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Put your clothes back on, French cities tell tourists

Even in blazing August temperatures French cities are going to war on toplessness, some threatening transgressors with fines of up to €38 (£31).

Seaside resort towns like Cannes, St Tropez or Arcachon on the Atlantic coast have long had rules banning shirtlessness and bikini-wearing by tourists walking around town. But inland cities are now joining in for reasons of hygiene, "standing" and public decency.

Perpignan has become the latest to outlaw bare chests for the first time, (Cavaillon in central Provence introduced its ban earlier in the summer), although fines apply only to those who refuse to get dressed after being approached by the police.

"We're not saying there's been a general moral decline, but some people have complained," Perpignan's local security chief, Pierre Parrat, told Midi Libre. The law calls for "human dignity, decency, morality and protection of the young".

The spate of new anti-nudity regulations has prompted some complaints about liberty, but police in most places have settled on a light touch to keep grumbling at bay.

Mr Parrat said the citizens of Perpignan found it shocking to see the naked chests of some men, in particular a group of English rugby supporters who stripped off while in the city for a recent match.

Parisians have also expressed squeamishness about displays of the male torso. "A girl in a bikini in the centre of town is lovely, but children should not have to see hairy chests," a waiter in the Pigalle area replied in a poll conducted by Le Parisien.

In Paris, "decency of dress and behaviour" is mandatory. An American lawyer described falling foul of this when a park official asked him to put on a shirt in the Parc Monceau. "I felt criminalised," he said. "Say what you will about my physique, it cannot have been that offensive."

In Paris, infringements of public decency are not punishable by a fine. The lawyer said he was longing to be fined so he could appeal against the "slur" on his character.

Some resorts such as Deauville have no recourse to a punitive fine for the half-naked, but the police say the law is easy to enforce with a polite request.