At 46, the Swimsuit Issue hasn’t lost its appeal | The Latte Guy | Feb. 20

It’s that time of year again. The warring factions of the world put down their arms and bow their heads in a reverent prayer of thanks. People across the planet put aside their differences, suspend age-old animosities, and join together in a moment of unabashed joy and celebration.

No, I’m not talking about the 16th annual Wintergrass Music Festival this weekend at the Murano Hotel in Tacoma featuring non-stop, top-of-the-line music and entertainment.

I’m speaking, of course, of the release last week of the 46th edition of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

In case you just crawled out from under a rock, the swimsuit issue is an annual event intended to provide an opportunity to preview the latest in upscale swim wear. It’s sort of a high-gloss, two-dimensional fashion show for women, although fashion buffs of the male persuasion have also been known to take a glance at the magazine from time to time.

The swimsuit issue consists of a hundred or so photographs of women wearing, or mostly wearing, or, in at least one case, not wearing, the latest in fashionable swimming attire, most of which look like they were constructed out of fishing line and dryer lint.

The annual issue has turned out to be fairly popular, in much the same way that breathing and walking upright seems to have caught on among the human race. Each year this one issue of the popular weekly sports magazine is seen by some 66 million readers, including four out of every 10 adult males in the United States. (I’ve looked at this year’s edition at least four times already, so the rest of you can relax.)

This single issue of the magazine accounts for about a tenth of the magazine’s total annual revenue. Newsstand sales of the swimsuit edition exceed 1.1 million copies; non-swimsuit issues typically sell around 85,000 copies. This year, some 40 percent of the revenue from the swimsuit issue will come from collateral swim suit products – event marketing, “making of” videos, digital calendars, etc.

Las Vegas is spending more than $1 million with SI to kick off a Swimsuit Issue celebration event that includes a 1,000-person launch party featuring a concert by the legendary John Legend. Lucky attendees will be given multiple photo-ops with one of the two dozen swimsuit models in attendance. Evidently my invitation has been delayed in transit.

I used to keep back issues of the swimsuit issue in my closet, which is not as creepy as it sounds since I also have back issues of National Geographic. What is sort of creepy is that I can tell you which years Cheryl Tiegs, Kathy Ireland and Elle McPherson were on the cover of the issue, but I couldn’t tell you the name of my daughter’s social studies teacher or the name of the current Secretary of Commerce.

I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow description of the various swimsuits in this year’s issue, but if I were going to do so, I’d probably start by drawing your attention to Ms. Jessica Hart on page 144 who is holding her swimsuit in one hand and a pretty good poker hand in the other. Of the two, the poker hand occupies more space.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has become an icon of the publishing world, and has spawned a host of imitators, all of which I support on the theory that you can’t have too much selection when it comes to swimsuits, cheap wine and presidential candidates.

If you haven’t already bought your copy of this year’s magazine, why don’t you pick one up on your way down to Wintergrass? You’ll be glad you did.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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