Men’s swimwear is a problem of global proportions. It’s a matter that divides us, with nations around the world fiercely advocating one cut or style over another.
Take the Brazilians, for example. Unafraid of the speedo/budgie smuggler, thousands of Cariocas descend upon Rio’s beaches each summer in minuscule strips of fabric and a haze of baby oil and penile contours.
Then there’s Australia, where knee-grazing boardshorts are deemed not only acceptable, but genuinely cool. Surf brands may be dying a slow death outside of Newquay here in the UK, but our sources say the shame of the late 1990s is still alive and well in Sydney.
Somewhere between these two extremes are the square-cut, mid-length shorts you should be wearing – with a nod to the clean-lined simplicity of a Brazilian brief, and none of the unflattering fit of a boardshort. Best of both worlds.
Undoubtedly a wardrobe classic, this silhouette – whether tailored or sporty – flatters legs both beanpole and gym buff. Here, we’ve compiled this summer’s best options. Dive in.
ASOS Mid Length Burgundy Swim Shorts
Unless you’re dedicated enough to be a regular swimmer (or moneyed enough to be a regular vacationer), your swim shorts probably don’t see that much sunlight, which is why price is a big deciding factor when you’re buying a pair.
These burgundy beauties perfectly complement a tan without breaking the bank. Which means you’ll have more to spend at the swim-up bar.
Available at ASOS, priced £12.
Taslan Navy Swim Shorts
If you have fair skin that’s partial to sunburn, a bright red, pink or orange swim short will only exacerbate your body’s lobster hue – not ideal for the mandatory holiday Instagram.
This affordable pair from The Idle Man might still contrast with freshly fried skin, but their navy colouring will stop you looking like an Oompa Loompa.
Available at The Idle Man, priced £15.90.
Dan Ward Lightweight Asymmetrical Swim Shorts
If sports luxe is more your style, Dan Ward beats the competition hands down.
This sleek, clean-lined option boasts an elasticated waistband that’s been detailed with five needles to resist wear and a grosgrain loop to allow the shorts to be hung without deforming the fabric.
Available at Dan Ward, priced approximately £115.
Orlebar Brown Bulldog Fauna Parakeet Swim Shorts
The OG of smart men’s swim shorts, Orlebar Brown has been serving up the finest in poolside attire since 2007.
In addition to the brand’s member rewards scheme and concierge service, each of its pieces merges iconic design with unrivalled craftsmanship. Case in point, these Amazonian wonders complete with a smart mid-length fit and a double fused, four-part shaped waistband for extra comfort.
Available at Orlebar Brown, priced £195.
New Look Blue Contrast Trim Runner Swim Shorts
Punchy printed swim shorts aren’t for every man, so if you want a pair that offers a more subtle point of difference, try this old-school gym-inspired style from New Look.
Taking its cue from running shorts, it features a shade of blue that’s bold, yet not blinding, and a contrast white trim for a sporty edge.
Available at New Look, priced £12.99.
Gucci Webbing-Trimmed Short-Length Swim Shorts
Trust Italianate Gucci to come up with the quintessential Mr Ripley offering.
Although a little on the skimpy side for some, these classic swim shorts are adorned with the label’s heritage colours at the waistband and are right in that beach-to-bar sweet spot. Just make sure you’re extra careful when clambering out the pool.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £255.
Ralph Lauren Polo Classic Swim Shorts
Turn every budget holiday into a weekend in the Hamptons with this preppy offering from Ralph Lauren Polo.
An Ivy League take on a traditional men’s swim trunk silhouette, its bright pink colour will pop alongside the iconic polo player branding to the leg – recognisable enough to be legible, but too subtle to be garish.
Available at House of Fraser, priced £44.
River Island Mint Stripe Swim Shorts
Summer is one of the rare occasions during which Britons can embrace colour, and if you can’t find some at home, then a holiday abroad guarantees pastel-friendly weather.
Cue River Island’s mint stripe swim shorts. Their ice cream colouring is offset by monochrome stripes, ideal if you want to dip your toe in the colour wheel without going all-out.
Available at River Island, priced £20.
David Gandy For Autograph Puppytooth Print Swim Shorts
Images of David Gandy reclined sans T-shirt inspired a whole generation to seek gym memberships. No surprise, then, that the demigod has released his own swimwear line for Marks & Spencer.
The subtle navy puppytooth print throughout this pair gives it a healthy dose of visual texture, while its trim cut and adjustable waistband allows for the best fit possible.
Available at Marks & Spencer, priced £22.50.
Etro Toucan Print Swim Shorts
Normally we’d advise against plastering the crown jewels in a multi-coloured toucan print. But in the case of print maestro Etro, anything goes.
If you’re looking for a head-turning style – or one that’ll ensure the lifeguard won’t have trouble finding you at sea – look no further.
Available at Farfetch, priced £115.57.