No longer consigned to the bedroom, this season the G-string is the lingerie of choice for gym bunnies and fashion slaves alike. Their mission: to banish VPL. James Sherwood reports
DOROTHY Parker once drawled, "Brevity is the soul of lingerie" - and you can't get much briefer than the Gucci G-string for Spring/Summer 97. According to Vanity Fair, the most fashionable beach bums in Miami are sporting the Gucci "thong" - and that's only the boys. For pounds 95, men can buy a pouch and piece of string that is the fashion equivalent of dental floss, with that Gucci snaffle sitting cheekily above the crack. And, according to Gucci, they are one of the season's big sellers.

"Thongs are selling big time," says Graham Haines, owner-manager of Sports Locker in London's Covent Garden. The engineering of men's underwear now - thank God for Lycra - means that the thong is no longer looked on as an instrument of torture. Sports Locker reports that most of its clients are men buying for themselves. The popularity of the thong is definitely not wives or girlfriends wishful thinking.

"We have a lot of gym bunnies coming in here who want to eliminate the line of conventional underwear when wearing tight work-out wear. Equally, the new fabrics for menswear this summer mean that traditional Y-fronts or even briefs are too conspicuous," says Haines. Sports Locker's most popular thongs are by 2(x)IST (pounds 9.99). Wearing a 2(z)IST for the day, Style Police is happy to report that thongs are the Rolls-Royce of male underwear. But, as Haines says, "Anyone who pays pounds 95 for a thong needs their head examining. It's money for old rope."

The Gucci women's thong, even more outrageously priced at pounds 230, comes with an itsy bitsy, shoestring-strap bikini. Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, or more precisely Beauchamp Place, Janet Reger reports that G-string sales have been consistently high over the past five years. "I wear them," says Janet's daughter and right-hand woman, Aliza Reger, "and you can quote me on that. They are sexy and comfortable, but you do have to be careful wearing them with a short skirt while getting out of a car. That's a bit too flashy."

As Style Police said last week, big knickers are not an option this season. If Liz Hurley can look like Yootha Joyce, then what hope for the rest of us? Knickers should only make a statement in the bedroom; unless you are a lap dancer. The whole point of wearing the G-string is that they are practically invisible under tight, sheer or transparent fabrics. Without a G-string, a girl's knickers can be seen like a blueprint through any fabric thinner than linoleum. Hipsters demand G-strings because of the low-slung, tight-fitting cut. Of course, Alexander McQueen's "Bumsters" add a whole new dimension to the visible panty line. But to wear the Bumster you have to be quite a madam anyway and going knickerless must come naturally.

The Janet Reger G-strings are made in silk or stretch lace. But it's practicality as much as sex that sells G-strings, Reger believes. And if you thought G-strings were the domain of the younger woman, you thought wrong. "There are plenty of 50-year-old ladies who are in great shape and look sexy," says Reger. "They will buy a G-string as part of a lingerie set without even a second thought."