The 5 Greatest Moments In 50 Years of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit

Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue has stood the test of time, made us rethink the bikini, inspired the careers of supermodels like Christie Brinkley and Tyra Banks, and has, since its launch half a century ago, caused conservatives globally to panic. But what this publication has accomplished in its 50 years is quite extraordinary. It began as a small insert in the Jan. 20, 1964 edition of Sports Illustrated in order to fill the slow winter months for sports news and is now the powerhouse of the Sports Illustrated franchise.

The Swimsuit Issue now has its own television show, just published a book in 2013 called Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful, revealing unpublished photographs and inside stories, and even has a television special for the 50th anniversary available on DirecTV. So, to celebrate, let’s take a look at the top 5 moments from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue’s history.

1. The First Issue in 1964

The first issue of the publication was created in 1964 on a whim by then-editor Andre Laguerre, who wanted to help increased the sales of Sports Illustrated during the slow winter months. The issue was a mere 5-page spread and featured model Babette March in a white bikini on the cover. This issue was extremely controversial, as bikini’s were not yet legitimate pieces of clothing having only been created in 1946, yet the magazine helped bring the bikini into popular culture.

2. Most Popular Issues

The best-selling issue was in 1989 for the 25th Anniversary Issue with Kathy Ireland gracing the cover. Modeling an itsy-bitsy yellow bandeau bikini, Ireland’s modeling career propelled after this cover photo. She would later be featured in two additional Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover photos, found a brand marketing company called “Kathy Ireland Worldwide” and become one of the wealthiest former supermodels in the world.

3. The Best of Body Paint

A popular staple of the SI Swimsuit Issue is the infamous body painting where models’ “clothing” is painted on them. Featuring everyone from Kate Upton to Heidi Klum, the Sports Illustrated body paint has created painted-on swimsuits and even sports jersey’s for over 12 years. The idea was brought to Sports Illustrated by makeup artist Joanne Gair, who became popular after the 1992 Vanity Fair Demi Moore cover featured Demi in a body paint tuxedo. Here are a few of our favorite body painting models.

4. Most Exotic Locations

The SI Swimsuit Issue has traveled to 148 destinations on six continents, 53 countries and 13 U.S. states in its 50 years. Capturing destinations from Antarctica for a chilly shoot with Kate Upton, to a trip to Zambia to shoot Genevieve Morton next to a waterfall, here are a few of our favorite destinations from the SI Swimsuit Issue.

Genevieve Morton in Zambia, 2012

Kate Upton in Antarctica, 2013

Jessica Gomes in Guilin, 2013

Adaora in Namibia, 2013

Kim Cloutier in Riviera Maya, 2009

5. Creating Legends

Unlike many high fashion supermodels, the Sports Illustrated models are known for their curvaceous bodies. While there have been hundreds of supermodels that have graced the cover, here are a few of our favorites from the past 50 years who can thank SI Swimsuit for a major boost in their career. Bar Refaeli Paulina Porizkova Christie Brinkley illustrated-si.jpg Brooklyn Decker Heidi Klum Kate Upton Elle Macpherson

Heidi Klum

Christie Brinkley

Elle Macpherson

Brooklyn Decker

Kate Upton

Bar Refaeli

Paulina Porizkova

Kathy Ireland

Tyra Banks

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