When it comes to beachwear, Rio is certainly the right place to be. Cariocas did not create the bikini, but they took it to a level of perfection unequaled anywhere around the world. Each summer there's some novelty or new trend. It starts here and soon is exported to the best shops in NYC, London or Paris.
The reason is simple. Carioca girls basically spend the whole summer in a bikini. As of course they don't want to be in the very same bikini for 3 months, so one or two pairs is simply not enough. Most girls have a collection of bikinis to mix and match. And they stock up in a kind of shop you may have never even heard of: the bikini boutique.
We are not talking some dusty corner of a department store where you have to struggle to find something that loosely fits. Bikini boutiques are very sophisticated, and they carry dozens of different models - including more conservative ones, if that's what you have in mind. The salesgirls know exactly what will work for you, and there's a plethora of prints, colors and fabrics to choose from. In the peak of summer there are even lines at the door when a new collection is released!
Doing a bikini boutique while in Rio is a must. Salinas, Rosa Chá, Lenny and Bumbum are among the best. And while you're at it, you may as well pay a visit to one of the many excellent waxing salons found in Ipanema or Copacabana. Treat yourself to a genuine Brazilian bikini waxing! It will cost a fraction of what you would pay back home, and it will give you a new boost in confidence when you break in your brand-new bikini.
Guys will not be disappointed either. We are not talking about taking advantage of the view with all the beauties in bikinis. OK, maybe that too... But what we are trying to say is that bikini boutiques have their counterparts for men. Before you jump to conclusions: Carioca men do not wear a bikini bottom. Well, they did wear thongs and G-strings back in the 80's, but they are soooo passé...
The cool swimsuits for men today are called sungas (pronounced soon-gas), the Carioca version of Speedos. They are about 4-5 inches wide on the sides, and you wear them under a pair of surfer's trunks. You only take the trunks off once you choose a spot to stay at the beach. The idea is both to work on your tan line, and dry off fast after you take a dip.
There's a practical purpose for all the trouble. If your trunks remain dry you are perfectly dressed to go from the beach straight to a streetside cafe or restaurant, and look like you belong. Sungas do not have pockets either, and as Carioca guys travel light to the beach. Trunk pockets are perfect to stash pocket money, cigarettes or sunscreen.The best place to find sungas in town may be Blue Man, a boutique with branches in Ipanema and at better malls. You may choose from 3 or 4 different widths - but again, never the string variety. Men in thongs will look silly and alien at the beach around here. Sungas are made in lycra spandex. They come in all colors, a number of prints. Lighter colors have an extra layer of fabric to make sure they don't become completely see-through when wet.