Escape from Words: A Naturist Symbol

Naturist influencer Björ @IbanSaram has recently been exploring, on his Twitter platform, the creation of a recognizable symbol for naturism. The idea is that such a symbol can be displayed on many different kinds of objects (flags and banners, stickers and decals, towels and caps, etc.) and be understood by anyone, or at least those in the know, to mean that the venue, or event, or person is naturist. It’s a great idea!

One reason it’s such a great idea is that it could be truly universal, which is a quality that can only be a pipe dream for us writers. When compared to the other arts – such as dance, painting, photography, sculpture and music – writing is not universal unless it undergoes translation. Art forms that may depend on writing for narrative, such as theater and film, are also limited in this way. I am sure that Björ (@IbanSaram), as a fellow specialist in languages, has this well in mind, since he had tried out an earlier logo of sorts with the word “naturism” in several languages. (For a post on the challenge of inventing clever catchphrases or mottoes, see “Naturism in a Nutshell.”)

I’ve encountered a few proposals for a naturist flag design over the years, but the only one I’ve seen in a somewhat widely accepted form is the one known as the Skinny Dipper flag. It was designed by a group of naturists in Alaska, and can be purchased through a flag and banner company located in Arkansas. The flag design, meant to fit into the tradition of nautical flags, features a yellow upper triangle to represent sunlight and a blue lower triangle to represent water. You can read a bit more about the flag (and purchase one) here, and you can read a brief article about the genesis and design of the flag by nAKed friends, the group in Alaska, here.

The Skinny Dipper Flag

Frankly, I like this flag, and it’s already out there in the world, in use. It’s not bad. It was designed specifically, by naturists, to be unique and symbolic. The colors and what they represent are indeed universal.

But if not a flag, what could such a naturism symbol be? A sun? A sun alone is probably TOO universal. How about a sun, but with a letter “n,” since the words for nature and nudity start with that letter in most of the Indo-European languages? Not bad, but I still think that if it’s a symbol, it would be better without any kind of writing on it. (Writing is of course itself a system of symbols, but favoring the Roman alphabet over other systems doesn’t model the kind of inclusiveness that a “woke” symbol designed in the 21st century should signal.) Besides, The Naturist Society Foundation has been using an “n” (or sometimes “N”) as a trademarked symbol with, precisely, a stylized sun, for many years now.

It’s interesting to note that both of these designs use the colors yellow and blue, as does the INF/FNI logo:

Another member of the naturist community on Twitter, @thenudeguru, has proposed a flag that also uses those two colors, in top (blue) and bottom (yellow) horizontal stripes of even thirds, with an orange stripe in the middle.

For his part, Björ has sought to consistently use a completely different color, one that could be described as brown or tan. What makes it a special hue is that Björ produced the color by mixing a large sample of skin tones from naturist photos of people of many ethnicities. It’s the background color used in all of the captioned images that he produces, such as the one below:

Springing from this very clever idea of a kind of “default” skin color, could a stylized human body be a naturist symbol? Some naturist logos have trended this way, with line drawings of a nude female and/or nude male body. It’s not a bad idea, either, and seems absolutely appropriate – witness all the nudists who choose some version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Boticelli’s Venus, or the couple depicted on the Pioneer Plaque for their avatar. The challenge is to make such a “default” symbol inclusive enough for folks who don’t identify with either biological sex. Similarly, if it’s a logo that extrapolates beyond a male and female to depict a family or group, then it needs to somehow be as inclusive as possible, so that all kinds of family units can feel comfortable with it.

I did not set out to write this post as an endorsement for the Skinny Dipper flag, and yet I realize here in the last paragraph that the flag’s simple design gets around these problems of representing biological sex, family make-up, and even skin color. Maybe it really is the best solution for a non-verbal representation that, in the words of the flag’s designers, “will indicate to others that they are entering an area where they may encounter social nudity and to not be offended or else turn away.” The designers note that the diagonal formation makes a subtle letter “N” as well. Perhaps the flag design would also work well on stickers and towels and mugs and t-shirts and such. Of course, like any symbol, it could only truly become widely understood after being widely adopted. What do you think?

Appendix: Here is a Naturist Society flag submitted by Graham Jordan (see comments below). I think that because of the words “Nude & Natural,” the flag represents N magazine specifically more than TNSF itself.

21 thoughts on “Escape from Words: A Naturist Symbol”

  1. A great idea.The skinny dipping flag is a creative way to convey the message and avoid offense.It’s also a good way to start a conversation with those who are genuinely curious.

  2. How about a modified version of the skinny dip flag – top half yellow, bottom half blue (divided horizontally instead of diagonally) with two composite “flesh” colored symbols side-by-side: one being sort of an hourglass representing the general female shape, and the other being a monolith representing the general male shape.

  3. Many years ago, the Naturist Society had a blue flag, with the letter ‘N’. If there are no copyright issues, it is simple and clear. I could post a picture, if I knew where and how.

      1. Will Forest; I tried to find the flag that I have (white ‘N’ on blue background) on Google, but not found. I did see the later TNS flag, with the yellow ‘n’ and script on blue background. It’s a different flag. I ended up taking a picture of my flag, to share, but I don’t see a link for attachments on this forum.

  4. I’ve always liked the logo which originated in Germany, in the early days of the FKK movement. It’s been used, with variations, by a large number of organisations.

    It consists of a triangle with a stylised sun silhouetting a joyful female figure, and is distinctive. Currently, it is the basis of the logos of many German naturist organisations, with “DFK” lettering in the sun.

    Not as simple as a square divided in two, but it does have the advantage of reproducing well in monochrome. Even at small sizes, I find it easily recognisable on a website or on the printed page.

    There’s a small version at the top of this webpage:
    .

    For signing (eg direction signs to a beach), the three-letter “FKK” is – to the initiate – clear, simple, unambiguous and gives maximum visibility for the area of sign used. Last year, I found that aspect very useful when driving to a Greek beach through a small town. Easy to spot on the signs erected by the local authority.

    Does a set of three letters qualify as a “symbol”? Discuss, using no more than two sides of the paper.

    1. Thanks for this detailed comment, Tim! I don’t know that the FKK initials are understood all that much on this side (west) of the Atlantic, but I could be wrong about that, and of course it doesn’t mean they couldn’t be more widely adopted. The link for the triangle symbol you mention didn’t come through in the comment, for some reason.

      1. Try this (simple domain name, not a full address):

        dfk.org

        Will’s right about FKK being a European thing. I forgot, sorry. Any symbol / logo / flag would, ideally, have no local or culturally-specific associations. So, probably, no lettering – which is a big benefit of the two-colour flag idea.

        1. The plain letter ‘N’ on a simple flag is recognizable in multiple languages and does not require the interpretation of a symbol.

  5. I posted the blue flag with the white ‘N’ for its simplicity. The words ‘Nude and Natural’ are, of course proprietary, but could be omitted. The simple letter ‘N’ would be recognized in all languages.

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