Mastering fashion trends in everyday clothes can be difficult enough, but when you consider that it’s just one square foot of fabric covering your modesty, swimwear has to say more about you per inch than any other garment.

To make matters worse, upgrading your trunks from duty-free afterthought to a first-class fit isn’t as easy as it seems. If every street’s a catwalk, every beach is a minefield.

So to help you nail poolside cool this summer, we’ve picked the five trends every man should be buying into. We’ll keep it brief(s). Sorry.

Action Man

The military-inspired look has been one of the most prevalent trends of recent decades, and it’s now gone full circle to storm the beaches. Perfect if stripping down to your shorts has you feeling slightly vulnerable, enlisting the armed forces can add some rugged manliness to even the skimpiest of swimwear.

“If your legs resemble pieces of string, then these shorts are a great choice,” says Sarah Gilfillan, a personal stylist and founder of menswear hub Sartoria Lab. “The busy pattern will add some much-needed width and bulk to your legs by drawing the eye outwards.” Don’t go for acres of fabric though, Gilfillan warns. “Ensure the hem of the legs is not overly wide which will only accentuate the problem. Go for a slimmer cut instead.”

As for length, Action Man-style 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.

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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. 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.

“White striped shorts are officially menswear’s go-to trend this season,” says Holly Blake, a stylist at the River Island style studio. “In particular, swim shorts with bold vertical stripes are trending as they can be easily paired with a basic T-shirt and flip-flops or espadrilles for a laid-back, stylish day-to-night look this summer.”

Bold stripes not only look the business under the sun: they’ll also work wonders if you’re not beach body ready. If you’re on the slimmer side, horizontal stripes will add a little width. If you’re carrying excess baggage, vertical stripes will elongate your body by drawing the eye up and down.

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Flower Power

Botanical prints have made the jump from female favourite to everyday essential for men, and there’s no better time to dip your toe in the water than when on holiday.

Floral shirts worn under a summer suit add a sense of fun to an otherwise staid look. The same can be said for when you’re (almost) in your birthday suit. “For the most flattering look, scale the size of the florals to your frame: if you have a small frame go for a smaller sized floral and if you have a larger frame you can take a bigger print,” says Gilfillan.

“If you’re print-shy all year round, florals provide the easiest way to dip your toe into the water. If you usually wear plain colours this is a fun way to get some print into your life, with the added bonus of not having to worry about what you’re going to match them with.”

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 looking washed out. Similarly, those with darker complexions should opt for a light background to dial up the contrast and make the shorts stand out.

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Block Party

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 not date as quickly, you’re also more likely to find a single shade that flatters you than a whole pattern.

“Just make sure you pick a shade that suits you and accentuates your colourings, otherwise it can be disastrous for your skin tone,” says celebrity stylist Alex Longmore. “Avoid black at all costs as it doesn’t work in the sunshine and can look unforgiving with so much skin exposed.”

If you’re 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. They 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 go full Baywatch with red shorts seeing as you’re less prone to the all-over lobster look.

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Old School

The appeal of retro sportswear is as present as ever, and now nostalgic swimwear trends are diving in too. This season, designers have taken their lead from the old-school vibe and updated it, to help you avoid looking like your old gym teacher on swimming lesson day.

“You’ve got to have the whole look down, so try wearing them with some equally retro sunglasses,” says Longmore. “For a reference point, take inspiration from James Bond: he did retro shorts well.”

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 you’re 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.

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