How “Baywatch” Left a Lasting Impression on Summer Style

The fascinating story of how one show changed swimwear history

David Hasselhoff in action on the set of "Baywatch."
Phil Mislinski / Getty Images
By Tobias Carroll / August 19, 2019 6:37 am

Streaming service subscribers who enjoy television shows about the thrilling adventures of lifeguards have cause for celebration: the television show Baywatch is now available to watch on both Hulu and Amazon Prime. In its heyday, it was one of the biggest shows on television — and its impact can still be felt today. 

At The New York Times, Nicole Pajer explored the show’s cultural impact, and made a strong case that the one-piece swimsuits worn by much of its female cast has cast a sartorial influence that’s lasted until the present day. Pajer cites the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Selena Gomez among the celebrities who have shown up wearing swimsuits that hearken back to the glory days of David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson.

Pajer spoke with one swimwear designer who spoke reverently about the effect of Baywatch on a recent design. 

Brian Davis, designer of Magicsuit swimwear, created the Scuba Blake one-piece, a modern twist on the Baywatch suit for the 2019 swimwear season. He said it has sold briskly, priced at $168. “As a swimwear designer it is impossible not be inspired and influenced by the iconic ‘Baywatch’ swimsuit,” Mr. Davis said. “Who can forget the image of Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth running down the beach, hair flying in the wind, clad in that hot cherry red one-piece?”

Pajer explores the history of the swimsuits used on the show, which were rooted in the actual designs of swimsuits used by California lifeguards. The article traces the evolution of the show’s swimsuits over time, as well as some of the logistical issues that came up when using them. It’s a fascinating look at the cultural legacy of one particular show. As for the style legacy of Baywatch Nights, that story remains to be told. 

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