By Leslie Marcus / Photos by Steven Gomillion and Dennis Leupold
No one knows the exact origin of the pucker-butt bikini, aka "the scrunch back." Nevertheless, the pucker-back has singlehandedly revolutionized ladies' swimwear, elevated self-confidence at Sunday pool parties across the globe and made the day of many men in the process.
Sure, it's just a gathered piece of Lycra on the outside, but it means that women everywhere no longer have to fear the dreaded diaper-look when exiting the water.
"The scrunch-butt is a matter of form-it forms to your body in a way that makes your butt look more ?attering," says Lilly Ghalichi, co-founder of fashion brand Have Faith-Swimgerie (basically, lingerie you can swim in).
Ghalichi and her co-pilot, Jennifer Stano, found a niche in the market, and now women and men can't get enough of their sexy, figure-enhancing designs and heart-shaped pucker-back bottoms.
"It's definitely not a trend. It's a staple, a movement," Ghalichi says. "It's just like the bikini-it was done, it was incredible, it was revolutionary, it was needed. And it's here forever. Scrunch-butt is the same way."
In the late '90s, we started to see a revolution of sorts in swimsuit trends. Think Baywatch. The French-cut with the high sides was very popular. That went out, and along came the string bikini. And now, the scrunch-back is in.It used to be extremely difficult to find a pucker-back, so difficult that my friend used to buy regular bikinis and have a seamstress install an elastic strip into the butt crack. She was a pucker-back connoisseur.
I witnessed the trend take form while living in Vegas. That's where the Sunday pool party craze exploded. Bikinis also got an upgrade with high heels, club makeup and shimmer body lotion. It was standard uniform at places like Wet Republic, Tao Beach and Rehab.
It took some journalistic research to find those pucker-backs. Discovery occurred at a store off the strip, where exotic dancers got their professional attire. There they were-pucker-back bikinis in every color of the rainbow. I had found the pot of gold and checked out with a canary yellow one.
Six years and dozens of pucker-backs later, that O.P. (original pucker) still sits in my dresser drawer.
Indeed, pucker-backs have become commonplace in San Diego, but it's where you'd least expect to find them that proves the most interesting.
There they were, as I lounged poolside at La Costa Resort and Spa: middle-aged women in pucker-backs, pregnant women in them, and moms wearing them while holding their toddlers. Who'd a thunk a piece of elastic could be such a game-changer?
In hindsight, I see how pucker-backs may have reinvigorated the hackneyed phrase: "I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave."
So, this summer, liberate your cheeks, pucker up and flaunt those assets.