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2015 SI swimsuit cover
2015 SI Swimsuit Issue cover girl,
Hanna Davis

It is now a traditional sign of an early spring when, around Valentine's Day, hot-blooded fans start gearing up for the eagerly-awaited Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Leading up to its traditional February publication date, rumors run wild about who will grace the inside pages followed by even more feverish betting on who will appear on the cover.

The issue that generates the most buzz for Sports Illustrated Magazine, the swimsuit edition began with a simple five-page spread in a January issue published in 1965.

Since then, the edition has also grown to become an important arbiter of who is awarded 'supermodel' status in the US , with some editions marking major milestones in US history and pop culture.


Just up ahead, check out a decades-long history of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition told in more fun and interesting facts and related photos assembled in a timeline of notable years and record breakers:

1964 - Babette March - FIRST COVER

first si swimsuit issue cover 1964To increase sales during a slow sports month, SI editor Andre Laguerre came up with the idea of 'reviewing' the latest swimsuit styles in racy beach fashion inside the January 20, 1964 issue.

Shot in Cozumel, Mexico, the first SI swimsuit issue story contains only a paragraph and picture captions, but is accompanied by a five-page photo spread with French model Babette March gracing the cover.

.... and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is born.

1978 - Cheryl Tiegs - 70's POSTER ICON

cheryl tiegs 1978 posterAppearing once before in 1970 (and again in 1983), it was the 1978 SI swimsuit issue that put supermodel Cheryl Tiegs on the pop culture map when she appeared in a revealing bikini top playfully soaking up the sun on a Cancun beach.

That same year, she wears a revealing hot pink bikini for an unrelated photo shoot, which is later made into an iconic 70's poster soon found hanging in US college dorm rooms coast to coast.

1979, 1980, 1981 - Christie Brinkley

christie brinkley1979, 1980 and 1981 -- better known as the Christie Brinkley years -- marked three consecutive years that the top supermodel appeared on the cover, a first in SI swimsuit issue history.

For years to follow, Christie Brinkley appeared inside additional swimsuit issues and graced all 12 months of the first-ever Sports Illustrated calendar.

Brinkley was later featured in the special Sports Illustrated 40th Anniversary Issue's Hall of Fame (2005) celebrating the hottest swimsuit models in the magazine's history.

1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, and 2006 - Elle McPherson - MOST COVERS EVER

elle macphersonTying Christie Brinkley for consecutive year coverage, Elle McPherson has the distinction of gracing the most SI swimsuit issue covers ever.

Making a big splash in 1986 wearing a blue double-strap bikini during a photo shoot in Bora Bora, McPherson went on to be featured on the covers of the 1987, 1988, 1994 and 2006 editions to become an SI swimsuit icon for an entire generation of subscribers.

1989 - Kathy Ireland - BEST SELLING ISSUE

katy ireland, si swimsuit issue 1989Kathy Ireland's first cover in 1989 celebrated the SI Swimsuit edition's 25th anniversary. It quickly became the best-selling issue to date.

At the time, Kathy Ireland was already a SI swimsuit issue veteran, having appeared within its pages since 1984. She later went on to appear in the issue for a total of 13 years and later ties Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley for a total of three cover appearances. Ireland's last SI swimsuit issue appearance was in 1996.


tyra banks, si swimsuit issue 1997Already a famous runway model, Tyra Banks made history in 1996 with a trifecta of fame - as the first African-American woman to pose on the covers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (with model Valeria Mazza), GQ, and the Victoria's Secret catalogue.

The following year she graced the cover for the second time in a row - but in a solo appearance - which was hailed as significant achievement for African-American women and, more significantly for readers, joined the ranks of one of SI's hottest covers ever.

More SI Swimsuit issue fun facts:

Paulina Porizkova was all of 18 when she snagged the 1984 cover to make her the issue's youngest cover model ever.

• Who has photographed the most swimsuit covers for SI? That would be SI veteran photographer Walter Iooss Jr. with a total of 12 swimsuit edition covers to his credit including Kate Upton in 2012.

• In total, SI swimsuit issue staff and models have traveled more than a million miles to 148 destinations covering six continents, 53 countries and 13 U.S. states.

More about the SI Swimsuit issue around the Web:

Sports Illustrated: Sports Illustrated's 50 Greatest Swimsuit Models

ABC News: Sports Illustrated Iconic Covers

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