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A History Of The Wet T-Shirt Contest

By / 05.16.10

It was a Saturday afternoon when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the mobile device and saw that it was my concubine man-boy sexy, large breasted girlfriend calling; she was vacationing with her friends for the weekend. In my usual smooth and silky demeanor I answered the phone, only to get bitch slapped with a question that few partners are rarely even consulted on: “Hey, I have a question, how would you feel about me competing in a wet T-shirt contest tonight?”. If only I had larger hands to exemplify the EPIC FACEPALM that my emotions performed. It would not be until the next morning when she’d describe to me her relief in not actually deciding to participate in the competition, a regret that her girlfriends would have to digest for the remainder of their existence. My girlfriend, thinking I would be shocked, later revealed, “Oh my God, did you know that these girls get completely naked and giggle their asses off on stage?”. Yes…yes, I did know. So did every single other person who showed up at that event. Especially “this guy”:


My girlfriend’s brush with skankiness left the gears in my brain spinning and so the rejected archeologist within compelled me to dig up the lineage of such a competition. The Phantom Menace of the transparent T-shirt exhibition, if you will, only minus that doucher Jar Jar Binks.

For one to really place a pecker on the origin of the concept is equivalent to trying to find out which person in the orgy had those red bumps first. While rumors run rampant that American cinemas are responsible for birthing the craze, while others point the finger at foreign cultures. Me, I take a more scientific approach to the research: I type “wet T-shirt contest” in Google Images and then black out due to the sheer awesomeness of my fieldwork.

Like I mentioned, early speculations first lead our map pins to Spain, the land of… Spaniards, I guess. Many suggest that the wet T-shirt concept originated around the same time as the Tomatina tradition began (started in 1945, but not officially recognized until 1952). Though the equation seems pretty logical -food fight + wet items being thrown + women in tee shirts = GOOAAALLL- it’s hard to find much else in evidence, leading one to only assume that somehow the concept hadn’t caught fire yet.

It's all fun and games until someone gets a boner and dies.


It wouldn’t be until the mid 70s that the wet T-shirt craze would finally begin to make a name for itself in the United States. For once it seemed that young, vivacious women had found a somewhat socially acceptable outlet for their talents of making old men howl -and it didn’t even involve burning dinner. Publications from 1975, like The Palm Beach Post, reveled in the excitement of the contests and participants were even interviewed by local papers, giving first-hand praise of their experiences. Not quite as sexy as The Family Circus, but still groundbreaking journalism nonetheless.

“It’s fantastic,” said maxi winner Debbie Tomlinson, a buxom 24-year-old brunette who doffed her top and collected her second win in a contest at Cord’s Underground Sunday. “I’ll do it again wherever there’s another on,” she said.

Red-haired Tammy Ward, 18, whose suggestive writhing helped her win the mini prize in her first try said, “It was a lot of fun. I was a little embarrassed at first but I got over it.”

And got over it she did. Unfortunetly Tammy had anticipated “A Father’s Love” as the mini prize -not so. Sorry Tammy, better luck next year.

Three cheers for women's suffrage: Hipp-hipp hooray!


As popular as the craze was becoming, it wasn’t until the mainstream media caught on that the wet T-shirt contest became a household fantasy. Thanks to popular films like 1977’s The Deep, in which its opening scene is beauty Jacqueline Bisset swimming through the ocean in a translucent “tee”, the idea was picking up momentum at a boner-inducing rate.

Jacqueline Bisset’s appearance in the film ‘The Deep’ in 1977, when she was filmed underwater and surfacing in a white t-shirt, would have helped to bring wet t-shirt contests to greater prominence.

In 1978 we saw the film ‘I was a Contestant at Mothers Wet T-shirt Competition’. [source]

Thank you, sir! May I have another?


Popular music took note as well of the wet T-shirt contest. In 1979, Frank Zappa released the track “Fembot In A Wet T-Shirt” on his album Joe’s Garage: Acts I, II & III. The song featured such genius lyrics as:

And they’re ready to party
Cause the sign outside says it’s WET T-SHIRT NITE
‘N’ they all crave some Hot delight
Well the girls are excited
Because in a minute
They’re gonna get wet
‘N’ the boys are delighted
Because all the titties
Will get ‘em upset

And so the excitement continued to swell when it came to women parading themselves on stage soaking wet from the chest to the hips. The 80s welcomed more and more displays of competitions, as social acceptance spread further and further. Oversees the United Kingdom even began using the contests as a means of finding new “Page 3″ models (NSFW to google). Both Stacey Owen (NSFW to google) and Debbie Quorell (NSFW to google) were discovered in this way, though I’m sure their striking personalities were just as endearing.
*cough* Bullsh-t! *cough*

But just like any misunderstood art form, the wet T-shirt contest has always drawn criticism ever since its inception. Right wing conservatives and activists alike have always viewed the dripping wet exhibitions as crass and demeaning (no idea why?). Whether you’re a Jaycee member from ’77 receiving a suspension for participating in the excitement of an event or a group of Oregon teens celebrating at 30,000 feet with their flight captain, the stigma of drenched T-shirts have always been associated with irresponsibility, despite the setting or appropriateness of the occasion.

So take note people, the wet T-shirt contest is here to stay. Though we’ve long outlived the innocence and nostalgic essence that existed at the beginning of the movement, the events still stand as testaments of good times and lots of booze. As the raunchiness of the competitions continue to rise, just remember to take pride in your physical beauty and be proud of what your mother gave you. I am after all a guy and despite my throbbing intelligence, even that can’t sway me from the excitement of a wet T-shirt contest. Heed my girlfriend’s warning though, you may find yourself attached to the stigma if you do so decide to participate, but please remember that scantily clad women are an integral part of our ecosystem and you’re doing your part to help balance the scales of life. Take pride in your exhibitionism and proudly stand your place atop that stage, ladies. Just be sure that if you are going to do it, by all means please do it right.


TAGSDebbie QuorellFrank ZappaJacqueline BissetSpring BreakStacey OwenThe DeepTomatina TraditionWet T-Shirt Contest

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