What (not) to wear at the beach

Sarah Matthews Guest Blogger BA Spanish and Business Management at the University of Manchester
Imagine the scene: it’s Sunday, and every Spaniard - no matter whether or not they have their own pool, private or shared - heads to the beach. Dominguero is the word used to describe these Sunday daytrippers, who take along everything from their homes apart from the kitchen sink, or so it seems. Chairs, tables, barbecues, fans, a mini-fridge (battery-powered, presumably), a shoe tidy, the grandfather’s puzzle and the family dog have all been seen heading to the beach to set up camp, with breakfast, lunch and dinner included. It’s most certainly not the quietest affair as the whole family congregates beneath a DIY marquee of parasols to enjoy the weather, the beach and the sea. But this is one of the things I love about Spain and its eccentricities. All the family spend time together, giving them a chance to catch up on the week’s gossip, and the all-important opportunity for the abuelos (grandparents) to see their beloved ‘little ones’ or reyes and reinas, so they can spend the following week boasting proudly to their friends and neighbours about how well little Jose has mastered the skill of walking upright, and how Maria is a dab hand at building sandcastles. A game which I and my friends love to play whilst relaxing on the beach is ‘Spot the Brits’. It involves a bit of harmless fun as we take in the sights (in the pejorative sense; they can be painful) and atmosphere of the Costa del Sol’s beaches. Nestled in between the chaos of los domingueros during the tourist months, you can often spot the unmistakable glow of a foreign tourist. Be they British or not, the lobster-pink shoulders and irritable children moaning about the itchy sand between their toes are instantly recognizable. The disgruntled fathers are never far away, moaning that ‘It’s too hot’, and you can’t miss the rolling eyes of a mother who just wants her children to stop kicking sand in the picnic and leave her in peace for a few minutes. You can’t help but wonder why so many British families bother coming to Spain, if all they do when they get here is grumble. What’s more - we’ve all seen it - why do so many tourists insist on wearing clothes they would never dream of wearing back home, or even in the garden for that matter? That moth-eaten lime-green T-shirt from 1982 and white polyester knee-length shorts were best consigned to the recycling bin, or just the bin, years ago. Is it because we don’t have real summers in England, and therefore new summer clothes have not been purchased since 1982? Or is it because the culprits in question know that they won’t bump into ‘Sue from the office’ while sunning their snowy bodies in Benalmadena? Furthermore, on the tourist-swamped beaches of the Costa del Sol, the infamous socks-and-sandals combo is painfully ubiquitous. Who on earth decided it was a good idea to prevent sandals from performing the very function for which they were invented: to air your feet? Next, you can sample the make-up clad teenage girls, whose faces by midday are melting down like a Salvador Dali painting onto the sand beside them. Then, there’s the mother of all crimes against tasteful, non-embarrassing holiday attire - the ‘bum-bag’. OK, so they may be practical, but come on. It’s 2010. I believe that it’s well and truly time to call it a day on such hortera (naff) attire and get with the times. If Malaga is set to compete realistically in the running for European Culture Capital in 2016, then that allows plenty of time to regenerate every aspect of tourism in the area, including wardrobe horror stories. Having announced that they are fed up of what people are wearing (or rather what they’re not wearing), authorities in Barcelona - a place not known for its conservative attitudes - took decisive action in May. They put up signs across the city to encourage sun-seekers to cover up when they leave the beach. Perhaps the perpetrators in Andalucia should cover up too - not their bikinis, but their entire choice of holiday clothing?
Blog published on 17 August 2010