- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

CAPE MAY, N.J. — Come on in, Speedo wearers, the water’s fine: Your skimpy little swimsuits are legal now.

For more than 30 years, this quaint little Victorian-themed resort at the southern tip of New Jersey said no to “skintight, formfitting or bikini-type” bathing attire on males over the age of 12. For an ocean resort that once required men and women to swim at different times of day, wearing heavy woolen, cover-everything swimsuits, it made sense to modernize.

“It’s a beach town,” police Chief Diane Sorantino said. The town also agreed to lift a rule that stopped bare-chested men from strolling along the beachfront promenade.

Not that everyone’s cheering. It’s often the older guys — the ones with beer guts, or wrinkly skin, or unsightly tufts of hair — who wear the tiny swimsuits. “The people you want to see in the Speedos, you don’t,” said Maggie Creighton, 19, who works in a downtown lingerie store.

Locals who share the beaches with tourists said that despite the ban, the itsy-bitsy suits have been a common sight in summer, even though most surf shops and beachwear retailers here don’t sell them.

“A lot of people do come in and say ‘Do you carry Speedos?’” said Becky Fitzgerald, sales clerk at Della’s General Store. “It’s the 40- to 50-year-old group who ask. And it’s funny, their bodies aren’t the shape for Speedos.”

The swimsuit ban was enacted in the 1960s in response to complaints about homosexuals who wore the suits on the beach, according to former Mayor Robert Elwell, who writes a Cape May history column for a local newspaper.

But the ban was rarely, if ever, enforced, according to the city, which voted to amend its beach regulations last week. City Administrator Luciano Corea Jr. said the skimpy swimsuit ban was largely unknown. There was no push to eliminate it, but doing so made sense, he said.

“We had no complaints, and we’ve never issued a summons for it, to my knowledge,” Mr. Corea said. “Technically, we could’ve left it on the books. It was never enforced anyway.”

Vince Grimm, executive director of GABLES of Cape May County, a homosexual-advocacy organization, said the ban was outdated and holds no particular significance for homosexuals. “We’re no different than anyone else. If [the suits] are in style, we wear them,” Mr. Grimm said.

Charlotte Beheler, owner of Sports ‘n Stuff, which sells Speedos for $25.95, said they’re not among her top sellers.

She doesn’t expect any big boom in sales this summer — or an explosion of skin on the beaches. Neither does Speedo, which says the men’s brief-style suits make up only 1 percent of the Los Angeles-based company’s sales.

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