NEW YORK – Since a group of frisky, middle-aged British women posed in the buff for a 1999 calendar, the trend of marking the months by baring it all has really, um, taken off.
At least three different calendars featuring ordinary folks in their birthday suits will help spice up 2003: one of local businessmen in Brattleboro, Vt.; another of female wool spinners in Maine; and a third of farmers in Sweden.
All the groups found that getting naked is liberating -- and nudity sells like hotcakes.
"We decided it would be really fun to show ourselves off and show off our gorgeous yarns," said Cynthia Thayer, one of the wool spinners who appeared in the wearingwool calendar.
The group plans to donate 10 percent of the profits from the $15 calendar to an environmental non-profit called Inform. The other money will be used to send the scantily clad spinners to Ireland.
But the women had another purpose in mind when they undertook the project.
"We wanted to try to change the image of what a stereotypically pretty woman was," Thayer said. "We wanted to bring an awareness of the beauty of women not just when they're 20 and weigh 102 pounds. You don't have to look like that."
The group was inspired by the "Ladies of Rylstone" in England, the 40-to-60 something women whose nude calendar sold hundreds of thousands of copies and created quite a stir both in Europe and the U.S.
"They had a lot of guts to do that," Thayer said. "People saw the freedom in it."
So far, more than 13,000 copies of the wool spinners calendar have been sold.
The British ladies also inspired "The Men of Brattleboro," as did a fictional group of English exhibitionists who went full-frontal on movie screens a few years back.
"Maybe it's a continuation of The Full Monty," said Thomas E. Fegley, the former president of the Brattleboro Rotary Club, which produced the calendar. "[The movie] probably popularized the idea and may have been the inspiration for the women in England who did their calendar."
Fifty-three prominent men in the community -- including doctors, lawyers and teachers -- bared it all for the calendar, though Fegley said he got some odd reactions when he approached prospective models.
"A number of people I asked to pose were put off by it and some people refused outright," he said. "But in general people were willing."
The Brattleboro calendar is totally for laughs. The April shot features men in rabbit ears with strategically placed Easter baskets. Other months have naked men riding bikes, playing golf and wielding rifles.
"Now the people of Brattleboro can see their physicians naked instead of the other way around," Fegley said, quoting one local resident's reaction.
Proceeds will go to charities the rotary club supports. To date, 900 of the calendars, which cost $17 plus $4 shipping, have been sold. They can be purchased at www.menofbrattleboro.com.
And in Sweden, a sexy calendar featuring young, good-looking, successful, semi-nude farmers has been all the rage since the first one came out last year. The photos show the farmers lying provocatively in hay or fields and posing with animals.
"The main purpose was to show that farming was an attractive business," said Marina Tell, a reporter for the weekly newspaper of LRF, the Swedish farmers' union that produced the calendar.
"We wanted to show that there are young people interested and involved in farming and that farming is something that belongs to the future," she said.
The 12 farmers, aged 25 to 35, are actually only naked from the waist up -- though the photographs make it look as though they've taken it all off.
Tell said many of Sweden's young people dismiss agriculture as a tired, outdated way of life, and move away from the countryside into cities. The union hopes the calendar will help avoid a shortage of farmers in the future.
Last year, 7,000 of the Swedish farmer calendars were produced; this year the plan is to publish 10,000 copies to start. The cost is about $10 and can be ordered by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the Swedish farmers hope to attract people with their pin-ups, the Men of Brattleboro wonder if they'll get the opposite reaction.
"People used to fantasize about seeing us naked," Fegley said. "Now they will probably fantasize about seeing us dressed."