Vintage Season : The birth of the nudist movement

I began ‘Vintage Season’ with the Victorians because there were seismic social changes occurring during the era. Sea bathing for health purposes would have been one small change on the Victorians radar.

Indeed, a sense of health and well-being would have been creeping into everyday life.

What we can say is that the first naturist club, as we understand it in the modern sense, existed in British India in the 1890s. Disappointingly, it had just three members, all male, so the scene as portrayed by Don and Fi (below, set in an Indian sim) simply wouldn’t have occurred. I find this disappointing. The idea of the wives of British civil servants, those of a certain breeding and class, stripping off across India seems deliciously wicked.

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By 1902 Dr. Heinrich Pudor had coined the phrase ‘nacktkultur’ (naked culture) and published three volumes in which he championed clothes-free sports (essentially a return to the sports arenas of ancient Greece) to which Richard Ungewitter factored in physical fitness, fresh air and bathing, thereby effectively framing the basis for nudism, and nudist clubs, for the next half century (and beyond). A world-wide explosion in naturism followed and, with photography now easily available, naturist magazines began appearing, and the first nudist club appeared in Hamburg, Germany, by 1903.


Of course, Europe’s capacity to tear itself apart on a regular basis did set back the growth of naturism. The Nazis, 1933-1945, effectively, particularly frowned on the practice of FKK (freikorperkultur – free body culture), declaring it to be degenerate initially (it ‘killed women’s sense of shame and men’s sense of respect for women’) but then integrated it into their odious politics -still excluding Jews and communists and also gleefully leaping on the ‘health’ and ‘fitness’ elements of the lifestyle for their own ends.

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You can read an article about Nazism and nudism, from German magazine Der Spiegel here.  What’s interesting is that the photographs accompanying the text all focus on physical activity of some form or another, that ‘fitness’ element being played up.


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 A selection of photographs from Nazi-era German nudist publications, above, show that the lifestyle was tolerated, and that there was a clear emphasis on dance, callisthenics and physical exercise.

 I think it’s possibly fair to say that, by the 1930s, nudism was so firmly imprinted on the German psyche that part of the reason Nazism tolerated or embraced it was to try to overcome some of the suspicions people correctly held towards Nazis.

Let me include two paragraphs from an absolutely brilliant synopsis of nudity through the ages from the young naturists america website, and their ‘History of Nudism’ page

Nudism and naturism continued the growing trend it had been enjoying since the 1920’s. As Hitler began his rise to power, nudism was first embraced and enjoyed a rise in popularity and in prominence. It became extremely popular with Gleichschaltung, which is a term meaning coordination, and was the process used by the Nazi party to establish their control over Europe. The party celebrated the health benefits and the idea of body acceptance. Hitler also believed in the message of making the body as physically and mentally close to perfection as possible, naturism and nudism and their ideologies of attaining good health fit in line with his hopes for a perfect Aryan race. By 1933 however, Hitler had fallen out of the good graces of the pacifist nudism and naturism practitioners and began having Hermann Goring pass laws limiting the mingling of the different sexes. As Europe under Hitler’s regime descended into a quagmire of what Hitler saw as moral and correct, Hitler began to believe that because the nudists and naturists practiced pacifism, that the camps and parks were also a place for homosexuals and for Marxists. Hitler and Goring then banned the various parks and camps and passed laws banning the practice of nudism.

Hitler was successful at banning these parks and clubs for exactly one month. Too many of the SS enjoyed partaking of the healthful benefits and continued to practice nudism. Hitler relented and began allowing the practice of nudism and naturism again, with full support of the state government. However, he did require that all nudist clubs and camps register with the Kraft durch Freude. Kraft durch Freude translates into strength through joy and was the name for the state controlled leisure organization in Nazi Germany. It’s aim was to promote tourism and to make daily activities and fun events accessible to the middle class. By including nudism and naturism, the Nazi Party hoped to overcome the distrust it was experiencing by some. Since it was regulated by the state however, this ensured that no Jews, Communists, gypsies or other undesirables could be a part of the nudism and naturism movement. Hitler also insisted that all nudist activities were kept confined to rural areas so that the rest of Europe and the world did not look upon Germans as being depraved. Hitler completely missed the point that nudism and naturism had nothing to do with sexuality

© Young Naturists America/YNA

I would encourage everyone to click the link and read a brilliantly written history of nudism since the dawn of time. Terrific stuff!

