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Oct 24, 2012

Contemplating the (Male) Navel



Readers, do you find the navel erotic?

I don't, and yet for a long time -- pretty much the entire first half of the Twentieth Century — American navels, both male and female, were expected to be kept covered in public.   You've probably all heard that even in the 1960's, Barbara Eden was not allowed to display hers on I Dream of Jeannie.




Is a visible navel too vivid a reminder that we were all delivered of a womb — as opposed to dropped off by a stork — and therefore, somehow, too carnal?


I've been contemplating navels — my own in particular — because I recently received this vintage Jantzen bathing suit I won on eBay, and it is cut to be worn above the navel -- or at least at true waist height, which on my body is essentially at my belly button.  I really like the fit, but I look like an extra from A Summer Place and I'm not sure I'd wear this in public.





The suit is in great shape, however, and beautifully constructed.







While many women have embraced the retro two-piece swimsuit, with its high-waisted bottom half, you never see a man in a swimsuit cut that high.  Men will wear many different swimsuit lengths, but the top of the suit always sits at the hip, or even slightly below it.  Which is flattering on some men, but really, how many?



Way back when, even when you saw a peek of belly button, the basic fit was at — or very near — waist level.  At least here in the USA.





So maybe it's a waist issue.  American men no longer wear their pants at true waist — with the exception of traditional suit pants (usually held in place by suspenders) -- and I'm not sure they ever will again.  Not on the beach, at any rate.

Readers, how did this happen?  You can't blame jeans: traditional cowboy jeans are quite high-waisted.  Was it a hippie thing that just stuck?

Have you ever seen a man on the beach (or at a pool) in a high-waisted (at-or-above the navel) swimsuit — who wasn't your grandfather?

How do you feel about exposing your navel in public?

Do tell!

36 comments:

  1. Sadly, I believe the main reason why men's pants and such are worn on the hips is because if one were to try and wear them *at* the waist, they would be a good 3-4" wider in the waist. I can't STAND low-slung pants of any stripe (or plaid for that matter).

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  2. But Nina that's because they are cut differently now, todays pants are not designed to be worn at the waist. Why I don't know, but you never know with fashion. High waists saw some revival for women, maybe the high waist just needs the right man to bring it back!

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  3. Peter, I think you are on to something about it being carried into the now from the 60-70's...thank goodness! I do make costumes that, in order to be accurate to the era, the pants waist stops at the belly button level. So many times I get customers saying things like "but my jeans are a 34, and my belly button waist measurement is 40, which can't be right, so make them a 34" and of course, they don't fit. People nowadays don't know where the real waist is located.

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  4. I find that high-waisted garments generally look better on me personally because my natural waist is ridiculously high. They can be uncomfortable, though. At the same time, ultra low-rise garments look super unflattering. I think that there should be a range available, instead of one trend dominating for years or decades.

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    1. Also, I would never expose my navel in public. Not only would I feel entirely too much air on my midriff, but I do not have the type of stomach deemed expose-able by the general public.

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  5. I think men's shorts are below the waist now because they give the illusion of a longer torso, a male characteristic. Does that make sense?

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    1. Longer torso, therefore more masculine.

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    2. But doesn't that make your legs look stubby? It does mine.

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    3. Yes but I think that men's legs are usually proportionately shorter than women's legs. I used to work in retail and noticed that women's pant inseam lengths would be close to the same as men's inseams even though women tend to be shorter than men. So longer legs are more of a female attribute IMO. So yeah...

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    4. Maybe because women may wear heels, while men usually don't.

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  6. No, those shorts look really good. Clothing that sits at your natural waist is in style. Most people just haven't realized it yet and are still behind the trends.

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  7. I will expose anything but my navel.

    If I go to a nudist beach, I wear a jewel in it.

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  8. I think those swim trunks look great on you. I look at the picture of the men in the low-waist trunks and they look distorted and trying too hard to me.

    I'll go one further and say I've seen men in natural-waisted pleated pants and I think they look way more than ok to me.
    --GwenH

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    1. I totally agree with you, Gwen. Peter, wear your high waisted trunks with pride - you look wonderful. My own Pete is 6' 5" and has a very long torso and looks ridiculous in modern Speedo type swimmers that sit around the hip. Bring back high waists for men!

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  9. Peter, you look JUST FINE in that vintage suit! True, it's just a tad odd NOT to have an exposed navel in a bathing suit, but ask yourself: how 'ridiculous' does YOUR suit look next to those guys who look like they are about to have a serious "wardrobe malfunction" at any moment?

    In fact I find the styling of your suit there REFRESHING and very "avant-garde"-just like those toile jeans! Nice to see something a bit more "modest" and not, like another poster commented, "like they are trying too hard"[to be sexy]. I think it's time a little "mystery" was brought back into fashion; the "let it ALL hang out!" school of design has been done to DEATH.

