Meet the Face-Kini, a bizarre beach balaclava and often more that’s made a major splash across the wondering world. Originally handmade from oft-contrasting scraps of fabric and designed to offer Chinese swimmers protection from tanning sun, choking seaweed and stinging jellyfish, the Face-Kini’s surging popularity has prompted manufacturers to crank out mass-produced versions that are selling like hotcakes at seaside kiosks.
Creatures From The Green Lagoon
When summer’s heat hits home, humans hit the beach to cool off. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not any more, however, thanks to an exponential growth in both the human population and the various forms of organic pollution they produce. The problem becomes very visible along China’s eastern and southern coastline.
Pollutants from agricultural runoff and inadequate sewage treatment plants pour into China’s rivers which in turn channel it into the ocean where it usually diffuses, dilutes and dissipates. The key word is “usually”… the combination of high seasonal temperatures, prevailing ocean currents and on-shore winds has in recent years spawned massive algae blooms and runaway growth of seaweed and sea-grass. Popular Chinese beaches around Qingdao in northeastern China’s seaside Shandong province have been especially hard hit by the marine green menace.
Many Chinese beach-goers either ignore the suffocating swaths of slimy seaweed or cope with the bilious biohazard as best they can as it beats broiling on the sun-blasted beach. Trouble is, the seaweed can harbor annoying insects and along with the algae blooms comes another sea-borne irritant: stinging jellyfish by the hundreds of thousands. What to do?
Duck & Cover
Necessity being the mother of invention regardless of country or culture, Chinese swimmers have collectively said “sew what?” when confronted by the overly green sea and have wielded their needles to fashion a solution: an (almost) all-covering, often head-to-toe swimsuit that effectively places a barrier between the swimmer and the sun, seaweed, jellyfish etc.
While the mainstream media collectively swoons over this so-called “latest craze”, the Face-Kini is neither new nor a craze having first appeared about 7 years ago.
(images via: The New York Times Company)
Sure the suits looked odd (the face-masks especially so) at first but word of their effectiveness spread by word of mouth and with familiarity, their weird appearance gradually became less shocking… to local Chinese, that is.
Even so, it’s hard to imagine feeling comfortable in a form-fitting face mask on a hot summer’s day, and adding swimming to the mix surely won’t help matters. Wave action is bound to sweep more than a few grains of sand inside the Face-Kini, which in itself pales in comparison to the hilarity which is sure to ensue when a tiny fish or crab makes its way inside.
Most of the original Face-Kini designs reflected their handmade & homemade construction, being a quilt-like patchwork of different materials connected by swatches of oft-contrasting fabrics. Add socks, gloves and goggles and the only areas exposed to the elements are very small areas around the wearer’s nose and mouth.