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Shopping for men’s swim trunks is similar to buying any other piece of clothing, according to Adam Ballheim, stylist to Christian Slater, Lakeith Stanfield, Ben Aldridge and Jharrel Jerome. “Men should take into account their personal style and how often they will actually use them over other options,” he said. You should also consider how comfortable your swim trunks are, both in and out of water, said Andrew Gelwicks, stylist to Michael Douglas, Tommy Dorfman and Ryan Jamaal Swain. “If you are someone who will keep your swimsuit on after the pool and head straight to meet up with friends, consider how fast the fabric dries and if it’s wearable for a long period of time,” he said.
Ballheim said to also contemplate your entire outfit — T-shirt or light sweater, towel, sunglasses and sandals — rather than just the swimming trunks. “Think about it the same way you would any other look and make sure the colors and prints work together as a whole,” he said. Another essential you may be forgetting before heading to the beach? A waterproof smart phone case to help protect your beach tech and for snapping underwater pictures, said Ballheim. To help simplify your shopping for men’s swim trunks, we consulted five celebrity stylists for their swimwear styling hacks. Fashion experts get real about finding the correct fit, the best swimsuit netting and whether guys should wear anything underneath their swimming trunks. They also recommended their go-to men’s swim trunks and brands at various price points.
SKIP AHEAD Best swim trunks
Guys should always get a swimsuit that makes them feel as cool as their favorite jeans or the sneakers they love.
Brian Coats, fashion stylist
What should men look for in swimwear?
The celebrity stylists we consulted said fit is key when it comes to shopping for men’s swim trunks. “Gone are the days when men came to the pool in their oversized basketball shorts or those long printed board shorts with cargo pockets,” said Courtney Mays, stylist to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Love. “Look for shorter and slimmer styles. Think 1970s cool without going full-on Versace gold speedo.” Mays advised against going “too small” because “nobody wants to see your goods on family fun swim day.”
Michael Fisher, stylist to Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sebastian Stan and James Corden, recommended mid-thigh length swim trunks because “they work on a lot of different body types.” He suggested swimming trunks with an elastic waistband and drawstring located on the inside to help keep your shorts up and which “gives a cleaner look.” Mays also called mid-thigh swim trunks the “most flattering” option, regardless of your height. “For taller guys, if the budget allows, buy two pairs and have your tailor add the extra fabric for length,” she said.
Why are mid-thigh swim trunks your safest bet? “Longer board shorts often make someone look shorter and, once wet, they will weigh heavy and sag,” said Fisher, who also works with Adam Driver, Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon and Bryan Cranston. “Typically worn by teenagers, they have a football lace-up front that will draw attention to your middle, so unless you have an eight pack, best to avoid.”
According to Gelwicks, longer shorts will shorten the appearance of your legs, too. He said you can prevent your legs from looking stumpy by sticking with swimming trunks that end between 1.5- to 2-inches above your knees — "this is a cleaner look and, regardless of height, lengthens you."
Can you cut the netting in swim trunks?
Netting is an extra layer of coverage and helps add support in your groin — similar to briefs, said Gelwicks. “Whether or not to cut them out is a personal preference, but the benefits netting gives you do outweigh the consequences of not having it,” he said. If your swim trunks have built-in netting, you don’t have to wear anything underneath, Gelwicks reminded. However, if your shorts don’t come with netting, he advised wearing a pair of briefs or boxer briefs underneath for coverage and cleaner lines.
“But I've personally never understood wearing another layer under your swim shorts — it makes everything bulkier when it should be lightweight and streamlined. And who wants soggy, sandy underwear? Netting is thin so it doesn't add excess bulk and does the job well,” he said.
If you find netting in swim trunks uncomfortable or just don’t want an extra layer in your swimming trunks, feel free to snip away, of course. “My secret is to cut out the inner mesh lining. I like the freedom I gain; plus, the trunks will lay better and dry faster. It is one step closer to swimming commando,” said Fisher.
What are the best swimming trunks?
Mays said every guy should own solid black, navy and olive swim trunks. One of her favorite details for men’s swim trunks are tuxedo tabs, which help adjust the waist and “immediately elevates your poolside look.” “Orlebar Brown and Onia have classic silhouettes — tux tabs included — that feel like actual shorts. So when it’s time to grab your cocktail from the bar, add your white linen shirt and ta-da outfit,” said Mays. We like the Onia Charles 7-inch Swim Trunks, which are available in 44 colors and patterns including Black, Deep Sage and Deep Navy. The Charles is made from quick-dry fabric, has an elasticated waistband and has two side pockets.
“Chubbies make great fits, especially if you neglected your workouts during quarantine,” said Fisher. If you like statement-making fashion, consider the Chubbies 5.5-inch swimming trunks. They’re available in 16 prints including En Fuegos; a blue and multicolor ikat print; Whale Sharks, a blue and white colorblock; and Aquatic Libations, a white, blue and multicolor print. “Swimwear with patterns or prints can sometimes look juvenile, so tread lightly. Animal or complicated prints make a strong impression and can be very personal,” said Fisher.These shorts all have a zipper back pocket, elasticized waistband with drawstring closure and range from sizes XS to XXL.
When it comes to trends, Ballheim said minimalism and utility are in style. “Leave the puka shells and pineapple prints at home — unless you're being ironic or it's a themed pool party,” he said. He recommended these mid-rise, slim-cut swim trunks made from recycled plastic. It has netting and a drawstring waist so you won’t have to worry about your shorts accidentally falling down while you’re active in the water. “For simple, streamlined, classic fits with solid colors, I love Vilebrequin. They have great options in a variety of lengths and fits,” said Belheim. These black shorts are his personal go-to given their simplicity.
