A French ban on the burkini — a swimsuit that covers the whole body except for the face, hands and feet — has prompted fierce debate, but women in one part of China are wondering what all the fuss is about.
Burkini ban, what the Hell? Chinese have facekinis
The “facekini” has been popular attire on beaches in eastern China for several years, especially in the city of Qingdao, a seaside city of 9 million.
The skin-tight elasticated fabric masks cover a swimmer’s entire head and neck. Holes are cut for eyes, nostrils, mouth and, in some cases, pony tails. Most facekinis cover up the rest of the torso as well.
“I’ve been using a facekini for nearly ten years,” says Wang Huimei, 58, a Qingdao local who goes to the beach almost everyday in summer.
“It’s way better than sunscreen lotion that wears off whenever I get inside the water. Plus, the water in this area tends to be cold, it’s comfortable to wear and it keeps me warm.”
Zhang Shifan says she’s the inventor of the facekini and has sold them on Taobao — China’s equivalent of Amazon — since 2007. She also has a brick-and-mortar store.
The garment was originally designed to protect people from jelly fish bites.
“Suntan protection was a secondary feature but now it’s the major appeal to my customers,” she adds.