The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is arguably the most iconic magazine franchise cover of all time — not to mention the sexiest!
The first SI Swimsuit issue was in 1964 — that’s right, more than 50 years ago — and featured German-born model Babette March in a white bandeau top and boyshort bottoms. Landing the cover of the issue has been known to launch models’ careers or send them to the next stratosphere. Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova (who was just 18 for her first cover), Elle MacPherson, Kathy Ireland, Heidi Klum, Rebecca Romijn, Bar Refaeli, Irina Shayk, Kate Upton, Chrissy Teigen and Ashley Graham have all shown off their amazing bodies with cut abs, lean legs and toned arms on the cover. Even singer Beyoncé appeared in a sandy 2007 shoot.
And it can be a body-positive honor to bare all on a tropical beach set. As Upton said when she returned to the cover in 2017, six years after her debut, “I was very excited… to be back in the issue. Especially when this year’s theme is about every woman of every age and every body type being accepted. It was inspiring to be asked to be a part of that issue.” The star continued, “Those are the campaigns I want to do and the career I want to have — to inspire women to love themselves. That’s a balance of working hard and eating healthy but also enjoying life and having cheat days and for the emphasis not to be on the ideal perfect body.”
Looking through the decades of covers, it’s also fun to see how swim fashion has changed. Among the styles Sports Illustrated has photographed: string bikinis, one-piece cutout suits, string bikinis, sarongs, sweaters (yup, check out Cheryl Tiegs in 1970!), sarongs, high-cut legs, plunging tops, topless looks, tankinis, floppy beach hats, monokinis, crop top t-shirts, crocheted looks, necklaces as tops, parkas, nearly bottomless pics and even just paint!
Scroll through to see every Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover that has ever existed!