For most of human history, recreational swimming was done naked. Our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt himself, often took nude plunges into the Potomac. And men’s high school and college swim teams would even train in the nude well into the 20th century.
Outside of all-male groups, men were expected to cover up. Clothing that one wore specifically for swimming was firstly a modesty garment, and a practical garment second. Swimsuit regulations were the strictest in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when men were prohibited by law and custom from going bare-chested in public. Woolen one-piece suits with cutoff sleeves and legs were the common style. In the 30s, that began to change, and men actually organized protests arguing for the right to go topless, many of whom were cited for public indecency. Finally, in 1936, the topless ban was lifted in Westchester, New York, and other cities and states followed suit (no pun intended!), mostly for economic reasons.
From that point on, swimsuits were more about function and style than modesty. Specialty suits began to evolve in the ’60s and onward, leading up to today’s world of wetsuits, boardshorts, drag suits for training, and more.
Contemporary swimsuits can serve both decorative and practical functions; most strive for both. Swimsuits are usually categorized by the length and looseness of their cut.
Trunks are the most common men’s swimwear in North America. They look similar to shorts worn as clothing on land, but are made from light, fast-drying materials (usually nylon or polyester) and feature a tighter-fitting lining inside the shorts. Colors and inseam lengths can vary widely.
Boardshorts are a longer version of trunks that come to or past the knee. They often have a non-elastic waist and fit closer to the torso. Originally developed for “board sports” (surfing, paddle boarding, etc.) they were designed to have less material that could catch as you mounted your board.
Swim briefs are often called “speedos,” a trademarked brand that has been popular for many years. They are tight, body-hugging swimsuits with a V-shaped front that bares the thighs. Recreational swim briefs typically feature an interior lining. Briefs are much more popular in Europe than North America. To be seductive on the beaches, the swim brief will be your best ally. Neglected these last years in favor of swim shorts, the men’s swim brief comes back with multiple design, colors and patterns. More tight and less covering, it is appreciated by the men who take care of them, and who are at ease with themselves. With a low waist and fitted cut, it is ultra sexy and perfect for a more complete tan. With this type of swimsuit you assume your choices, your body and you highlight your musculature. It is a sexy asset to emphasize his masculinity and highlight his silhouette. It is also the choice of athletes, since it is perfectly suited to swimming, and is often the only type of swimwear allowed in public pools because much more hygienic. The tip with this type of cut is especially to choose it at your size to emphasize your shape and be comfortable.
Poolside swim are similar to swim brief but they are more recreational version of swim briefs. The difference here is the fabric that they are made of. Non all fabrics are great for salty or chlorine water as some of them can damaged or be bleached by the chemicals.
Swim thong. Be aware that it also exists men’s swim thongs. No famous, especially in France, men’s swim thongs are mainly dedicated to more intimate and private moments than for the beach and the municipal swimming pool. However, men give more and more attention to their image and to their physique. It is understandable that when they look their body on the mirror after 2 sunny weeks, they want to see an uniform and natural tanned body. The swim thong allows this because the area that covers the buttocks in the classic swim brief, disappears in favor of a thin string of fabric. It is a swimsuit which bring you comfort because it doesn’t hinder movements and gives an impression of lightness and simplicity.
Square-cut shorts are a body-hugging style that covers the wearer from the waist to the upper thigh. The leg openings are cut straight across for a boxy look that is slightly less revealing than angled swim briefs. Swim shorts are undoubtedly the men’s favorite swimwear and the star on the beaches. And if it is so successful, it’s because it’s the most universal model. It is suitable for all body types with its loose cut, descending more or less down on the thighs. It’s the perfect compromise between the swim boxer and the boardshorts, also called long shorts. Swim shorts are suitable for many types of leisure and can even be worn as city shorts. It is therefore ideal for beach days, where you rarely change your clothes. The men’s swim shorts usually have a drawstring into the waistband and are usually fitted with an inner mesh brief to ensure both support and comfort. With a swim short, you will be comfortable all day.
Jammers are knee-length, skintight suits used by competitive swimmers and other water sports athletes to reduce drag. They resemble bike shorts, but without the padded crotch and seat.
Wetsuits and dry suits are insulated suits designed for prolonged immersion, usually in the context of snorkeling, scuba diving, or board sports. They are quite close-fitting. Men’s beach bodies are closer to women’s one-piece swimsuits. It is not very used and worn for the moment, remaining very associated to the sport. It is still a swimsuit that allows to swim comfortably at the pool and the sea, and carve his silhouette. The beach body indeed ideal to hide its small defects while revealing its assets! We forget little belly and handles of love and we value his body. It can lengthen the silhouette if it is notched or give an impression of volume.
Rash guards are a looser form of all-body swimwear than a wetsuit, and are generally used by water sports participants such as surfers, kayakers, and paddleboarders. Most are made from a UV-reflective fabric with a UPF rating.
Swim shirts are an upper-body-only version of a rash guard, and are gaining popularity as a sun and surf protection option for casual bathers.
Buying a Swimsuit
Swimsuits are, relative to a lot of menswear, forgiving garments to shop for. You don’t need an absolutely perfect tailored fit, so long as the suit stays up when you dive in (and most have a cord at the waist to help with that).
