From budgie smugglers to ill-fitting board shorts, every summer sees a number of heinous style crimes committed on our seashores. It seems as though once the warm weather truly arrives, good sartorial sense somehow finds itself perilously lost at sea, with alarmingly tight, gaudily printed or impractically baggy swim shorts broken out on beaches and at poolsides the world over.
But does it really matter? They’re for swimming in, right? Why would you spend valuable holiday prep time thinking about something that – for the vast majority of the time you’re wearing them – probably won’t even be visible? Because not only are you doing yourself a major disservice in a hot pink and sky blue striped speedo, you’re also disturbing the peace.
So – if you’ve yet to zip up your suitcase – read on for tips on how to swim, and lounge, stylishly this season.
First up, you’ll need to decide whether you’re the tailored type or prefer shorts that have a little more room for manoeuvring.
If you lean towards the former, tailored swim shorts are best. Usually cut slim and crafted from polyamide, these lend your beachside look a little Riviera chic, bearing a clear resemblance to chino shorts.
“Always go for something well-fitted,” says Adam Brown, founder of Orlebar Brown – otherwise known as the label that almost single-handedly popularised short, fitted swimwear styles for men.
“Something too loose or too tight is not flattering. You should also consider your height: the taller you are, the longer you can go, while shorter styles flatter well-built thighs.”
The ideal in this case is a pair that fits similar to chino shorts, but doesn’t strain to the point of outlining your package – and which aren’t cut so short as to suggest you might be on your way to audition for a Village People tribute band. That means just above the knee at the longest and mid-thigh at the shortest.
Tailored styles will also typically come complete with a button or popper fastening, which means you need to ensure you pick the right waist size – there is less room for error when compared to a traditional elasticated waistband and drawstring fastening, although designs with additional side adjusters do negate this concern.
Orlebar Brown’s tailored swim shorts come in various lengths
On the other hand, if you’d rather something a little more casual in its cut, try a more conventional pair of non-tailored swim shorts in mesh-lined nylon or polyester.
Ranging from mid-thigh styles to generously sized board shorts, these are much less formal than their tailored counterparts. Much the same rules of fit apply, but you’ll have a better range of movement through the thigh.
Running-style swim shorts and longer board shorts are trending for SS15. Image: H&M Summer 2015
Once you’ve decided on the right cut for you, it’s time to think about colour. And colour is key – it’s the difference between looking stylishly summer-ready and like the bloke who was so woefully dressed he got barred from Benidorm.
“When choosing colour, think about your skin tone,” says Adam Brown. “Muted colours look great on paler skin, while darker skin tones are suited to brighter colours”. If you’ve got fair skin, stick to hues like slate grey, navy, black, burgundy and olive green – even if you have been slathering on the Johnson’s Holiday Skin diligently.
At the other end of the scale, if you’re of a darker complexion, feel free to branch out into brighter hues like canary yellow, sky blue, lime green, red and pastels, all of which will contrast brilliantly against your skin tone.
Prints & Patterns
If block-colour styles bore you, then it’s worth dipping your toes into print. “Prints are key for spring/summer 2015,” says Tom Thurlow, Menswear Buyer at River Island. “The bolder, the better – we’d suggest snapping up geometric, striped and photographic styles for an instant summer update.”
From tropical to Hawaiian florals, microdots to statement stripes, stores are awash with eye-catching motifs this season, so it’s worth snapping up a pair if you want something that’s sure to stand out in-between taking a dip.
For an especially contemporary take, keep your eye out for designs covered in photographic digital prints, like Orlebar Brown’s newly launched Satellite Photography collection which features – among other styles – shorts printed with stunning aerial shots of Abu Dhabi by photographer Alex Maclean.
Photo print swim shorts are set to be a major trend this seasonImage: Noah Mills wearing Orlebar Brown for Neiman Marcus
Alternatively, for those that find such prints too punchy, or, indeed, if your skin’s a little too pale to handle a kaleidoscope of colour, we’d recommend trying a subtler, under the radar pattern in a slightly darker palette. Swiss luxury swimwear brand Dan Ward does these exceptionally well, but you’ll find plenty of more affordable options from the likes of ASOS, Farah and River Island, too.
