Mastering trends in everyday clothes can be hard enough, but when you’ve got just one square foot of fabric covering your modesty, swimwear has to say more about you per inch than any other garment.
Upgrading your trunks from duty-free afterthought to a first-class fit isn’t always as easy as it seems. If every street’s a catwalk, every beach is a minefield.
To help you nail poolside cool this summer, we’ve picked the five swimwear trends that every man should be buying into. We’ll keep it brief(s). Sorry.
The military-inspired look has been one of the most prevalent trends of recent seasons, and it’s now gone full circle to land back on the beaches.
Perfect if stripping down to shorts has you feeling slightly vulnerable, opting for utilitarian pieces can add some rugged manliness to even the skimpiest of swimwear. Better yet, khaki shades work with all skin tones.
“While traditional Action Man motifs are perennially on trend, this season sees twists on the look that add some summer vibrancy,” says Style.com senior menswear editor Rob Nowill. “Incorporating flashes of neon or mixing it up with animal prints for a safari feel create a point of difference that’ll see your camouflage standing out in a crowd.”
As for length, patterned shorts should be kept to mid-thigh level to outflank any surfer dude connotations. If going for something patterned is outside of your comfort zone, solid khaki shorts will still hit the mark and can be worn slightly longer (but never below the knee) in case you skipped leg day one too many times.
The White Stripes
A no-brainer for summer garms, nautical-inspired swimwear offers a classic way to channel some effortless Parisian cool. That doesn’t mean you can dig out that pair from your 2008 trip to Nice and be done with it, though. This season’s maritime look sees Breton stripes get an upgrade: whether they’re being tilted, stacked, layered or re-coloured, these next-level lines balance insouciance and style as only the French can.
“Providing you pick the right stripe, opting for something nautical can be one of the most flattering swimwear looks around,” says James Wright, head designer at contemporary streetwear brand Nicce. “For a new-season update that shows you’ve got your finger on the pulse, look for a stripe that’s mixed and matched, be it vertical with horizontal, or in different shades.”
These crisscrossed stripes look like a Magic Eye puzzle, and function like one too. By not giving the eye somewhere to settle, they hide a multitude of sins far better than a classic horizontal Breton (which add width).
Nautical shorts come in various lengths across the high street, meaning you can buy into the trend without sacrificing personal preference. As a general rule, classic navy and white stripes should be mid-thigh, while more fashion-forward diagonals and bold tape stripes should be longer, and colour-clashing vertical stripes shorter.
Botanical prints have made the jump from female favourite to everyday essential for blokes, too, and there’s no better time to dip your toe in the water than when on holiday.
Floral shirts worn under tailoring add a sense of fun to an otherwise staid look. The same can be said for when you’re (almost) in your birthday suit.
“The trick when going for a vivid pattern […] on swimwear is to keep them shorter than you would with a plain colour,” says Native Youth menswear designer Alex Gordon. “The pattern can be overwhelming, and anything too long will look like a dodgy board short, so opt for a mid-thigh finish. Keep them fairly loose fitting, though, or you may look like a Club Tropicana cabana boy.”
Hawaiian prints and tropical foliage make great Instagram-fodder. However, if you’re on the pale side, go for something with a dark background to avoid being washed out. Similarly, those with darker complexions should opt for a light background to dial up the contrast and make the shorts stand out.
Patterns may be all over the beach, but solid block colours are still one of the easiest ways to keep your cool as the mercury rises. “To put it simply, if [away with friends] and you’re going to get a group shot, you’re going to want something that looks good on Instagram,” says photographer Ash Kingston, who has shot for the likes of Burberry, Mr Porter and Pepe Jeans.
The best way to ensure that all your snaps are on point is to avoid clashing prints with your mates. Not only will images featuring simple block-colour swimwear refuse to date as quickly (ideal for using the pictures on dating profiles for a couple of years – hey, it’s OK), you’re also more likely to find a single shade that flatters your skin tone than a whole pattern.
Lacking in Vitamin D or didn’t have time to get a spray tan before jetting off? Opt for deep green, burgundy or navy hues that sit well on milk bottle bodies. If darker skinned, go for something more vivid. Shades of cobalt blue, lime green and sunshine yellow will help you stand out, or you could even go full Baywatch with red shorts seeing as you’re less prone to the all-over lobster look.
The appeal of retro sportswear is as present as ever in our day-to-day clobber, but nostalgic swimwear tends to have more than a whiff of dad-bod about them. This season, designers have taken their lead from the old-school vibe and updated it, to help you avoid looking like your old PE teacher on swimming lesson day.
“Dedicated followers of fashion should opt for the 1970s-inspired short-short this summer,” says Topman creative director Gordon Richardson. “[But] for those who’d rather be a bit more covered up, choose something with a 1990s feel that hits mid-thigh and possibly has a dolphin hem [industry lingo for a curved hem, à la Kevin Keegan].”
More often than not, retro-inspired shorts come in an A-line shape, with wider leg holes to retain the throwback silhouette. While it’s a flattering cut that’ll make you look in proportion (especially if larger up top), it does leave a lot of room for, err, flapping. So ensure they’re lined to save giving everyone a peek of Harry and Sally when you lay back on the lounger.