Bare breasts have become a fashion statement.

Rudi Gernreich set the fashion world on fire in 1964 when he introduced the “monokini,” the first official topless swimsuit. Needless to say it didn’t go over well in uptight America.

But bare breasts are increasingly becoming a fashion statement.

In Europe, topless sunbathing on beaches is no big deal, and women in various stages of undress up top are frequently featured in fashion magazines and even billboards.

The latest issue of V magazine, photographer Mario Sorrenti shot five of the worlds sexiest ladies in some of the hottest fashions. No need for modesty. Some of the models pose topless. Avert your eyes if you must, but fashion keeps pushing the look.

Countless Hollywood celebrities have been photographed in public in loose free-flowing clothes without bras. Their full breasts have been captured by paparazzi and are regularly featured on the Web.

It may be that the United States is growing more cosmopolitan, or maybe it’s because of the hard economic times. But bare breasted models are increasingly turning up in U.S. magazines like GQ and Esquire.

The whole reason Playboy came about is because U.S. magazines, even high-fashion tomes like Vogue, refused to publish even partially unclothed women.

Now even the Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition is growing more daring. It regularly features topless models although nipples are still a no-no.

Let’s face it, breasts are a sure attention getter. And, the struggling media industry is doing everything it can to hold onto readers.

Oddly, Gernreich had to hire a prostitute from the Bahamas to pose in the swimsuit for the first time, but the iconic photo of his design features model Peggy Moffitt.

The suits actually sold well, but mainly as a novelty item, and the the San Francisco Chronicle boldly printed a photo of a woman wearing one on its front page.

Gernreich unveiled his swimsuit in the Look magazine as part of an article on futuristic fashions.