Harriet Walker: Only strippers and their bosses wear G-strings

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A cheering start to the weekend for anyone who has ever garroted their nether parts with a G-string: sales of thongs have fallen by 17 per cent since 2003. If you have, in fact, sampled the delights of the "Thing string" you'll currently be experiencing some schadenfreude at its decline, no doubt, along with some internal bruising and a condition that usually clears up after a week of antibiotics.

Like a tequila shot on an already turbulent stomach, why did we ever think they were a good idea? Decried at their early Noughties peak as emblems of porn culture, they were really nothing more than yet another false life-enabler for women. Wear the clingy skirt of your dreams! Don those low-rise jeans without worrying about schoolboys flicking coins into your bumcrack! We were so hopeful in those days, so practical and functional in our super-stretch polyester bootcut trousers. Then we learnt our lesson.

Lumps and bumps where previously there were none; the ubiquitous "whale tail"; that retina-scorching image of Peter Stringfellow wearing his on the beach; the epiphany of hanging them out to dry and realising just how outré it was to, effectively, floss your privates every day.

What goes up must come down, of course (we know that from having to extract our thongs from our oesophagus 30 times a day) and with global financial ruin came a return to big pants. Thongs now account for just 23 per cent of the underwear market – it's a smallish quadrant, populated only by strippers and their bosses.





Hands up if you want to accrue some erotic capital. Sociologists at the London School of Economics have decided it's a one-way ticket to becoming successful. They devoted several months to discovering that 75 per cent of attractive children grow up to be sociable, while only 25 per cent of unattractive children do, and that good-looking women get married earlier and have higher incomes, while handsome men get better jobs.

But erotic capital is not just about looks, it's about "sexual competence", so I thought I'd lay down some golden rules so that the rest of us uggers can get a leg-up at least, if not a leg-over.

1. Grow up – literally. Losing your youthful awkwardness and terrible dress sense will help advance your cause. You'll realise that the people you look up to are dreadful, and that getting married early is what mad people do.

2. Remember to smile. At everyone, at everything, constantly. It worked for Geri Halliwell.

3. Never use phrases like "erotic capital". Don't rely on studies to make your life better. Don't read self-help books. And never, ever take sexual competence tips from a newspaper columnist.





In a country where cheese-rolling and well-dressing have become regional pastimes, it's clearly time to tighten up on what we deem a "cultural event". I assume the quango in charge of deciding what is worthy of entering our collective conscious has been scrapped under the cuts, because Big Brother seems to have inveigled its way in there.

The ad campaign on Channel Five, as well as the opening ceremony this week, was full of winks, nudges, collocations and shibboleth of the sort you might find at a Star Trek convention.

The great irony is, of course, that it was invented as a sort of antidote to mainstream buzzwords and hobbies. But it has been running for over a decade, which in TV years practically makes it the Proms.

What started off as an unscripted experiment has become as predictable as hurling a cheese down a hill – it just keeps rolling.

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