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Quirky Photos Capture China’s Bizarre ‘Facekini’ Trend

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Photographer Peng Yangjun’s photographs of beach goers visiting the seaside of Qingdao, China appear like any other family snapshot of a cheerful retiree posing beside the placid water, with one obvious anomaly: all the women sport colorful ski masks.

Known as the facekini, these garments are popular amongst middle-aged female swimmers, who prefer to protect their faces from UV rays, as tanned skin in much of China is associated with manual labor and is considered unattractive. In the past five years, the facekini has become a regular sight on the beaches of Qingdao, as they also guard against jellyfish stings and mosquitoes. For many of these women, long-sleeved body suits are also popular.

No longer used merely for practicality’s sake, the facekini has become an avenue for older women to express themselves through fashion. Many feel self-conscious about exposing their bodies, and the anonymity afforded by the colorful mask, which extends to their collarbones, makes them feel more comfortable. Most of the women photographed by Peng have handmade their facial coverings from old underwear, bathing suits, or clothing to suit their personal style. While retailers have capitalized on the craze, selling facekinis on the shores of the city beaches, a good portion of the garments are one-of-a-kind, unique to the woman who wears them. In the context of these conventional beach portraits, the facekinis appear irresistibly strange, standing at the intersection of self-expression and an enigmatic sense of personal anxiety. Peng is part of photographic duo Peng & Chen.

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  • padugan

    their faces being tan is the least of their worries…..is being a fat slob also attractive?

  • http://www.mattdutile.com/ Matt Dutile

    It’s far less about attractiveness and more about social status.

  • padugan

    social status has more to do with attractiveness than anything else. Liposuction, implants etc. are all done to elevate social status as well as attractiveness. very hard to have one without the other.

  • http://www.mattdutile.com/ Matt Dutile

    Attractiveness is a component of social status, but not even close to one of the most important ones. Spend some time around some rich people and find out…

  • padugan

    I do, they are always having “work done”……..

  • ND

    paduguan please post a photo of yourself so others can post insensitive, hurtful and comments about your flaws.

    Although, without seeing an image we can already tell you are a self centered, arrogant idiot who little empathy for others.

  • padugan

    I’ll post a picture where I photoshop the tiny zit on my forehead while I leave the rest of my obese gut clearly visible, hiding behind the vague guise of some social construct that only exists in my mind. Exactly like these fat cows. Would that work for you? maybe I should add some post rationalization so that my garbage photography has some meaning? this is a bad photo project in every measurable way.

  • Claudia Leisinger

    such an interesting series. From a visual and social standpoint these images are very unsettling, however on another level they show creativity & ingenious human nature to come up with solutions that work. And what’s most fascinating to me is, that once the solution has proven to work, they all decide that wearing masks is now acceptable on the beach. Fascinating. Great work, I hope you will be able to disseminate it widely.

  • Simon Lafreniere

    I agree.