A Spotter’s Guide To Swim Shorts

The swimwear to see (and be seen in) this summer.

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer. (Or, at least, they should be.) You know what that means? It’s holiday season, chaps – and time to pick up a good pair of swim shorts. But where to start? There’s an abundance of choice out there. To provide you with a little guidance, we’ve created an edit of this season’s best swimwear – scroll down for the deep dive.

The Refined Board Shorts

The Big Apple might not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to surfing destinations, but that didn’t stop locals Messrs Morgan Collett, Josh Rosen and Colin Tunstall from founding Saturdays NYC in 2009. The brand successfully blends a New York style sensibility with a healthy dose of West Coast breeziness – the resulting clothes feel just as suitable for the city as they are for the beach. Take this striped pair of board shorts, for example; they’ll as look good in the city with this camp-collar shirt as they would poolside on their own. Remember: board shorts fall just above, or on, the knee – any longer and you’re veering on three-quarter length shorts – an item best left in the 1990s.

The Statement Stripes

Missoni Mid-Length Printed Swim Shorts / Bottega Veneta Intrecciato Leather Sandals

Break up the endless azure with Missoni’s eye-catching, multicoloured and vibrating zigzag-patterned shorts. Cooler colours such as these suit paler complexions, so those not blessed with olive skin should keep a pair to hand – or at least until they’ve had a chance to build up a respectable tan. Finishing above mid-thigh, these are “shorts” that certainly warrant the name. But the neat, streamlined fit keeps things proper, while the print – unmistakably Missoni – marks the wearer out as a man of discerning taste. Hopefully, you’ll be wearing these somewhere so warm that you won’t need to wear anything else. But if you do, go for something simple such as a plain white tee.

The Conoisseur’s Choice

Dries Van Noten Short-Length Floral-Print Swim Shorts / Miansai Anchor Leather and Gold-Plated Wrap Bracelet

Dries Van Noten’s designs are always densely packed with elements of the exotic or surreal – whether it’s scrolling vines, rich eastern-inspired embroidery or motifs taken from art. This pair have been printed with 19th-century museum botanicals that recall the work of British artist Mr William Morris. Plus, they’re tapered for a flattering fit. When an item is this busy, it’s best paired with something simple. If they don’t make a splash, then we don’t know what will.

The Big Splash of Colour

Mr P. Camp-Collar Striped Cotton Shirt / Vilebrequin Moorea Mid-Length Printed Swim Shorts

French brand Vilebrequin has always retained a fun side. Whether through whimsical animal prints or vivid colours, its swim shorts never fail to raise a smile. The brand’s Moloka swim shorts in turquoise are bright enough to get you noticed. Plus, they’re crafted from quick-drying shell so that you can wear them beyond the pool, too. If you do, we suggest you counteract their brightness with something a little more subdued, like this Mr P. camp-collar striped cotton shirt in navy stripes.

The Simple Classics

Some things never go out of style – in particular, the kind of dashing French Riviera look favoured by Messrs Alain Delon and Cary Grant. If you’re someone who appreciates a timeless aesthetic, you can channel this with some simple elements, beginning with this pair of Saturdays NYC shorts in orange and white. Tailored for a flattering fit, with a demure, mid-thigh length and adjustable waistband, they’re a warm-weather essential. Wear them with this striped Camoshita shirt as you stroll along the Croisette for an effortlessly sophisticated look.

The Washed-Out Swim Shorts

Acne Studios Perry D Mid-Length Printed Shell Swim Shorts

There’s something about Acne Studio’s Perry D mid-length swim shorts and their washed-out DIY tie-dye print that recalls the laid-back and charming off-the-cuff aesthetic of California’s surf scene and it’s long history of free-spirited living. Not surprising, mind, as the brand’s creative director Mr Jonny Johansson is a devoted surfer (could he get any cooler?). They’re low-key cool enough to wear around town just as often as at the beach – just make sure to swap the trainers for a pair of slides like these by Balenciaga.

The Short Shorts

Prada Slim-Fit Short-Length Printed Shell Swim Shorts / TOM FORD Bryan Round-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses

Prada’s take on tropical print swim shorts – a style largely inspired by 1950s surf apparel – makes a particularly strong statement thanks to its vivid colour. You may think that you can only wear such high-cut styles if you have the sculpted quads of a demigod, but if you are on the short or thick-calved side, it’s also true that this cut will stretch you out a little (it’s not as painful as it sounds, honest), giving the impression of longer legs. A handy tip: the shorter your shorts, the fewer things you should carry around in your pockets. Nobody likes a confusing bulge.

The Beach-to-Bar Option

When Mr Adam Brown founded British brand Orlebar Brown in 2007, he introduced a whole new approach to men’s swimwear with his carefully tailored trunks, or – as he calls them – “shorts that you can swim in, not just swim shorts”. By eschewing the elastic waistbands, drawstrings and baggy cuts normally associated with men’s swimwear, Orlebar Brown’s offering are flattering, simple and versatile enough to wear in the pool as well as to lunch. Try this mid-length pair with CMMN SWDN’s knitted polo in retro stripes – an item that wouldn’t look out of a place in a Mr Wes Anderson movie (think The Royal Tenebaums). It’s a clever way of nodding to this season’s 1970s trend and will mark you out as a man in the know.

The All-Rounder

Boglioli Grandad-Collar Mélange Linen Shirt / TOM FORD Slim-Fit Mid-Length Swim Shorts / TAG Heuer Formula 1 43mm Stainless Steel and NATO Webbing Watch / Brunello Cucinelli Full-Grain Leather Sandals

Though your shorts are a garment designed for a specific function, they shouldn’t be considered only in isolation. After all, for all your careful packing, you’re probably going to spend most of your time abroad in them. This rather smart pair by Tom Ford that have been crafted from quick-drying olive faille, meaning you can migrate between pool and promenade with ease thanks to their minimal design and versatile colour. Throw them on with Boglioli’s mélange linen shirt (if you can bare to cover up) to go from sun-chaser to sophisticate within a matter of seconds.

The Trending Colour

Mr P. Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt / Loro Piana Bay Mid-Length Striped Cotton-Blend Seersucker Swim Shorts / TOM FORD Barnes Suede Espadrilles

You are on holiday, so it’s time to ditch the workaday navy, black and corporate grey for something a little more adventurous. Plus, as we’ve remarked before, this season is all about washed-out colours. So, why not try these shorts from the luxury fabric specialist Loro Piana, which come in a warm, banana yellow shade and exude Positano pizazz, especially when worn with a striped tee from our very own Mr P. collection. As with everything from this age-old Italian brand, the devil is in the detail: these shorts are beautifully constructed, flattering in fit and cut to the land right at that mid-thigh sweet spot. Save them for when you’ve developed that syrupy golden tan mid-holiday. 

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