Finally, novelty styles (watermelons, ice lollies, remarkably colourful fish) aren’t necessarily a no-go, but you’d better be confident, a wise-cracker and under thirty (or at least look like you are) if you want to have any chance of pulling them off – figuratively speaking.
Muted Patterns & Prints Lookbook
Bold Patterns & Prints Lookbook
From Beach To Bar?
Swim shorts are meant to be worn out of the water as well as in it – but can they really be worn to the bar?
“We certainly think so,” says Tom Thurlow. “Even printed styles would look great dressed down with a T-shirt or dressed up with a short-sleeved shirt”.
It’s a yes from Orlebar Brown, too. “All of our swimwear has been designed to be transitional,” explains Adam Brown. “These shorts are suitable for heading straight out for lunch, or to the bar – we use quick-drying fabric, which means there is no waiting around or need to change.”
That said, there are styles that are best left in the locker once you towel off for the day. Anything with a tongue-in-cheek print or in colours bright enough to blind your fellow holidaymakers won’t translate from beach to bar easily.
However, subtle tailored styles – no board shorts or sporty nylon versions here, please – will make the move seamlessly once teamed with a cotton polo shirt or short-sleeved shirt and a lightweight bomber jacket or linen blazer, if required.
Finish off by swapping your sliders for a pair of leather sandals or luxe espadrilles, and you’re good to go.
Image: Orlebar Brown SS15
The Swim Short Edit
- Geo Print Swim Shorts
- Asos Swim Shorts In Mid Length
- Jack Wills Feildon Tailored Swim Short
- Bulldog Abu Dhabi Aerial Print Mid-length Swim Short
- J. Crew 6.5 Tab Swim Short In Navy Stripe
- Orlebar Brown Bulldog Mid-length Printed Swim Shorts
- Burton Light Pink Riviera Swim Shorts
- Onia The Calder 5 Pencil-print Swim Shorts
- Dan Ward Asymmetric-stripe Swim Shorts
- Dan Ward Short-length Printed Swim Shorts
- Hartford Newport Swim Shorts
- Hartford Socoa Swim Shorts
- Brave Soul Swim Shorts
- Abercrombie & Fitch Swim Short With Logo
- Oiler & Boiler Red East Hampton Swim Shorts
- He By Mango Essential Swimsuit
- Zara Camouflage Print Swim Trunks
- Ted Baker Fifton Paisley Print Swim Shorts
- Reiss Thompson Drawstring Swim Shorts Hot Pink
- Ted Baker Neilboo Printed Swim Shorts Dark Red
- New Look Orange Acid Wash Swim Shorts
- Saturdays Surf Nyc Grant Striped Swim Shorts
- Cos Printed Cotton-blend Swim Shorts
- River Island Peach Dip Dye Swim Shorts
- Topman Navy Board Shorts
- J. Crew 7 Board Short With Contrast Pocket
- J. Crew 9 Board Short In Blue Hawaiian Floral
- H&m Swim Shorts
- Jack Wills Stripe Board Shorts
- Criminal Photographic Print Swim Short
- Faherty Printed Swim Shorts
- Gap Palm Print Boardshorts 10
- J. Crew 9 Board Short In Nautical Stripe
- River Island Red Plain Drawstring Board Shorts
- River Island Black Plain Drawstring Board Shorts
- Mollusk Pennant Cotton-blend Swim Shorts
Whether you’re planning a staycation in South Devon or flying first class to Fiji, there are swim shorts to suit every taste and destination this season. Take some time to consider fit, colour and the plausibility of you wearing print, and you’ll stay stylishly afloat.
What style will you be seen in this summer?
Comment below to let us know.
The SS15 Men’s Swim Shorts Style Guide
Feeling at sea with your swimwear? Cut through the flotsam with our foolproof guide to this season’s key styles
Image: H&M Summer 2015