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The History of Beach Towels

A sure sign of summer, beach towels are both a necessity and a fashion accessory for today’s beachgoers. But where did they come from? The earliest examples of the beach towel debuted in the 1920s in response to the rising popularity of sunbathing and swimming. These early examples were typically printed with geometric patterns or stripes and often resembled cloaks or robes. Over time, the modern flat beach towel evolved. But where exactly did the towel come from? Modern towels – including beach towels – are based on “pestemals,” a type of Turkish cloth designed to be wrapped around the body. Beginning around the 18th century, these cloths were made of “havly,” a looped pile fabric. When an Englishman named Henry Christy came across these cloths in the Turkish capital around 1850, he brought the concept back to England and founded a household linen company with his brother. Notably, the brothers created a looped fabric similar to havly; the increased surface area from the loops made it effective at drying things – and indeed, it later became known as terry cloth, a material well-known today for its drying capabilities. The technology to make terry cloth towels then spread to the United States, where it was used to create both bath towels and beach towels. Beach towels are usually larger, thinner, and more brightly colored than their bath towel cousins to allow for higher visibility and increased surface area for lying down. Today, they come in a variety of patterns that make them easy to spot while also allowing the user to express their personality.

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