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  10. I hate men's pants that look like they're about to fall off. Otoh, the inseam on your vintage suit is a teeny bit short. A suit that leaves me wondering "Where does he put it?" isn't a good fit, imo ;)

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    1. That's what I was wondering too! Some people think the low rise pants look too revealing but these have the potential for a well hung cowboy to let it all hang out. I don't find navels sexy but neither are these sorry Peter. Show of your great flat stomach!

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    2. That's what that inside knit layer is for --security!

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    3. I'm with Summer. The shorts fit great and would be more flattering were the inseam an inch or so longer. As is, it's a "proportion" problem. Too high and too short at the same time. Kinda like a plaid diaper.

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  11. Ha ha! When I measured my friend the other day for his suit he seemed so confused when I measured his natural waist. "I don't wear my pants there." Yeah, but you're cute with your shirt off so I'm going to measure everything.

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  12. The last time I remember lots of high-waisted pants was the mid-eighties - retro zootish ones (which went really well with vintage dinner jackets, even if we did roll up the sleeves), but also some fun ones that were almost harem-ish, frequently tucked into suede ankle boots.

    What can I say? It was that New Romantic look, and don't even get me started about the hair...

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  13. I really love that 'proper' waist look on men, it is very Clark Gable. It is making a comeback,and the current ridiculousness with 'riding low' is a sign - fashions get ridonkulous and then backlash to the opposite extreme, every time. We are always gobsmacked when this happens - I remember being incredulous when big shoulder pads went out of fashion from one season to the next. It took a concerted effort on teh fashion industry's part to retrain us, but it happened.

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  14. I think you could single-handedly bring that high-waisted look back :-). It'd have to be at Fire Island or Providence, where sartorial efforts could be properly appreciated. And it'd be best if you could add other vintage accessories, like a seersucker shirt and matching hat?
    Do it! Too Clark Gable indeed :-).

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  15. I like the higher-waisted look. Maybe because I grew up in an era when it was fashionable, but I like the look on you too, Peter! Be the change.

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  16. The look is great on you. The combo of true waist and short shorts lengthens your legs. Wear them pool side and at the beach - start/revive a trend.

    G

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  17. my grandfather said the change in rise had more to do with the popularity of brief style underwear, coming from europe, after ww2 - prior to that all men wore boxer style, and you had to "dress right or left" and the pant leg was adjusted on that side. Is there a difference in the construction of the vintage swimsuit as well?

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  18. My dad grew up in Florida during the 60s. When he moved to NY to go to school in the 70s he wore "baggies", which is just regular swim trunks now. Everyone made fun of him. They were all wearing speedos and those little speedo shorts. They thought he was weird for wearing hibiscus flowers shorts. He was appalled that men were wearing the lady equivalent of a bikini. IMHO I think surf culture in Cali and Florida influenced heavily what men should be wearing at the beach. Never have I seen a surfer in speedos.

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  19. I'm a navel fan and usually show mine off in beach wear. I'd usually go for an in between look with the waist band just below my natural waist and showing off the navel but still above the hip. I find this more comfortable. I've also got my belly button pierced so having a swimsuit cover it could be troublesome when the urge to jump in at the deep end gets me.

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  20. Always Alice:

    I suggest a trip to Australia's Bondi Beach, where the most eye-popping men on the planet surf in Speedos.

    Googling "bondi beach" will yield some amazing results, as well.

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    1. I searched "Bondi beach surfers" on flickr...and all were in wet suit or long jams...only the lifeguards wore speedos.

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  21. I think those shorts look fine - they're not the really high-waisted look. Personally I like something in-between the covered bellybutton and the modern example you show. I really dislike that extremely low cut on men and women, it's so close to being nude it looks tacky, not to mention you're always wondering if the bottoms are going to fall off any moment which adds a bit of tension. On the other hand, seeing a guy in a pair high waisted plaid shorts lunging at you out of the ocean like in the Jantzen ad is a bit off-putting as well! Adding to the comment above, the Aussies call Speedos 'budgie smugglers' which I love.

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  22. I don't mind the navel. It's the pubic bones that freak me out.

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  23. If you don't want to wear them, Peter, maybe you should show them to Lizzie at the Vintage Traveler blog. She collects vintage sportswear so may be interested. I'm guessing your probably know about her blog already, but just in case...

    http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/ad-campaign-1937-jantzen-swimwear/

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  24. I think they look great on you.

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  25. I have always loved vintage men's bathing suits. I think they look sexier than the low slung ones.

    You should definately wear yours to the beach. I wish more men wore suits like that!

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  26. I definitely find the male navel erotic - in fashion and otherwise - but I have a navel fetish, so I'm unquestionably biased. :-) As an artistic photographer, the male navel and the bared midsection is a staple of my work, and I frequently place models in midriff-baring half-shirts (think circa late 70's/early 80's time frame) for my photo shoots. I just cannot get enough of the male midsection!

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