The Pretzel Described
The pretzel maillot takes its name from its shape: in pure form the top is twisted before being put over the head so, like its namesake, it provides a criss-cross motif with bareness below (MH0708BS). It is sometimes also called a "twister."
The pretzel emerges in the early 1990s, a product of Spandex and a desire to discover new fashion lines. Like the criss-cross halter, the pretzel uses cross-tensioning to somewhat unconvincingly capture but hardly support the breasts, before racing down to the side to anchor the waistline at the side or back--and to provide corresponding uplift for the bottom (SH9354). The pretzel is almost always completely bare-backed and tanga, if only because the uplift from the criss-cross will force the legline upward and inward, so that the bikiniite will reveal buttage (and inquinal) whether she intends to or not. The diagonal line below the breasts, coupled with the rising, v-kini silhouette of the front, produce a diamond of bare belly that can strike deep yet also reveal cleavage centros, neathage, as well as côté (EC1017BS).
Pretzels just aren't for the amateur, and require careful movement to maintain big glamour instead of big accidents, although their slippery nature is part of their pinup allure (ZX3KD4BS).
The richness of the pretzel silhouette resonate with many other species of maillot and bikini, although its tensions tend to separate it from all of them. Already mentioned is the relationship to the criss-cross halter; what has spurned argument among bikini scientists is the subtle question of whether a criss-cross halter which has been tied to a culotte is in fact a pretzel maillot?
Obviously a pretzel shares a gene with the maillot tanga, although it is far more complex than a bare-butted maillot. And it may also be though of in the context of the maillot cutout, although (like the miokini and cross-tension), it hardly a maillot with the belly excised. Its tension is also similar to maillot sarong, in that it is fastened around the waist, goes through the crotch, up the buttocks, around the waist, and crosses below the breasts, x-style, before darting around the neck.
Pretzel necklines are usually designed without fasteners, and although neckties do exist and can provide some adjustment they can also be annoying to wear.
Most pretzels can also be worn without the twist--that is, the bikiniite simply dons the maillot with the strap behind the neck without criss-crossing it in front. A maillot worn this way, or which is specifically cut to be worn in this matter is usually called a slingshot maillot (AB9340, JE9342, HS9710); the fact that the pretzel and slingshot styles are often interchangeable is the reason they are both discussed here. The slingshot silhouette combines aspect of the deep V plunge maillot, with the not-entirely subtle distinction of that the breast cups are quite narrow and independently adjust on the waistline, pulling it quite high (YSA835BS). Post 2000 any aspects of the v-kini are abandoned and the attachment points for the bottom and top are reduced, with the bottom tensioning concentrating at the center, in what is called a teardrop silhouette (FRA510). Depending upon the cut of the pretzel, wearing it slingshot style can be quite flattering or it can work against the natural mechanics of the swimsuit. It goes without saying that one reason the slingshot has more appeal in the realm of glamour than the real world is its propensity to breast exposure (AMK110BS).
Pretzels and slingshot are sometimes made with fuller fabric (ZXCA02BS) but more frequently are string bikini styles. Occasionally it is difficult to ascertain of the maillot is one piece or two (ZP5120BS). In both the slingshot and its twisted sister, the bottom of the bra cups often terminate in slide casings on the string waistline (ZX3K26BS), creating a very slippery situation (YSA820BS). After all, less is more.
In topological terms note that the haltered pretzel has five edges whereas the more rare (and more secure) X-back variation has six. The slingshot, always haltered, has four edges. This topological analysis helps separate the slingshot from the suspender maillot, with its two shoulder straps and five edges, and from the always sideless torpedo, also with two shoulder straps but only three edges.
The Pretzel's Emergence
The pretzel is a quick favorite of the Muscle and Fitness crowd who feature it on the cover in 1990 (MF9001). These first pretzels, like the one featured in the Sport Europa swimsuit catalog (SE9310) are neither haltered nor tanga and repeat the criss-cross tension in the X-back of the swimsuit. Other early 1990 appearances include the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the Playboy Specials (where TP9210 introduces it is on a cover and shows how slippery it can be inside), and various swimsuit catalogs (AE9510).
The mature, string tanga form, is one of several extreme styles worn at a Perfect 10 Bikini Contest in 1992 (PT9210), and is spotted early on at the Coconuts Bikini Contest in Cocoa Beach CB9371, CB9375, CB9378), in which most if not all of the swimsuits are custom made--either by the contestant herself or her favorite bikinier or bikinière. Slingshots also provide serious competition at this venue (CB9376, CB9379).
In the 21st century, once again, extreme swimsuit styles are resonating between the world of "the gentlemen's club" (ZX3K60BS) and the real beach, often with little distinction.