Historically nudity was associated with less social and moral issues, and in ancient Greece the human body was considered beautiful and was the subject of art. During the first Olympics Athletes commonly were nude as they competed in events against each other, and the word gymnasium comes from the Greek root 'gymnos' meaning nude.

Although the first nudist colonies were established in British India in 1891, it was in Germany that the naturism movement really began. Several papers were published in the early 1900's advocated that the human body was neither sinful nor obscene. They talked of the concepts of self hate, and shame. The first nudist colonies opened in Germany around 1903, and grew into popularity during the 1920’s, and while suppressed by the Nazi party, they were never completely eliminated.

The Germans seemed to be the missionaries of the Naturism movement, spreading to wherever they travelled. In the 1960’s German’s vacationing along the Mediterranean coast in France began nudist colonies, and nudist beaches and nudist resorts grew in popularity there. The movement had its early beginning in North America in 1929 when a German immigrant named Kurt Barthel opened a colony in the United States. In the early days of the movement in America, nudism became associated with family values and alcohol was prohibited from all activities.

Despite the attempt to associate high moral standards with the nudism movement it was subjected to much harassment and misunderstanding due to the prevailing social climate in the country that saw nudism as a sexual and even pornographic activity. Over the past three decades this has largely changed. Nudist vacations became more common, and nudism lost some of its social stigma. Nudism became less restrictive as well and clothing optional gatherings became more common. Topless beaches also became popular, and the organized nudist movement made strides in erasing the negative perception of nudism.