What About Swimwear?


It is always interesting to see how far the man of style will go with his particular emphasis on and awareness of the importance of dress. What event or circumstance would limit such a man? Would he be put off when potholing? Chastened by cliffwalking? Or indeed, would he adjust his standards for even the most minor, everyday pursuit. I know of men of elegance, boulevardiers of style, whose self-taught panache seems to disappear when sporting activity is on the cards. The lesson, according to the arbiters of apathy, is that the sporting arena is about performance and not appearance. Whilst that may be true, it is never pleasant to contradict your code. I recently had to wear a pair of quite hideous Nike swimming shorts, as I had not travelled with a pair myself, and spent most of the time wading in the water, attempting to conceal their arresting-yet-tasteless luminosity.

Swimwear is generally a forgotten area in the stylish gentleman’s wardrobe. Whether this is a resignation, an acceptance of the paucity of stylish swimwear or rather a rebellion – a shedding of formality and ‘seriousness’, an opportunity to play the clown – I know not. However, I do know that it is possible to purchase a decent collection of swimming shorts that will not compromise the style of a gentleman; he can stand proud at the edge of the diving board, not cowed in the safety of the palm-shaded shallow-end.

Firstly, you will note that I stated the decent collection being composed of ‘shorts’ – avoiding trunks and thongs. For most men are rather modest in nature and are more likely to look for comfort and practicality in swimwear; tight fitting trunks may look fantastic on splendidly built gentlemen but they are made for speed in the water and not comfort on the beach. We need pockets – for currency to buy an ice cream, for the buzzing Blackberry, to carry the yacht keys – and there is nothing so revolting as a hotel guest who swings by the pool bar for a bite wearing a pair of Speedo’s finest nutcrushers.

The second thing to consider is size. Many men, of otherwise good style sense, wear swimshorts that defy the definition of the word ‘short’; the longer Bermuda style are in my opinion for spiky, spotty teenagers only. They remind me of the pirate pantaloon that made the often attractive male leg entirely shapeless. This is an important consideration. Women, and indeed some other men, can find a male leg very appealing. It is strong and has better definition than the female leg – which is why companies like Aristoc use male legs in their photography – and the more of it on display, the better. Longer shorts will make you appear shorter, and juvenile. The perma-bronzed surf-mad beefcake McConaughey tends to cover his powerful thighs with clown-like shorts – making his entire body look top-heavy, when it is anything but. If he were to wear proper swim shorts, the surf fraternity may laugh at him, but he would look far better; the balance would be much improved.

The second consideration is an important one; colour and pattern. Ironically, the men’s swimwear market is dominated by bright colours and floral patterns whereas the women’s swimwear market exhibits remarkable restraint. Hawaii-ism is rife in pattern choice with manufacturers like Vilebrequin (VILEbrequin an acquaintance once quipped) offering a glutton of petal and palm. Although it would certainly be fun to possess a pair of swimshorts covered in martini glasses, I’d never build a collection of such extravagance. Patterns are fine, but the majority of the collection should be composed of plainer models. Navy and mid blues are a good starting point as they will suit all skin tones and look richer in sunlight than black. Lighter colours such as lemony yellow look splendid with tans and richer colours like Ferrari red have great impact. Stripes are also a good idea as they recall some of the nautical notes of earlier eras of swimwear – I once saw a French gentleman in Crete wearing the most perfect Tricolore stripes. Logos, unfortunately, are hard to avoid but logically, the smaller the better.


  1. Caligula said:

    I’m from Europe. Greece and Monaco. I have never worn shorts to the beach. I don’t know what “trunks” means, but I think I understand “speedo” and this is what I’ve worn all my life. I also like the ones that are like shorts, that the Brazilians wear. To wear shorts like these in Monte Carlo or Mykonos would look ridicoulous. However, some of the shorter shorts are not bad. I do know that a lot of Americans find such things funny and I have many friends that cringe when they see older men wearing them. I think that the body is meant to be seen on the beach. Perhaps its my Greek upbringing in the hedonistic islands of Mykonos and Ios. I personally think that men should be aloud to wear a bit less, such as women who go topless.

    August 10, 2009
  2. Josephine said:

    Caligula- Those Vilebrequin trunks are worn by men all over the Italian and French Riviera- including Monaco- plus the Italian islands such as Sardinia and Capri.
    I have never been to Greece though, so I cannot say anything about that. Just slightly puzzled that you have managed not to spot them! =)

    I personally find them quite nice. Summery patterns and colours.

    August 11, 2009
  3. Caligula said:

    I have seen many people wear such trunks, yes. Yet, most of these people are tourists from America or other parts of the world. In St. Tropez, for example, if you visit Nikki Beach or Les Caves du Roy two of the worlds top clubs, you will not see these men wearing such things. Giorgio Armani, Prince Albert, David Becham, Jude Law, Princes William and Harry, all the male top models, designers, photographers, etc. that I know don’t weas such things. Now the tourists do, but I don’t count them as locals. I know if you attend a party on a yacht in Monte Carlo, the host isn’t going to be wearing a little bikini, he will probably be wearing shorts as you are referring to. I am just saying these are not the style of the “jet set” crowd in southern Europe or Miami Beach.

    August 12, 2009
  4. Rodney said:

    In my opinion as a reader, it utterly amazes me that anonymous people will sit and name-drop until the bloody cows come home, pontificating as if they were qualified authorities on style and well-known figurers personal style, without any given qualifications. Unless one uses their real name for the reader to associate any level of credibility on their part such posts are simply dribble to me, and very irritating dribble at that – which makes me want to stop reading a given site.

    August 13, 2009
  5. John said:

    I appreciate the breadth of your style choices and the way you push men to wear outfits that aren’t the standard issue — so I’m surprised at your squeamishness and, well, prudishness towards trunks/speedos and etc. Calling them “revolting” is body-phobic and radically conservative, and is not in keeping with your other fine writing.

    August 30, 2009
  6. John,

    I do not consider trunks/Speedos revolting per se. I was simply referring to the fact that ‘bulge’ is often on display when they are shuffling closely past my luncheon table; in other words, the trunks themselves are not revolting and are quite the thing on the right person.

    It is simply the practice of wearing them (and often nothing else) in areas other than that of aquatic activity that made me rather uncomfortable. It might be prudish, but there you go.


    August 30, 2009
  7. John said:

    Understood. Everything in its appropriate place and time. Though “pool bar,” I’d argue, invites pool attire. Hotel bar, not so much.

    Your calling out of the long short is right on though. Apart from looking awful, how do people swim in them? Like anchors no doubt. Smaller, better.

    September 5, 2009

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