In Second Life there’s an absolutely brilliant Weimar Republic sim of 1920s Berlin, a time when nudism would have been taking hold in Germany, and indeed the sim do have a ‘naturist hour’ in the sim’s swimming pool, despite it not strictly being a naturist sim. I intend to do a standalone post on this pool night, at the Weimar Republic sim, at the weekend.

I really don’t want to encourage fighting/killing sims, there’s enough hate in the world without trivialising the entire period of history. But should WW2 be your thing, SL is awash with sims where you can role-play, and we’ve managed to get a photo of Honey in the Caen 1944 sim, embracing the Nazis tolerance of nudism juxtaposed to the horrors of war.

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I’m delighted to say that there is a strong intolerance of extreme right-wing views in SL, both from ‘the top’, Linden Labs themselves, and the game’s users. While some historical re-enactment is permitted, odious right wing views, from the 1940s or from today, will quickly be squashed by LL and the game’s users.

Even now, the whole ‘fitness’ element of naturism is very much in evidence in SL’s naturist sims. Gyms, where many forms of physical activity can be performed, are very much in evidence in SL’s naturist sims, and the ‘fitness’ element of RL naturism, from the group callisthenics of early naturism through to cycling, yoga and so on, will be very much in evidence on the sims and in RL naturist locations.

It’s not so much that the early pioneers of nudism started a trend which has created historical ripples through the entire history of naturism, more that the whole issue of being naked and indulging in physical activity goes cap in hand.

Even I, one of those seven-stone-wet-through weaklings who ‘could do with a good meal’, will find my physical exertions ratchet themselves up on RL naturist holidays. It’s hot! I go swimming. There’s a nice restaurant in the next village. I go cycling. I get up on a warm morning and I go walking. A typical naturist holiday will find me lose 3-4lbs in weight simply because the lifestyle is well suited to exercise. Which makes me wonder. In a world where obesity is an increasing concern, particularly in the developed world….would a nude Western world find itself becoming fitter, leaner, healthier?

My apologies for the gallop through the history of naturism in the first half of the 20th century. Work pressures, again! but I hope that it has given just a little insight into the way in which naturism developed between 1900-1950. We’ll flesh out some elements of this further during Vintage Season, but for now, for me, it’s back to work until the weekend, when I hope to cover that 1920s Berlin sim, and maybe look at the 1960s from both a SL & RL perspective, when social nudity began to be normalised and accepted in society. I have another post almost complete, in which I try to examine how attitudes to (semi) nudity, from bellydance to the burqa, have changed the Arab world (and beyond).

See you soon!



nb: To respond to a correspondent who sent me an IM, I’m not hyperlinking some of the sims mentioned in Vintage Season because they aren’t naturist, even if we’ve posed nude models in them. They should, however, be easily found using SL’s search tools.

Vintage Season : Those naked Victorians (Part 2)

Even today, the male of the species will readily go naked much quicker than his female partner. I think that there tends to be a bit in the male’s social and psychological DNA that explains this. Males are more accustomed to being in changing rooms after team sports, where communal nudity is the norm. The female changing room tends to be, I think, a much less fleshier place and we do, as a species, tend to cover up a bit more. You can see this in naturist settings too, where the female will walk to the beach in a sarong, sort of covering up, before removing it on the beach itself and for swimming. It doesn’t matter that the wind may be blowing the sarong open and effectively revealing her intimate parts -the female naturist doesn’t care much about that- but she still needs her modesty and respectability, often, for that walk from a car park or apartment to the beach.

And it has tended to be this way for decades.

