Every year, there are a plethora of adolescent teenagers, overweight sports fans and tired out husbands that eagerly await the arrival of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition. Unlike other magazines found at your local convenience store, the swimsuit edition doesn’t hinder its readers with the mandatory walk of shame to the cash register. There’s no downside. Beautiful women in scantily clad bikinis and the lady at the cash register isn’t staring you down like you’re some neighborhood scumbag.
Throughout the years, SI has put out a consistent lineup of beautiful models to be featured on their annual swimsuit edition. There have even been celebrities as well as pro-athletes that have modeled for the magazine. So just to clear up any misunderstandings beforehand, this list isn’t based on the looks of these women. They’re all obviously very attractive. But the problem arises with the cover itself. What was the model wearing, where was the shoot, what was she doing etc… There are a lot of factors that go into making a good cover. They aren’t all memorable, and everyone has their personal favorites but a cover should have something to it that grips the reader and encourages them to go through the remainder of the catalogue. You screw up the cover and it can really ruin the whole issue.
15 1982 Issue
Ok, just to clear things up, these rankings have nothing to do with the models. Obviously anyone that SI gets on their cover is going to be beautiful and there’s no questioning that. 1982 cover girl Carol Alt definitely had the looks to pull this off. Hell, she was nicknamed “The Face.” But the 1982 issue lacked something distinctive. It was pretty plain compared to other issues released in that decade. On top of that, the Baywatch-style one piece this cover has doesn’t really have much going on.
14 1969 Issue
Most covers have the model engaging the reader in some way. Usually by looking at the camera. While cover girl Jamee Becker looks great in the 1969 swimsuit issue, the cover itself feels really cold and impersonal, as the picture looks like it was taken without her knowing. Maybe they printed the wrong one. She’s looking at the ground, not really posing or smiling, kind of like one of those group pictures where everyone isn’t ready when the camera shutters. Then there’s some random surfer in the background only further fueling the theory that this picture was a dud.
13 1995 Issue
Czech model Daniela Peštová is wearing a shirt and bikini bottom on the 1995 issue. Doesn’t look like much else is in the mix. A couple of things that are kind of weird with this particular shot. One, lose the shirt. It’s a swimsuit edition for crying out loud. Sure the photographers want to change some things up every now and then, but give the people what they paid to see. Swimsuits. Two, there’s just something about her face that’s a little off. She’s no doubt a beautiful woman, yet she’s not really smiling for this one. Her eyes just stare deep into the camera. It’s not even sexy or flirty, it looks like she’s actually staring the reader down.
12 1968 Issue
The 60s were definitely a time of sexual freedom and opening your mind to new ideas. But there are more than a couple of 60s SI swimsuit editions that make this list. The reason lies in the bad photography more than anything else. Well let’s not call it bad, as questionable would sum it up better. Much like the 1969 issue, its predecessor went ahead with a cover that featured an idle seemingly unaware model. Turia Mau looks like she’s taking a bath in this one. Maybe it was supposed to be exotic, but it really comes through as some kind of creepshot that was taken without her knowing. Hard to believe they couldn’t come up with anything a little more conventional.
11 2012 Issue
The 2012 issue that brought Kate Upton into the spotlight is bad for a couple of reasons. Obviously Upton looks great but how much of what came through was her and how much of it was someone touching her image up in the studio? With photoshop and other photo editing programs, models can be made to look perfect. When in reality they aren’t. A slight blemish or two really isn’t a huge deal, but we live in a world where all the imperfections must be cut out. Take this issue for example. She’s undoubtedly beautiful and charismatic but her face has been airbrushed beyond belief. This cover would’ve looked much better if they’d left whatever subtle imperfections they thought Kate had and showed her as she is.
10 2006 Issue
Oh yay, a bunch of topless women. Great, right? Nah there’s a problem here. Regardless of what they might be covering, there are just way too many girls on this cover. There are actually eight different models in total. One is usually the standard and while the magazine has done covers showing multiple women before, you can’t really appreciate the beauty of each model in this one. They’re just crammed together like they’re each jostling for a place in the shot.
9 1966 Issue
A good 40% of this issue’s cover is solid red or green background. In a strange move, the entire cover isn’t devoted to the image of the model, instead it’s split. While most swimsuit editions give you the full frame, this one’s pretty limited and because of that, it doesn’t really draw in the reader as well as some of its predecessors. What’s more the model, Sunny Bippus, is lying right on the beach facing away from the ocean. You can notice a small wave in the background and it kind of looks like the thing’ll come sweep her away if she stays there any longer.
