The Only Swimwear Styles You Need to Know

by Jamie Wilson
The Only Swimwear Styles You Need to Know

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

Want to find the perfect swimwear just in time for Summer 2017? Read our comprehensive guide below to find out what you should be looking for to get the most out of your swimming shorts.

Summer is fast approaching and it only seems natural for every man to begin thinking about what he’ll be wearing on the beach this season.

A form of clothing that we may not always give a lot of thought to, swimming trunks, has developed a great deal more than you would think over the last century. As a result of this, we’ve been left with several styles that we’ve stuck too, whether it’s tailored to withstand some Tom Daley style moves or simply a round of drinks by the pool.

Keep reading to find out more in our definitive guide to the best men’s swimwear this season, and tips on what you should be considering before buying. Here are the best men’s swim trunks.

The Only Swimwear Styles You Need to Know
@Roger Rodrigues via pexels

Best Men’s Bathing Suits/ Types of Swimwear

It’s really important to pick the style that matches your own tastes, purpose and what you feel most comfortable in. Not everyone who has a swimsuit actually plans on swimming. Swimwear can be versatile and so it’s important to think about what else you could be wearing it with.

Today’s choice of swimwear focuses largely on practicality and looking good. Predominantly, the most casual and popular style is loose cut. However, there are other choices depending on function, length and the looseness you’re after.

Cool Swim Trunks

A lot more common that board shorts, and very similar to normal everyday shorts. Cool swimming trunks have a tighter fitted lining on the inside of the shorts and are usually made from nylon or polyester because of its ability to dry quickly. The best swim shorts are often made from these materials so that you can go from wet to dry almost instantly.

Cool Swim Trunks
@SHVETS production via pexels

The Best Swim Trunks

With such a wide range of brands, fits, colours and styles, you now have a wide range of the coolest swimming trunks to suit everyone’s tastes. You can also go for European swim trunks, which are a slightly tighter fit all over. They cling a bit more to your skin.

The Best Swim Trunks
@Tyler Nix via Unsplash

Best Mens Swim Trunks

  • Boardies
  • Farah

Swim Briefs

Also known as ‘speedos’, which is a popular brand of swimming briefs. Perhaps a lot more acceptable to wear in the rest of Europe as opposed to the UK, they are tight with a V-shaped front that bears the thighs and generally have an interior lining.

Board Shorts vs Swim Trunks

Originally made for water activities such as surfing and paddle boarding, Board shorts were designed with less material so it’s wouldn’t catch on your board during activities. They usually have a non-elastic waist but fit closer to the torso. In recent years they’ve become a lot more popular and with this, manufacturers and designers have created several styles of board shorts.

  • Standard – Usually they’re worn by surfers. The standard style has a long inseam (roughly 22 inches) and are quite loose. It’s usually secure around the waist which permits them to straddle the surfboard when in water.
  • Modern – The modern style is a mix of the standard and retro – a slim fit and the inseam begins at 18 inches and goes up to 22.
  • Retro – Popular in the 50s and 60s, they have a tighter fit around the waist with a shorter inseam of 16 to 18 inches. However, they can restrict movement because of the tightness of fit. Retro shorts are best used for scuba diving and free diving.
  • Baggies – They offer a long length and loose fit. They also feature an elastic waist, front drawstring ties and an inner mesh for comfort. They are usually worn casually for a beach day.
  • Half Jam – These shorts are both good for surfing and lounging in because of their inner mesh and elasticised waist with a singular panel at the back of the waistband. This provides safety and confidence for the wearer as the band also allows much movement.

Board shorts can now be made from a variety of materials, as opposed to the canvas material which was previously used and caused the material to go stiff. Nylon and polyester board shorts are usually the two types of material used for board shorts because they are practical. However, if you plan on doing more professional sports, a stretcher material to allow more movement is best advised.

You also have the option of European board shorts which are a slightly tighter fit than the standard board shorts.

Board Shorts vs Swim Trunks
@Daniel Torobekov via pexels


The fit is the most important aspect to take into consideration. When the fits good, you’re already half way there. In terms of fit, it’s the same for everyone. Things should be snug, but not tight, and sit comfortable on your body. Sizes tend to vary in different brands, so check the size charts which will assist with the exact fit that you need.

Shorts Measurements and Sizes Guide

How to Style

Wearing shorts casually and not for the purpose of swimming can sometimes look a little sloppy, so remember to dress them properly and draw attention to the items of clothing that you wear with them. Collared shirts and light cardigans are a good pairing when the colours match up. A good pair of sunglasses are the best accessories you can bring with you –  avoid Kanye West sunglasses (circa 2007) to save your eyesight and dignity and stick to something that looks sharp and stylish.

