Sacre bleu! French are stripping off more than ever
Growing numbers of French people are embracing the liberté of nudism, not just on beaches but also for activities from yoga, singing and gym classes to bowling and trampolining.
Organisers of nudist events say they are massively oversubscribed. When the Palais de Tokyo museum in Paris held a nude session of an art exhibition in May, 30,000 people requested tickets, although only 161 were available.
With young people taking part, other participants said it had helped to change nudism's somewhat dated image as a practice mainly favoured by middle-aged or older people in France.
The number of French nudists has risen by more than half in the past four years. The country now has an estimated 2.7 million nudists - or naturists as many prefer to be known - according to the French Naturism Federation.
Last year, the largest park in Paris, the Bois de Vincennes, inaugurated an area reserved for nudists. The city's first nudist restaurant, O'Naturel, has also opened.
French television has even got in on the nudism craze. A series called 'Nu' ('Naked') began last month, set in a future in which people are forbidden to wear clothes.
Olivier Fox, the director, said being naked created a feeling of equality.
"When people are naked, you can see their fragility and it creates a closeness, a sense of compassion," he said.
Some explain the popularity of nudism in terms of an increasing desire to feel liberated from societal norms and the constraints of urban life.
Sylvain Villaret, a historian, said: "The practice of naturism is linked with periods of great upheaval.
"Nowadays, people are looking for meaning and many turn to causes like responsible consumption, environmental protection or social solidarity, especially the young. The values of militant naturism are in accord with these causes."
'Laissez-faire' Gallic attitudes may have helped France become the world's top destination for nudist tourism. About four million nudist holidaymakers visit the country each year.
Nudity is permitted by law in about 500 locations around the country, including more than 150 campsites and 150 beaches.
Independent News Service