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.
Often an overlooked part of the modern gentleman’s wardrobe, our handy guide covers everything from how they should fit and key buying considerations to the latest swimwear trends for men and the labels that are producing the very best swim shorts on the market today. It’s time to dive in.
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 cuts 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 will play a part when it comes to 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.
Slender and athletic builds 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 that flatters.
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 customised fit around the waist.
Colour & Pattern
Block colours and earthy neutral tones are solid, safe choices. It’s important to remember that you’ll be wearing your swim shorts as a standalone piece, while swimming or around the pool, but will likely team them up with a linen shirt or T-shirt at the resort bar afterwards. Therefore, they need to adapt to 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.
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 arguably a hybrid – something like a cotton-polyester blend. Your main area of concern here is to ensure they are quick drying for comfort and practicality.
Summer Swimwear Trends
From dark and moody to bold and vibrant, floral prints are everywhere in swimwear this year and when executed tastefully, can be a great way to bolster your poolside style. Our advice would be to opt for subtle, tonal varieties over anything neon and headache inducing, with base colours like navy, black or white.
Pastel shades and swimwear go together like strawberries and cream. There’s just something about those light, powdery hues that looks so at home on the beach and really makes a tan sing. They’re also highly versatile in terms of what colours you can wear them with, so feel free to exercise a little creative freedom.
That 20-year trend cycle is unrelenting, which means we could well see a three-quarter-length board short revival at some point in the next few years (even if we do, steer clear). For now though, we’re safe, as hemlines continue to creep north as opposed to south. Be careful not to go too far though; around 5-6 inches above the knee is as high as any gentleman should venture.
Normally, we wouldn’t advocate psychedelic, kaleidoscope prints being worn in public, but for swimwear we’ll make an exception. Big swimwear labels and luxury fashion brands alike have been introducing plenty of magic eye puzzle-esque patterns to their ranges lately, creating a new way to spice up your vacation wardrobe. To keep it wearable, opt for prints that use a dark colour palette and keep anything else you wear stripped back to the max.
The Best Men’s Swim Shorts Brands
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 safest option here is to choose a label which is dedicated to the beachwear niche – think the likes of Frescobol Carioca, Orlebar Brown and Vilebrequin. 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.
However, this type of heritage comes a premium price tag. Therefore, below we’ve highlighted a number of resortwear specialists, along with a selection of contemporary labels that are producing well-made, classic swim shorts at more modest price points.
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.
With a glaring absence of beaches, New York City may not seem like the obvious place for a world-class resortwear brand to emerge from, but then there’s nothing obvious about Onia. Founded in 2009, this luxury swimwear and loungewear label has been shaking the industry up with its signature blend of tailored fits, surgical attention to detail and the odd eye-catching print thrown in for good measure.
Onia’s range encompasses a tightly curated selection of vacation-friendly garb, ranging from super-soft terry-cloth polos to breezy camp-collar shirts. However, it’s the swimwear that serves as the brand’s crowning glory – built for the connoisseurs and well worth a look when the time comes to invest in your next pair of swim shorts.
Reiss has established itself as the premier spot on the high-street for slick, upmarket clothing. The British brand is best known for its ready-to-wear tailoring and sleek, modern casualwear, but it’s also worth checking out when on the hunt for swim shorts too.
The range differs from season to season, but a core selection of plain, well-fitting swim shorts serves as the backbone. On top of that, you’ll find more trend-driven printed options as well as classic striped and spotted styles.
Launched in summer 2017, it didn’t take long for Arket to become one of our favourite brands here at Ape. The tightly curated edit of premium minimalist basics instantly struck a chord with us and contains all the essential building blocks needed to create a solid capsule wardrobe. And that includes swim shorts.
As is to be expected of such a brand, swimwear offerings are simple, subtle and minimalist. Most designs are finished in crisp, block colour but there is also the occasional tasteful print to be found. Above all else, the value for money is very good, with a pair of swim shorts rarely exceeding the £50 mark.
With a strong focus on ethical production, pricing transparency and the environment, Everlane is a brand you can feel good about buying from. Founded in 2010, the label offers customers a cost breakdown for every item and only works with the most ethical factories from around the world. You can even take a look at the factory where each item was produced by clicking a link on the product page.
There’s no dedicated swimwear range as such, but as is the case with most garments at Everlane, it’s all in the interest of keeping it simple. Instead, the brand offers its ReNew Sports Short, a versatile, recycled nylon short designed for everything from swimming to running. If you’re a believer in minimalist living and need a pair of shorts to see you through anything the summer can throw at you, Everlane could be a good option.
Hailing from the French city of Biarritz, one of Europe’s most upmarket beach destinations, Atalaye is a swimwear brand that exudes refinement. Founded in 2014, the label has quickly established itself as one of the dominant forces in luxury swimwear with it’s high-end take on beach attire.
All of Atalaye’s swim shorts are made in Portugal using locally manufactured fabrics specifically developed for swimming. There’s no confusion when it comes cut either, as all swim shorts are made to fit exactly the same: short and comfortable, exactly the way they should be. Plus, they’re smart enough to take you directly from beach to bar so that’s one less garment you’ll have to shoehorn into your suitcase.