Whether gracing the sand of Anse Source d’Argent beach in the Seychelles, playing it cool in a private Las Vegas cabana or sunbathing at your local lido – the right swim shorts matter. So, it’s out with the budgie smugglers and baggy board-shorts, and in with trim, tailored swim shorts that fit to mid-thigh. The reason for this is dual-purpose: you’ll look just as stylish on dry land as you will in the water.
There are a plethora of swim shorts available today, with most menswear brands offering something in the swimwear category. But while some get it right, many don’t. Your best option here is to choose a brand which is dedicated to the beachwear niche. Their offering is likely to be better thought out, more considered and groundbreaking in terms of material, style and design. Furthermore, with their focus purely on swimwear and producing the best swim shorts possible, it makes sense that they’ll produce superior products.
Included within this niche are only three brands worth paying attention to: Frescobol Carioca, Orlebar Brown and Vilebrequin. Read on to find out more about each of these specialist labels, but first, here’s some generic information to ensure you choose your next pair of swim shorts appropriately.
When it comes to fit, look no further than the tailored short. Slim cut and finishing a few inches above the knee, widely referred to as “mid-length”, they give off a vintage Jet Set aesthetic that looks more South of France than baggy surfer dude. As with jeans, your swim shorts need to fit just right: not too loose, not too tight. Avoid “skinny fit” at all costs – these days, you may find yourself in your swim shorts all day, often in 30°C+ heat, so comfort is essential.
Naturally, your height and weight play a part in terms of fit. If you’re taller, opt for a slightly longer length. If you’re shorter, a style that finishes higher up the leg will help balance your proportions and give the illusion of longer legs. If you’re slender you should opt for something streamlined and conversely, if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, opt for a short in a classic or straight cut.
Attention To Detail
Detailing is what separates cheap swim shorts from premium versions. Look for designs featuring high-quality metal hardware over plastic detailing and proper chrome eyelets for tie-cord exits. A concealed zip and button closure can be sought out if you want a smarter and more streamlined silhouette, with most tailored versions also featuring adjustable side straps for a perfect fit around the waist.
Colour & Pattern
Block colours and earthy neutral tones are solid, safe choices. It’s important to remember that you’ll like be wearing your swim shorts as a standalone piece, while swimming or around the pool, but with a shirt or T-shirt at the resort bar afterwards. Therefore, they need to be able to adapt for both scenarios.
Crucially, consider your skin tone; darker or well-tanned torsos are better suited to brightly coloured hues (think yellow, light blue, green, red or any pastel offering). On the other hand, if you’re still working on your tan, then opt for richer shades of burgundy and burnt orange, or classic dark neutrals such as black or navy.
Then comes perhaps the most important decision: print or no print? Geometric patterns, big dots, wide stripes, tie-dye and photographic prints are currently huge trends within the sector. Vilebrequin, in particular, excel here, offering a raft of designs featuring novelty fruits and animals of the sea or land. If you choose to go down this route, make sure any statement print is offset by a plain colour-block T-shirt or shirt; picking out a base colour on your shorts often works well here. For those not prepared to take the risk, timeless polka dots or Breton stripes offer the perfect blend of versatility and visual interest.
There are two key types of tailored swim short styles: sporty and smart. Sportier shorts are often be constructed in mesh-lined nylon or polyester, whereas beach to bar swim shorts are often crafted in cotton or linen, or a blend of the two. The best option is a hybrid – i.e. a cotton-polyester blend. Your main area of concern here is to ensure they are quick drying.
The Best Men’s Swim Shorts Brands
Born in 1945 during Brazil’s Golden Age, known as the Tropical Belle Époque, Frescobol (a beach based bat and ball-style game) Carioca (a demonym used to refer to anything related to the City of Rio de Janeiro) is the embodiment of Rio-life: cool, active and upbeat in spirit. Attributes which are reflected in the brand’s marketing campaigns and swimwear collections.
A self-proclaimed lifestyle brand, their focus is high-quality, stylish swim shorts, but you’ll also find complementary T-shirts, shirting, polos, linen trousers, chinos and comfortable activewear. In other words, everything you need for a stylish day on the Copacabana and the bars and restaurants that serve it.
Born and based in London, Orlebar Brown arrived on the scene in March 2007 with, at the time, a more tailored approach to men’s swim shorts. A true trendsetter, which many others have tried (and failed) to emulate, OB designs “shorts you can swim in”. These are swimming shorts that are just as at home worn on their own around the pool or on beach as they are teamed with a linen shirt and loafers at a stylish beachside restaurant.
The British brand’s range naturally evolved into a full resortwear collection, which takes inspiration from the golden Jet Set era and serves as a reminder of the elegance and sophistication that was once so synonymous with travel and holidays.
A quintessential French Riviera brand, Vilebrequin was founded in 1971 by Fred Prysquel while sitting at a cafe in the bright and sunny town of Saint Tropez. Its logo, the instantly recognisable turtle, can be seen adorning the swim shorts of man and boy across the globe. Noted for its use of bright colours and exotic fish, turtle and other marine patterns, look for the time-honoured Moorea swim short, which is a Vilebrequin classic and now-legendary style.
The Moorea leans more towards a sportier fit and aesthetic, but there are also a number of more tailored options in the brand’s seasonal collections.