That said, you shouldn’t just grab whatever is cheapest off the shelf and call it a day. You are likely to only have one or two swim garments in your wardrobe at a time, so it’s worth finding ones you really like.
A few key steps to doing so:
Know Your Active Needs
Just how intense are your activities going to be in your swimwear?
A swimsuit for a hotel pool now and then doesn’t have a lot of technical requirements. Something to go surfing in for hours at a stretch is another matter.
Think about the following when you’re weighing swimsuit options:
How much leg movement are you going to do? Loose fabric, when wet, can chafe very quickly, so a loose trunk style of shorts isn’t great if you plan on walking around in your suit or using your legs for exercise. (Despite their name, boardshorts aren’t often used by athletes these days; pro surfers usually wear snug, tight-fitting swimwear.)
How much actual swimming (as opposed to wading and splashing around) are you going to do? You’ll want to reduce drag if you’re actually propelling yourself through the water for any length of time, making a tighter fit preferable. The square-cut shorts below are a solid option for a fit, shorter man who loves to swim as well as lay out in the sun!
How much sun protection do you need? For prolonged sun exposure, it’s worth considering something that covers the upper body as well as the lower.
As you can see, the basic, short-like trunk style or poolside swim are really only suited for casual users who plan on lying around, wading, and maybe doing a little light swimming. If you’re planning on being more sporty than that, a snugger fit and potentially some more body coverage is worth considering.
Know the Visual Impression You Want
Thinking about who you’re going to be wearing your swimsuit around is just as important as thinking about your activity levels.
Family vacationers don’t have much in the way of stylistic needs. Men who are planning on hitting up beach parties and crowd scenes need to be a little pickier. And businessmen who may end up in the spa or hotel pool with co-workers and business partners have their own special concerns. Ask yourself:
Are you trying to impress anyone? If not, stop worrying. Wear whatever is comfortable and works for you.
Are you trying to look professional? Conservative (but not exaggerated) length, conventional styles (trunks or square-cuts), and dark, solid colors or restrained stripes are for you. Navy blue with brass-colored grommets and white rope ties are always safe.
Do you want to look as good as you can? If so, you’ll need a cut that flatters your body type, and a color and pattern that’s eye-catching without being ridiculous. Think stripes, plaids, bright solids, or some not-too-crazy floral patterning. Larger men should avoid close-cut styles like board shorts, despite them being in fashion.
These questions will affect the color, patterning, and cut you decide to go with. Tight, form-fitting styles look sharp and practical in the longer cuts, but sexualized and only good for showing off your body in the smaller cuts. Baggier styles look less sexualized, but can also look slumped and casual, which may or may not be what you’re going for.
Be Honest About Your Body
It’s the 21st century — if you want to let it all hang out, you’re free to, at least as far as the local laws permit.
That said, some realistic expectations about who wants to see your naked flesh, and how much of it, go a long way. A little self-consciousness is not a bad thing. Ask yourself a few questions regarding your body:
Are you a little soft around the middle? Two schools of thoughts here:
For the modest man, trunks are your best option. A looser cut will balance things out. Avoid boardshorts or a strongly-elasticized pair of trunks that dig in to your belly. Also stay away from longer inseams, as they’ll pull your trunks down when you walk. Look for a shorter cut in a non-attention-grabbing color.
For the confident large man who prizes comfort, consider swim briefs. Yes, many of you might think this is a sight others don’t want to see, but realistically this will be the most comfortable option physically. They don’t slip down and will conform to your body. Mentally, though, are you confident enough to let it all hang out? European beaches — over there swim briefs are not a big deal. Stateside, you’ll need a bit more confidence.
Are your thighs and buttocks toned? If they’re not, a tight swimming brief is going to expose a lot of jiggle. Your call on whether you want to do that or not.
Are you fit, but a bit more modest? Longer, form-fitting styles like jammers or wetsuits are for you — all the streamlining and none of the naked flesh. If you’re proud of your six-pack abs, board shorts will show them off to full effect.
Choose colors and patterns for your men swimwear
Summer is an opportunity to wear color. It’s time to dare and leave the sad and gloomy colors of our daily lives. Don’t hesitate to appropriate all kinds of colors that will make you really feel on vacation. You can opt for a classic plain swim shorts for a simple and effective look. Conversely, the pastel colors are pleasant without being flashy.
Some brands do a real creative research work to develop original prints. By choosing your swimsuit, feel free to dare what you might not assume every day, it’s the holidays! So prefer cheerful colors and trendy patterns such as sailor prints, floral or tropical patterns. The patterned swimsuit is more fanciful and visible. It is often linked to the holidays and the sea. But if you are rather a follower of the dark or neutral colors don’t hesitate to choose the detail that will make the difference. Once again you will have the choice: a logo, a closure, a color stripe, contrasting trim, a yoke, so many possibilities that are available to you.
In general, our advice is to default to briefs or trunks, and depending on a specific need or desire, pick up a second pair in a style you feel best suits your needs. Also, avoid push-up men swimwear with foams ;-)