Before the mid-1800s, nude bathing was the norm. Indeed, the nature of clothing materials would have meant that a one piece, full body costume was actually dangerous, the weight of the materials in question (knitted! in some cases) adding a lot of extra weight that could have resulted in drowning.

One Victorian minister, the Reverend Francis Kilvert, was angered to find that, when he went for his swim, new legislation had been introduced at his local beach that insisted on swimwear. He wrote in his diary of

‘the detestable custom of bathing drawers that are now becoming de rigeur’ when he went for a swim at Seaton, Devon in 1873, previously unaware of the new requirement for wearing bathing suits and recorded that

‘the young ladies strolling near seemed to have no objection.’ (to his nudity).



Below is a famous photograph (sorry it’s so small) of the police chasing naked swimmers in Hyde Park, London, during the Victorian era. Why? We’d now have been entering an era where nudity was frowned upon, but for poor families swimming costumes were an unnecessary purchase, and thus nude bathing continued.



Across Britain during the Victorian era there also emerged the ‘gentlemen’s bathing place’, (Oddicombe Bay, Devon, Bangor Northern Ireland, Forty Foot, Dublin, Ireland & others retain the quaint ‘gentlemen’s bathing place’ titles)

This was a euphemism for  ‘nude bathing’, and the practice continues to this day at Forty Foot, Dublin (named after the Forty Foot Infantry Division who were once in barracks there, and used the beach -in Victorian times- as their bathing facilities).

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Don arrives at the ‘Gentlemen’s Bathing Place’ for his nude morning swim, prior to the arrival of ‘the gentler sex’
Photo taken at the New Brighton sim. Note that this is not an official nudist beach in SL.


The ‘gentlemen’s swimming place’ at Oddicombe, Devon, showing typical features of the ‘facility’, steps into the sea,

and an isolated location with drying/changing potential -the flat area created from the rocks.

Another phenomenon of Victorian communal nudity would have been the spas and turkish baths of England. Some Turkish baths were built during Queen Victoria’s reign, and a spa had existed in Harrogate, Yorkshire, since the late 16th century, both forms of bathing being hugely popular across Europe.



Nothing so rustic as a ‘ladies’ bathing place’ existed. Instead, females got to use the bathing machine, a hut on wheels in which the woman changed, before the hut was reversed into the sea (by horse) and from which the lady could emerge, clad in a voluminous swimming costume, away from prying eyes and thus pre sever her modesty.

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Roberta dons a retro swimming costume to take to the beach at the New Brighton sim. Note the pier in some shots. Piers were a uniquely Victorian construction, still much in evidence around Britain today.

At the beginning of the Victoria era nude, mixed bathing was the norm. As I’ve said, the purchase of a swimming costume was an unnecessary luxury, and the practice of what were effectively nudist beaches, before nudism or naturism existed as a lifestyle choice, and it was the pressures of Christian evangelism, so often the bearers of funlessness, that caused the practice to end, for swimming costumes to become essential for the sake of ‘decency’. Essentially this was a problem just of British attitudes. In other countries in Europe, the practice of mixed nude bathing, in discreet locations, remained widely accepted.

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In France, they do things differently. ‘Pierre et Catherine’ (modelled by Don & Heather) find a bridge beside a river, some way from town, where they can bathe nude.

It has been my experience that the reduction in SL’s variety of sims has seen some Victorian styled sims lost to us, evidence of the period exists more by accident than design in some architecture and, at the likes of the New Brighton sim, where an accurate depiction of an English seaside town remains.

Meanwhile, it remains possible to look at an emerging Victorian era pornographic culture (not unique to Britain, but around the world in the period of Victoria’s British reign, mid-1800s through to 1900) and replicate that for SL. Our next depiction of vintage, from the dawn of photography, roughly commensurate with the Victorian era, will be to re-enact, to some degree, early examples of photographic pornography. And with the birth of the nudist/naturist movement at the very  end of Victoria’s lifetime, at the beginning of the 1900s, we’ll examine how the early naturist movement looked.