. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I like the tankini, and I even own a few. For the uninitiated, a tankini is a 2-piece bathing suit that shows little to no midriff, offering the more self-conscious among us more coverage in the abdominal area and, even more importantly, a far easier time in the bathroom (this is a selling point for a lot of women, guys. Have you ever tried to squeeze out of a wet bathing suit to use the restroom?).

So while the tankini took a bit of getting used to, we adapted and embraced it in all of its tummy-hiding glory. But we had no idea what we were in for. The floodgates had been opened.

Now there is a dresskini (don’t ask me—I don’t know what a two-piece swimdress is), the camikini, the microkini . . . the list goes on. It’s not that I am opposed to giving customers more options in swimwear—quite the contrary. Providing more swimwear options enables a broader range of women to find swimsuits that make them feel good about themselves, which is especially important in the delicate area of swimwear, which along with jeans, holds the dubious distinction of being the single most unpleasant item to shop for.

No, the problem is the uncontrolled proliferation of the “-ini” suffix. In most cases, it simply serves to complicate the matter, rather than do what it is supposed to do: inform the customer. Names should help the customer, not bewilder them. I have no idea what a halterkini is, and as such, I am unlikely to research the matter further. It’s enough to make me want to wear a men’s Speedo.

Do me and all of the women in the world a favor—use names that we can understand. We have jobs and busy lives, and shopping should be fun, not a mystery.