Bare-faced cheek of our naturists
A new documentary cannot hide the oddness of those who like to strip, writes Allan Brown ( someone who doesn’t know all the facts!)


Perhaps you weren’t aware of it but you, your friends and your family are “textiles”. You live in the textile world, frequent textile shops, visit textile swimming baths, think textile thoughts and view the world through textile-tinted spectacles.

To explain: textile is the epithet used to describe those of us who wear clothes by those — albeit a tiny minority — who lay bare a passion for naturism, even in Scotland’s withering climate. This fact, along with a great deal else, very little of it appetising, is revealed in a documentary this week which studies the pastime formerly known as nudism.

Jinty Whitton practises naturism at home: “In Scotland you get maybe only three months you can do it, so the rest of the time we either go abroad or invite naturist friends round,” she says.

The programme discovers thriving naturist communities in Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, North Berwick and Haddington. “We just close the blinds, turn the heating up and chat away, just like textiles do at home. As you see in the documentary, I’m quite busty and I find clothes physically uncomfortable; bras irritate me. That doesn’t mean I’m having orgies every night, like a lot of textiles think.”

As with most reports that deal with uncommon behaviour of a quasi-sexual nature, such as foot fetishism, pole-dancing or wife-swapping, it makes the usual bland pleas for broad-mindedness. Naturists, it argues, aren’t paedophiles or perverts, they merely relish the whoosh of a stiff breeze against the vitals. They are responsible and discreet. So why do the nasty textiles keep looking at them in a strange way?

Why indeed. The 1,000-yard-stare strangeness of Scottish naturists is revealed by the weakness of their arguments. Reasons advanced for the advisability of habitual nakedness include the fact that it improves your swimming, saves worrying over what to wear, is socially egalitarian and, quite a troubling notion this, speeds up the courting ritual because it “lets you see what you’re going to get before you get there”.

The director of the documentary, Carolyn Mills, 25, discovered that if she wanted to chronicle the weirdos, she would have to join them. “Within 10 minutes you forget you’re naked,” she says.

“The rule is that you have to maintain eye contact at all times, so you concentrate more on what people are saying. I was quite a novelty because I’m so young. Most naturists begin in their mid-fifties. I’ve been asked to join quite a few of the swimming clubs I visited but I haven’t decided if I will.”

Mills was hoping to capture the broad-minded positivity of the Scottish naturist scene, but what comes across most is the frightful snobbery of those who participate. As with real ale buffs, naturists seem very keen on “real” people, a condition best achieved by flaunting that which should be concealed or surgically removed.

Their vanity is evident in their oft-mentioned relief at no longer having to be vain, which alerts us to how deeply the matter of appearance has troubled them in the past. “Now I don’t have to worry if I’m six stone or 16 stone,” said one woman, whose worries about weighing six stone are clearly unfounded.

If such notions aren’t frightening enough, the documentary culminates in one of the most disturbing sights yet shown on television, a naturist party. In a spooky basement, nudists dance to Tom Robinson’s 2-4-6-8 Motorway, wearing only masks.

It is absolutely terrifying, like a nightmare suffered by the Duchess of Argyll after watching The Blair Witch Project. “A few of the naturists were sensitive about having their identities revealed, so they insisted on wearing the masks,” says Mills. “Some of their workmates don’t know what they do at the weekends. Scotland is still so prudish.”

Thank the capaciously-clothed Lord that it is, if this lot are the alternative. The expression in the eyes of poor Nora, clearly dragooned into sharing her husband’s bizarre whims, will stay in the mind of the sensitive viewer for days, as will several more corporeal sights.

Wearing The One-Buttoned Suit, is on STV on Thursday 6th November 2003 at 11pm