8 1993 Issue
Norwegian model Vendela Kirsebom takes center stage in the 1993 issue and she looks great. Well kind of. There’s something off about the picture if you go back to it. It seems a little, for lack of a better word, high-class. The earrings, her hair, even the swimsuit itself just doesn’t really fit with the whole image of the swimsuit edition. The swimsuit itself is pretty ridiculous. How do you even get that thing on? It’s a quasi-one piece that looks like someone took a scissor and cut a hole in the center.
7 1972 Issue
One of a few 70s issues on this list that doesn’t work, the 1972 issue stands out for a couple of reasons. First off the swimsuit isn’t that great. Yeah sure it’s a one piece and that’s fine. But the design seems kind of childish and it doesn’t suit the model Tannia Rubiano at all. Second, is the choice of setting. While most of these shoots take place on a tropical beach somewhere, this one’s on someone’s boat. When you think of the swimsuit edition, you think of sand and exotic landscapes, not a yacht.
6 1975 Issue
So this image is supposedly supposed to show model Cheryl Tiegs being playful and splashing around in the water. Doesn’t sound like an awful idea but it didn’t really come out too great. It’s not really splashing, we only see her cupping some water in the ocean. The whole picture has minimal movement going on. Once you look at her face, her eyes are closed and she’s not really smiling. Like the picture was taken at a bad time or something.
5 1992 Issue
Kathy Ireland was one of the most gorgeous models to ever grace the cover of the sports illustrated swimsuit edition. It’s one of the reasons she was so popular during her career. But her 1992 cover shoot is a definite swing and a miss. While there’s nothing wrong with Ireland herself, it’s what’s in back of her that seems off. Supposedly supposed to be Spain, the background looks rather cold. Way too cold for a woman to be going around in a bikini. It could be sand, but then again, it could be snow. Point is it’s impossible to make out and really confusing to the reader.
4 1983 Issue
Another Cheryl Tiegs cover, this time from 1983. Tiegs looks great in a white one piece but what really stands out is what she’s leaning against. The shoot took place somewhere in Jamaica and has Tiegs leaning up against a waterfall. While it might seems natural upon first seeing it, the whole thing looks really unnatural once you give it a few looks over. Yeah, it was supposed to look sexy and all, but she looks like she’s going to fall or slip at any second in this picture. What’s she even leaning on? The rocks? That couldn’t’ve been comfortable.
3 1970 Issue
Wow another Cheryl Tiegs issue. Not picking on her or anything, if anyone’s to blame here it’s the photographer and stylist. It’s called the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, so why is Tiegs wearing a V-neck in this shot? Granted you can tell that she’s wearing a swimsuit underneath, but shouldn’t they have displayed that from the get go? This isn’t a Sears catalogue, it’s the swimsuit edition. Key word, swimsuit. And the shirt isn’t the only problem with this one. There’s the issue of the weird-creepy shades that Tiegs is wearing. Now this is the 1970s, so the image quality isn’t great compared to what we’re used to, but it kind of seems like she’s wearing a busted pair of sunglasses. What’s more, it looks like her pupils are just peeping out of the glass. Get this picture to the right editor and you’ve got yourself a decent horror movie poster.
2 1999 Issue
Ok, there’s nothing wrong with the model on this issue. Rebecca Romjin looks fantastic, so there’s no problem there. The issue at hand is in the covers subtext. Apparently the 1999 shoot took place somewhere around the Virgin Islands. So some writer at SI thought it’d be a hilarious little play on words if the cover read “The Not So Virgin Islands” right next to their cover model. Not to be overly sensitive here, because it does deserve a good chuckle, but you’d imagine some of the models didn’t initially appreciate that little shot. It just seems kind of out of place on an SI cover.
1 2013 Issue
There’s one glaring problem with the 2013 issue featuring Kate Upton as the cover girl. The friggin’ winter coat. Why? It’s a swimsuit magazine, why would they make her wear that? There’s some sort of arctic background going on, which quickly explains why Upton is wearing the jacket (well seeing as it’s only covering a select region of her body, there’s a good chance she wasn’t wearing it because she looked cold). All in all, the 2013 cover kind of fails when put up against the tropical themed issues that came before it.
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