Woman wearing a G-string
Woman wearing a G-string
Man wearing a G-string
Man wearing a G-string

A G-string is a type of thong, a narrow piece of fabric, leather, or satin that covers or holds the genitals, passes between the buttocks, and is attached to a waistband around the hips. A G-string can be worn both by men and by women. It may also be worn in swimwear, where it may serve as a bikini bottom, but may be worn alone as a monokini or topless swimsuit. G-strings may also be worn by exotic or go-go dancers. As underwear, a G-string may be worn in preference to panties to avoid creation of a visible panty line, or to briefs in order to enhance sex-appeal.

The two terms G-string and thong are sometimes used interchangeably; however, technically they refer to different pieces of clothing.

Etymology

Since the 19th century, the term geestring referred to the string which held the loincloth of Native Americans[1] and later referred to the narrow loincloth itself. William Safire in his Ode on a G-String quoted the usage of the word "G-string" for loincloth in New York Times.

Safire also mentions the opinion of linguist Robert Hendrickson that G (or gee) stands for groin, which was a taboo word at the time.[2] Rachel Shteir refers to Hendrickson's opinion in her book "Striptease" and adds that during the Great Depression, a "G-string" was known as "the gadget", a double-entendre that referred to a handyman's "contrivance", an all-purpose word for the thing that might "fix" things.[3]

Cecil Adams, author of the blog The Straight Dope, has proposed an origin from "girdle-string", which is attested as early as 1846.[4]

History

The G-string first appeared in costumes worn by showgirls in the United States in Earl Carroll's productions during the 1920s,[5] a period known as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties.[3] Before the Depression most performers made their own G-strings or bought them from travelling salesmen, but from the 1930s they were usually purchased from commercial manufacturers of burlesque costumes.[6] During the 1930s, the "Chicago G-string" gained prominence when worn by performers like Margie Hart. The Chicago area was the home of some of the largest manufacturers of G-strings and it also became the center of the burlesque shows in the United States.[3] Early performers of color to wear a G-string on stage included the Latina stripper Chiquita Garcia in 1934, and "Princess Whitewing", a Native American stripper near the end of the decade.[7]

The term G-string started to appear in Variety magazine during the 1930s. In New York City, G-strings were worn by female dancers at risqué Broadway theatre shows during the Jazz Age. During the 1930s and 1940s, the New York striptease shows in which G-strings were worn were described as "strong". In shows referred to as "weak" or "sweet" the stripper wore "net panties" instead. "Strong" shows usually took place only when the police were not present, and they became rarer after 1936 when Fiorello H. La Guardia, the Mayor of New York City, organised a series of police raids on burlesque shows.[8]

The American burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee is popularly associated with the G-string. She was the purported author of the best-selling 1941 detective novel The G-String Murders[9] in which strippers are found strangled with their own G-strings. Her striptease performances often included the wearing of a G-string; in a memoir written by her son Erik Lee Preminger she is described as gluing on a black lace G-string with spirit gum in preparation for a performance.[10]

In the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan is described as wearing a G-string made of doe or leopard skin.[11]

By the late 1980s G-strings had become widely available in the Western world, and they became increasingly popular during the 1990s. In Africa the G-string has become a fashionable item of clothing for young women, and they are often visible above the back-line of jeans as a whale tail.[12]

In modern strip clubs the strippers often wear G-strings and the customers often give them tips by placing banknotes in their G-strings.[13] The wearing of G-strings in strip clubs is required in some jurisdictions under laws that prohibit public nudity.[14]

References

  1. ^ Beadle, John Hanson (1877). Western Wilds, and the Men Who Redeem Them: An Authentic Narrative. Jones Brothers. p. 249. geestring.
  2. ^ Safire, William (August 4, 1991). "On Language; Ode on a G-String". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-03-31. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  3. ^ a b c Rachel Shteir (1 November 2004). Striptease:The Untold History of the Girlie Show. Oxford University Press. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-19-512750-8. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  4. ^ Adams, Cecil (2010-09-02). "What does the G in G-string stand for?". The Straight Dope. Archived from the original on 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2014-12-21. Littell's Living Age, Vol. IX, 1846: 'Their arms were a small hatchet, stuck in their girdle-string.' While that hardly proves G-string is an abbreviation of girdlestring, the fact that the latter word existed and means the same as G-string supports my conjecture that the shorter term derived from the longer.
  5. ^ B. Foley, Undressed for Success: Beauty Contestants and Exotic Dancers as Merchants of Morality, page 143, Springer, 2016, ISBN 9781137040893
  6. ^ Shteir (2004), p. 201.
  7. ^ Shteir (2004), p. 205.
  8. ^ Shteir, Rachel (2012). "Afterword – Gypsy Rose Lee: "Striptease Intellectual"". The G-String Murders. By Lee, Gypsy Rose. The Feminist Press at CUNY. ISBN 9781558617612.
  9. ^ Carolyn Quinn (2013). Mama Rose's Turn: The True Story of America's Most Notorious Stage Mother. University Press of Mississippi. p. 239. ISBN 9781617038532.
  10. ^ Preminger, Erik Lee (2004). "Chapter 1". My G-String Mother: At Home and Backstage with Gypsy Rose Lee. Frog Books. pp. 14–18. ISBN 9781583940969.
  11. ^ Ullery, David A. (2001). The Tarzan Novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs: An Illustrated Reader's Guide. McFarland. p. 12. ISBN 9780786450954.
  12. ^ Sylvia, Tamale (2017). Research on Gender and Sexualities in Africa. Codesria. pp. 80–81. ISBN 9782869787124.
  13. ^ Scott, David A. (2003). Behind the G-String: An Exploration of the Stripper's Image, Her Person and Her Meaning. McFarland Incorporated. p. 9. ISBN 9780786418497.
  14. ^ McKeever, Robert J. (1995). Raw Judicial Power?: The Supreme Court and American Society. Manchester University Press. p. 234. ISBN 9780719048739.