“If you're looking for jazzier fits with bold color combos and patterns I think Loewe, Mr. P and Frescobol Carioca have great fun-but-still-sophisticated options,” said Bellhaim. He recommended these swim trunks from Mr. P to anyone who wants a “fun print,” and added these muted blue and green options “work to keep everything chic.” Mr. Porter said these mid-rise trunks fit true to size and feature netting.
“Guys should always get a swimsuit that makes them feel as cool as their favorite jeans or the sneakers they love,” said Brian Coats, a New York-based stylist who spent 15 years dressing everyone from Denzel Washington to Lebron James and Ben Affleck during his time at GQ. One of his “favorite” swimwear brands is Katama, founded by male model Garrett Neff. “I love the classic (mid-length) Trey trunks, which look great on so many body types,” he said.
“I love the sporty trim and they are as short as I’ll go,” said Coats, who owns the Braden style in several colors. These olive green swim trunks with cream and navy piping and mesh lining were inspired by running shorts from the ‘60s and sport an elastic waistband and zipper back pocket.
7. Mavrans Sunflower (Limited Availability)
“Mavrans has some of my favorite menswear for summertime. I love this trunk that is made from recycled plastic, and feels very contemporary and unique,” said Gelwicks. These trunks have a four-way stretch, 5-inch inseam and side and back pockets, plus netting to keep you secured. Mavrans said to order up if you’re between sizes.
8. Le Club Baby Blue Trunks (Limited Availability)
“A lot of men are gravitating towards beautiful light, solid colors. Some of my favorites are celery, pale yellow, and periwinkle — they feel fun, while also sophisticated,” said Gelwicks.
He said Le Club has a wide range of options and called the Baby Blue men’s swim trunk “beautiful.” It’s made from quick-dry fabric, has a tailored fit and pockets with Velcro closure. These mesh-lined shorts have cross-stitch detailing and also sport an adjustable drawstring.
One of Fisher’s pro-tips for the “every guy” is to stick with solid colors like black or red which he said “always look classic.” Another tip? Don’t be afraid to wear jogging style cuts with a vintage running look, which includes repurposing workout shorts for swimwear. “The fabrics typically are quick-dry, stretchy, and breathable,” he said. One of his all-purpose shorts is the Ranger short from Barbell Apparel since “it hits at the perfect spot to show off the quads, and you can jump in the pool right after your workout.”
Other swim trunks to consider
Here are some highly-rated and more affordable swim trunks to consider if you’re looking to upgrade yours.
These swimming shorts — available in Black, Blue Lite Skies and Grey Fish Scales — are made from odor- and fade-resistant material. You can be active in the water or on the sand, yet feel at ease since these shorts were designed with a BallPark Pouch, a breathable mesh lining offering support and helping prevent chafing. Saxx recommends sizing up if you’re in-between sizes.
Fair Harbor says each of their Bayberry swim trunks are made from 11 plastic bottles and have a soft lining. These water-repellent swim shorts have over 2,500 5-star reviews, a seven-inch inseam and four-way stretch to move with you while you’re active. These fashionable-meets-functional shorts have practical design elements including a zipper back pocket with a key ring, side pockets and a drawstring waist. Choose between seven patterns, including: Retro Seapine Stripe, Navy MC and Red Waves. The brand says to go with your usual size if you prefer a tailored fit or go up a size if you like a relaxed fit.
These athletic-style black swimming shorts are water-repellent, non-restrictive and made from Xtra Life Lycra, which Lululemon says is resistant to chlorine. They feature a four-way stretch, two side pockets and a secure back pocket to store your keys safely. Lululemon also says the five-inch shorts have a streamlined fit and have a 4-star average rating from nearly 80 reviews. If you prefer longer shorts, opt for the 7-inch version, which is available in prints and solid colors like Urban Tropics White Graphite Grey and Intertwine Blue Surf True Navy.
Fun patterns can be great conversation starters, or at least make for a great Instagram. These stylish cube print swim shorts have netting, side pockets and an elastic waistband with drawstring closure. Happy Socks, also makes these swim trunks in other fun prints including Navy/Multi, a navy with red, orange and green polka dots; Palm Beach, a solid black covered in multicolor mini palm trees; and Pink and Blue; a pink short covered in blue smiley faces.
Value eco-friendliness but don’t want to skimp on style? Try Bonobos, which are made with 85-percent recycled material and are available in 13 patterns, including Horizontal Multistripe, Blue Sky Diamonds, Yellow Deco and Navy Flamingo Stripe. Not into swim trunks with a 5-inch inseam? No problem, you can order seven- or nine-inch shorts, as well. There’s mesh lining, side pockets plus a back pocket, and an elasticized waistband with a drawstring cord to customize your fit.
These stylish swim trunks offer Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) coverage from the sun’s rays. Todd Minars, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, previously told NBC News Shopping: “UPF is a rating that's used to measure the amount of UVA and UVB radiation that comes from the sun and is able to penetrate a person's clothing and reach their skin.” Hill City, a Gap-owned brand, says these swim trunks are abrasion- resistant, made from quick- dry material and can be worn while hiking, working out and traveling. The mesh-lined swimming shorts are available in solid colors like Blue, Bright Red and Olive as well as prints, including Blue Floral and Black Floral.
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