A striped tee looks good all year round, but especially in the summer – it’s probably the easiest option to pull off with the best outcome.

The Best Swim Trunks
@Daniel Torobekov via pexels

White trainers are a huge trend right now. Whether it’s Reebok classic, Adidas original or Stan Smiths, white trainers are versatile and look good on pretty much everyone. Stay clear of high-tops if you’re slightly more ‘vertically challenged’, as these will usually make you look shorter. Sandals also look good.

Watches are good, practical accessories to wear. Obviously, try to find something water resistant. Also, don’t wear anything too expensive – things have a tendency to get nicked on beaches and at music festivals.

Shun those still wearing T-shirts featuring boobs, triangles and pictures of landscapes. Wear a good graphics tee, or something plain and simple. Invest in light T-shirts and in plain colours – nothing too bright.

A Brief History of Men’s Swimwear

Men’s swimwear was virtually non-existence before the 19th century. The journey of introducing and developing the perfect types of swimwear for men has been an interesting one, spanning well over 100 years.

Public opinion definitely shifted, as modesty was a big factor. Nowadays a bare chest is completely socially acceptable. Male nudity was thought to be banned around the mid 1700s for males over the age of 10. Before this, there was no actual law banning male nude swimmers.

The best way to introduce men’s swimwear in the 1800s was to mimic traditional undergarments. The first type was made from knitted wool, but because of its stretchy ability, it absorbed less water than wool. It was still difficult to use, and after going for a soak could weigh up to nine pounds, leaving the bather vulnerable to exposure if the suit slipped off under its own weight.

In the 1910s, a variety of changes were made to swimwear, largely taking into consideration modesty and a new athletic look. They were a lot more sustainable and came in darker colours that reached all the way down to the elbow and below the knees.

In the 1920s, sporting a tan became a lot trendier, and swimwear became a lot more body-conscious and athletic. There were mass productions in Britain for the Speed Suit, which was a one-piece costume with fitted trunks.

By the 1930s, long sleeves had disappeared and designs were made for a fitted waist line. Nylon, as well as Latex, which was a synthetic rubber yarn, were used more frequently, as they fit to your body well and were more flattering to the figure.

By 1937, men were legally allowed to swim bare-chested if they wanted too, though it was still deemed controversial and topless men could be shunned on public beaches. However, as time went on those who wished to cover up could opt for a boxer-style swimming trunks.

The years after the war saw men’s shorts becoming smaller due to the shortages of fabric. The growing interest in the male physic also promoted this look. But shortly after, around the 1950s, as the women’s costumes became more flamboyant, the men’s began to flourish as well.

The 1960s was a time for experimentation as fashion revolutionised. The infamous style of speedos was born in the 60’s when a man named Peter Travis designed them for the Australian brand Speedo. People also tried alternative colours and fabrics, such as denim, terry cloth and corduroy. Some trunks even included a belt.

Body-building was at its height in the 1980s, and tight briefs made from Lycra appeared fashionable because of its flattering shape on the male body.

Surfing as a sport became massively popular in 1990, and with it the rise of the surf board shorts. Calvin Klein boxers also rose to popularity and became every man’s go to for the slickest swimwear designs.

In the noughties, the emphasis is placed on durability, rapid drying and comfort. Today, there’s still exploration in various low cut designs, and the length changes considerably from swimming trunks that offer more speed and smoothness, to the looser style that offers more cover. They are made with polyester and nylon, though cotton is also sometimes added.

How to Wear Men’s Swimwear

How to Wear Men's Swimwear
@cottonbro via pexels
  • Fit: If they’re too loose they’ll fall off in the water. Too tight and they will ride up and be uncomfortable.
  • Swimming Trunks: The most classic style of swimwear. They sit mid-way down your thigh.
  • Board-shorts: This is a longer style that reaches your knees.
  • Accessorise: Combine your swimwear with sandals, watches and sunglasses for the ultimate beach look.

On That Note

You are now completely clued up on what your options are this summer. You’ve got plenty of choice and a good idea of what you should and shouldn’t be wearing your shorts when lounging about the beach. But remember, go in whatever you feel most comfortable in, though when you are choosing, remember to consider why you’re wearing those particular styles of shorts. We don’t want to see your swim trunks in 2017 falling down when you’re just about to mount your surfboard on a wave. And in general, if you’re not sure what your plans are this summer, default to trunks – they tend to cover most bases.

Feature image from Pexels

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