Two women wear face-kinis on the beach in Qingdao, Shandong province. (Photo/CFP)
Men and women wearing full body suits from head to toe are appearing on nearly every beach in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province as the weather gets hotter. The upper part of the swimsuit, which covers the head and only leaves the eyes, nose and mouth exposed, not only adds a hint of mysterious fashion on the beach, but has also brought instant fame to their wearers on the internet. Netizens are calling the swimwear "face-kinis," according to CRI online, a web version of the state-run broadcaster China Radio International.
At 6:00am in the morning, the sea became dotted with colorful face-kinis in black, red, orange and blue stripes and patterned designs.
The capped swimmers would dive beneath the waves, surfacing like an eccentric special forces team. When they took off their masks, everyone was finally able to see the identity of the masked aqua men and women, who turned out to be mostly retired woman, workers, teachers, and civil servants. They are fully equipped and good at swimming.
"The weather is too hot, the first thing I do each day is to swim in the sea," said 62-year-old Zhang Guilan, a native of Qingdao with a special affection for the sea.
The face masks were initially designed to protect from sunburn but it turns out they are also quite handy at repelling insects and jellyfish. The amphibious hominids sometimes scare away tourists with their sleek checkered skin, said 61-year-old Miss Cheng.
As far back as seven years ago, people starting wearing the full body suits for recreational swimming in the sea, Zhang Guilian recalled. She thought this invention came from the native wisdom of Qingdao citizens.
Unlike many white western sunbathers, many people in China dislike getting a tan, especially on the face. They feel that dark skin, reminiscent of farmers and laborers who toil in the sun, is not as pretty as dainty white skin.
The swimmers took used clothing and tailored their own face-kinis, which only take five minutes to make with a sewing machine at home. Now some shops on beach are selling this special swimwear at 15 to 25 yuan (US$2.40-S$4).