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Strange undies

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A long-established swimsuit and underwear company began the trend with their leopardskin-print men’s bathers. (Just what is it about the leopardskin pattern that’s supposed to be sexy? Did guys of previous generations like to play Tarzan at the beach?) Later their designers used the print for daring underpants, and over the years their range expanded to other animal skin prints, even snake skin, in various colours.

Suddenly the shock value become fashionable with the young bucks, and they produced bathers in fish scale patterns, and octopus tentacles in livid blues and greens. These were hot sellers, at least for one summer. Next season one designer dreamed up gooier patterns for the teen market. Graphic patterns of flayed musculature had a short vogue among the rich and decadent, even appearing in the dormitories of the most select boys’ school. Then it was armour of shiny insect-like segments, and the previous year’s octopus was reinvented as a stylized pattern of suckers-and-eyes. A season later these had become a mosaic of glaring eyes, and simple worm segments in maggot white or verdigris blue.

“Our boy’s bought himself some new underpants, of all things. With his own pocket money, too.

“Leopardskin, or something like that I suppose. It’s supposed to be the latest thing among the teenagers.

“Worse than that! They’re in a segmented pattern like some grisly graveworm.

“What’ll they think of next?

“That’s the fashion. They have them with little beady eyes on each ring, or two big staring eyes, anything to look horrific.

“Maggot britches”, exclaimed a disdainful young miss. But something analogous was devised for girls too young to wear the voluptuously flowering underfashions of the over-18s or the grownup girdles embroidered in patterns that hinted at the womb within. That year, girls’ undies featuring roes masses, toad spawn or even an embryonic face were scary reminders to any swain who succeeded in glimpsing them. Hexagon-tiled fabrics with wasp faces glaring from some cells, or mosaics of fanged mouths, gave an even blunter warning.

“You wouldn’t want to touch them for fear of getting bitten.”

“Well, we’re not supposed to be touchable in our undies, are we?” was the unanswerable retort, justifying a flirty fashion as a protection of virtue.

By the spring, variations on the fad had reached the outer suburbs. A stand at the Agricultural Show had racks of T-shirts in last year’s snake and insect patterns, while guffawing lads around the novelty stall dared each other to buy the plump white worm balloons that even had short orange antennae.