MP-1978.82.151 | Charles Cassils, Temple, and H. Haig-Sims on beach, Cushing's Island, Maine, 1901

Charles Cassils, Temple, and H. Haig-Sims on beach, Cushing's Island, Maine, 1901
Harold Haig-Sims
1901, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
10 x 12 cm
Purchase from Mr. I. Erlich
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Over the centuries, evolving cultural norms of privacy, sexuality, modesty and vulgarity have motivated changes in men's fashions. Distinctions have evolved between what men wore in public and what was considered appropriate in private.

Men's shirts, for example, were still considered to be underwear in the late 19th century and were meant to be covered by a coat and waistcoat. No self-respecting gentleman would appear in public in his shirtsleeves. The same held true for the ubiquitous T-shirt until the late 20th century, when it became acceptable street wear.

Men's swimwear offers a concise lesson on the erosion of taboos related to public displays of sexuality. Men's dressing gowns bridged the gap between clothing demanded in the public sphere and that worn strictly in private.

  • What

    The young man in the short bathing suit is coyly self-conscious about the amount of leg he is revealing to the camera.

  • Where

    This photograph was taken at the beach on Cushing's Island, Maine, a posh summer resort area established in the 19th century.

  • When

    The photo was taken in 1901, when close-fitting, sleeved, knee-length, wool jersey swimsuits were still the most common style worn on public beaches.

  • Who

    Charles Cassils, Temple and H. Haig-Sims mug for the camera in their swimsuits.