Traditionally, there have been two kinds of swimwear for men. There are swim shorts, which are mid-length trunks with an elasticized waist. These are arguably the most comfortable, as they have the most flexibility. Then there are boardshorts, which comes out of Californian surf culture. These are a bit longer (usually about knee-length) and instead of an elasticized waist, they have a rigid waistband, Velcro fly, and some kind of lace-up tie. This double fail-safe system ensures that your trunks won’t be ripped from you in a wipeout.
When I go swimming, I like to wear what some might call “all day trunks,” which are trunks designed without any of those traditional details. So, no elastic bands, visible ties, or sporty designs. Instead, I look for trunks that look a regular pair of shorts, but are constructed from a fast drying fabric.
As a result, I get something I can wear in the water, but also pair with other things once I towel off. For example, I recently wore my swim trunks to go to the beach with friends, but then paired them with a linen button-up shirt and some woven Rivieras when we decided to hang out till night. It’s an incredibly easy and convenient combination when you want to look presentable afterwards – say, if you want to grab tacos in a beach town or hang out at the hotel bar – but don’t want to have to go and change clothes.
You can find such trunks at any number of places. I have a pair of Orlebar Brown’s Bulldogs, which are a mid-length short with side tabs. The tabs are not only a nice stylistic touch, but they also give a more adjustable fit. I also have a pair of Onia’s 7.5” Calders, which are just as nicely constructed, but have a slightly longer length that I think looks more flattering when I’m out of the water. Additionally, Robsinson Les Bains is good for more interesting prints, while Faherty does the same thing, but in more casual flavors.
As usual, if retail prices are too high for you, you can wait for end-of-season sales or check eBay. Orlebar Brown can be had at the moment at The Mens Market for $72, while Onia is about the same at Wittmore and Barney’s Warehouse.
(Pictured above: Onia shorts, Orlebar Brown t-shirt, Oliver Spencer linen shirt, and Riviera slip-on shoes)