How the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover went from conservative to tops optional

It started as a five-page supplement in the 60s. And is now a publishing phenomenon.

THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Swimsuit Issue, which will be on news stands — and your computers — next week, debuted in 1964 as a five-page supplement meant to increase readership during the winter sports lull after the Super Bowl.

The very first cover featured a model in a conservative, non-revealing bikini. The photo was shot at a wide angle, almost focusing more on the beach background than the model.

Throughout the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s, the covers remained fairly tame; they generally featured a beautiful model wearing a bathing suit any young woman would wear to the beach.

In the 90′s and 2000′s, a trend began. The models started wearing less and less, and the camera focused more and more on their bodies, and less on the surrounding scene.

How the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover went from conservative to tops optional
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  • Here's the first swimsuit cover from 1964. The bathing suit is hardly revealing and the camera angle is wide

  • A few years later in 1969, the model wore a skirt over her bikini and someone else was in the background of the shot

  • In 1970, the model wore a very conservative long sleeve top

  • At the end of the 70's the focus is definitely more on the model and her body, but her suit still isn't super revealing

  • Christie Brinkley posed in 1980. Her suit is more revealing, but the camera angle leaves some to the imagination

  • Kathy Ireland posed for the 25th anniversary cover in 1989. While she's giving the camera a seductive look, the focus is still more her face than her body given the camera angle

  • In 1997, Tyra Banks graced the cover, straight on in a very revealing suit.

  • And the next year the straight on in a string bikini look continued

  • But when we hit the 2000's, tops became optional

  • Or barely there

  • The all-star cover issue featured 8 famous models in just swimsuit bottoms

  • The necklace for a top really became a theme in the 2000's

  • Brooklyn Decker, Andy Roddick's wife, wore her top over her shoulder in 2010

  • Irina Shayk, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend, wore a top (kind of) last year though. And now, the camera is zoomed in much more, showing more of the model, and less of the scenery

  • In 2012, Kate Upton graced the cover wearing, well, basically nothing

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