The intriguing story behind the Sydney company whose swimmers 9 Australians wore when arrested in Malaysia

The swimwear company Budgy Smuggler now finds itself at the centre of an diplomatic incident. Source: Facebook

The term “budgie smugglers” has returned to the national conversation with a vengeance not seen since former prime minister Tony Abbott was photographed wearing bright red ones.

But the “Budgy Smuggler” spelling being used by many in the media has some (especially more pedantic) people scratching their heads.

And just in case you have no idea what we’re talking about, the term is Australian slang for a pair of hipster (as in the shape, not the lifestyle) swimmers for men.

“Budgie” is short for budgerigar, the small native parakeet that’s a popular pet. It’s a visual joke.

Australians also call swimwear Speedos (after the now British-owned brand names), sluggos, togs, bathers, trunks, and ahem, the less polite form of budgie smugglers, “dick stickers”.

There’s a simple explanation for the misspelling currently doing the rounds after nine young Australian men, including Jack Walker, a policy adviser to Turnbull government minister Christopher Pyne, were arrested after stripping down to their swimmers at Sunday’s Malaysian F1 race.

The nine, aged between 25 and 29, reportedly chanted “Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi” for several minutes, and drank beer from shoes to celebrate fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s first F1 win in two years.

They now look set to be charged by Malaysian authorities with “intentional insult” and public indecency. Their swimmers featured the Malaysian flag. They face up to two years in jail

Foreign minister Julie Bishop says their behaviour “was clearly premeditated”.

The group,. Photo: STR/ AFP/ Getty Images.

The simple explanation for the misspelling can be seen on their backsides – it’s the brand name of a Sydney-based swimwear business.

And even its 20-something founder Adam Linforth admits they got the spelling wrong when they founded the company in his family’s backyard a few years ago.

Here’s what he says on the Budgy Smuggler website:

A lot of people ask us why we are “budgy smuggler”, not “budgie smuggler”? We really wish we had a good answer. Two of our favourite explanations are the impressive sounding, “it has to do with trademark law, you wouldn’t understand it”, and the mysterious sounding “we’re not detail people, we are concept people”.

The sad fact is, we only realised the incorrect spelling after it was too late to change back again. So budgy smuggler should have been budgie smuggler.

It’s a business that embodies the spirit of Mambo, the 1980s surfwear business Linforth’s parents and many others grew up with. Back then, artist and musician Reg Mombassa’s “dog trumpet” farting t-shirts were edgy. But they’re not now because your dad is still wearing them 25 years later.

Budgy Smuggler seems to be chasing a similar vibe – and Business Insider can’t help wondering if that’s what has now landed Walker and eight of his private school mates in a whole lot of trouble in a Muslim country. Social media stunts in the product seem to be an essential part of the marketing strategy for the Manly-based business

It’s not the first time Walker’s gone out wearing the product, as his (now locked or deleted) Instagram account showed with this image of his Wallabies “game day attire”:

Source: Jack Walker/Instagram

He tagged it #budgysmuggler and #brotherhoodofthetravellingsultans.

Part of the swimwear brand’s schtick is customers sending them photos wearing their swimmers in seemingly inappropriate places around the world.

This photo is from the company’s Facebook page. It’s a couple of blokes at a US gridiron game. There are several other similar shots.

Source: Facebook

There’s a monthly crowd-sourced photo competition the company holds on Facebook, with the winner scoring a $100 voucher.

These blokes even stripped off in cold and rainy London in front of Westminster for a shot.

Source: Facebook

And here’s a fan in New York just a fortnight ago

The pants went down, along with the Wallabies, at ANZ stadium, the company was there:

The company makes all sorts of flag designs, including the UK, France and USA. They prefer green and gold for Australian versions, and currently a poll on the website asks which countries should feature next.

There’s even an “indigenius” version that uses the Aboriginal flag, with plans to get emerging Aboriginal artists to provide further designs.

Source: Budgy Smuggler website

The swimwear business also co-founded Strut the Streets, an annual swimwear mass parade through Sydney’s CBD to raise money for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience.

Budgy Smuggler’s next big marketing adventure is “the search for Australia’s most ordinary rig” – 10 men “so ordinary they’re extra-ordinary” wearing the company products in an event on October 15 at the Ivy hotel swimming pool bar in Sydney.

Here’s who they explain the premise:

Every entrant gets the prize of sharing their ordinariness with the world and encouraging a mediocre expectations philosophy.

The top 10 will get flown to Sydney with a mate for the Ordinary Rig Gala Event. If you are from Sydney we’ll top up your Opal Card so you can make it there. You will get free schooners on the night.

First place will win a pair of Custom Smugglers with pictures of themselves emblazoned across them.

Business Insider has attempted to reach out to Budgy Smuggler today to ask if they knew Tony Walker or his friends and whether they knew what the group planned to do.

We’ll update if and when we hear back from them.

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