The Luxury Swimwear Brands That Will Upgrade Your Vacation Wardrobe
The high-end swimwear brands making all the right waves when it comes to style and quality.
From boardies and briefs to budgie smugglers, the evolution of menswear swimwear has come a long way in the last century, finally coming to an elegant status quo with the sophisticated tailored styles that are so prevalent today. Fabric innovation has changed a great deal too, with extremely lightweight and quick-drying technical fabrics literally saving our arses from an uncomfortable post-dip lunch.
While many of today’s luxury brands create their own iterations of swimwear, it’s often better to seek out the specialists – those labels that have dedicated good time and resources to crafting the best and most stylish swimwear possible.
These days, swim shorts are so good that they transcend the confines of the pool or beach to become bona fide shorts you can wear with smart casual fits. Hence we’ve compiled a list of the high-end swimwear brands making all the right waves when it comes to style and quality.
As far as modern swimwear goes, there is no greater game-changer than Orlebar Brown, the brand founded by Adam Brown in 2007. Orlebar Brown singlehandedly popularised the concept of the tailored swimming short, combining the principles of sartorial trouser making with a contemporary need for a smart and sophisticated swim short. The result was the bulldog short, the brand’s flagship style with side adjusters.
Orlebar Brown has since expanded to become a substantial resortwear brand, but it’s the swim shorts that still win all the plaudits. The Bulldog short comes in various different lengths and fabrics, as well as a wealth of styles, including bold geometric jacquard prints, photographic prints and just plain old block colours.
Orlebar Brown also regularly collaborates with other names, producing a highly exclusive James Bond collection and more recently a ‘Club Tropicana’ mash-up with Wham!
Founded in 1971 by the enigmatic Fred Prysquel, Vilebrequin has become synonymous with vibrant prints, bold geometric patterns and a kaleidoscopic colour palette that’s not for the shy and retiring.
The brand began life in St. Tropez, which must in some part account for its well-heeled international clientele (and why you’re very likely to spot Vilebrequin shorts in the world’s finest resorts). What most English speakers don’t realise is that ‘Vilebrequin’ in French means ‘crankshaft’ (Fred was a former auto journalist after all).
As for the shorts themselves, there are naturally plenty of seafaring motifs in a vast array of colourful print styles. The silhouette of the shorts is more akin to the longer surfer shapes of the 70s, rather than the more contemporary trend for cropped styles.
Designed and manufactured in Toronto, Canada, Bather produces high-quality surf and swim products that lean on a streetwear-inspired aesthetic. Launched in 2013, the brand exclusively uses recycled materials in the form of post-consumer PET bottles. The result is a soft polyester fabric that is silky to the touch and quick-drying, too. Plus, it’s colour-fast so won’t fade after days and days in the sun.
Its ‘Solid’ shorts are the hero product, cut cropped and in an athletic style, perfect for those who don’t skip leg day. Its perennial floral prints are another highlight – perfect for that casual Mediterranean look on vacation.
When lifelong friends Harry Brantly and Max Leese launched Brazilian-inspired Frescobol Carioca in 2013, they did so with a collection of wooden beach bats and balls (hence where the company takes its name from).
Seeing a gap in the market for a luxury resortwear company inspired by Brazilian beach culture, the pair quickly expanded the range to include stunning swimwear, and now, a fully-fledged 360 resortwear collection.
Incorporating lots of visual references from Rio de Janeiro, Frescobol offers both a tailored short and a sports short featuring an array of geometric patterns in soft pastel tones. The brand also uses ‘Eco Luna’, a fabric created from 100% recycled plastic collected within Europe and that is perpetually recyclable. With design and sustainability credentials this high, combined with that easy Ipanema ethos, your vacation wardrobe has never had it so good.
Onia, which means ‘sailboat’ in Hebrew, is the brainchild of Carl Cunow and Nathan Romano who co-founded the luxury resortwear label back in 2009. With an emphasis on clean silhouettes and interesting fabrics, the lifestyle brand has become a favourite among the stylish and well-heeled.
Online, the swimwear collections are categorised by in-seam length, which makes a refreshing change, ranging from the shortest style at 5 inches to the longest at 8 inches. The 5-inch version typically comes in a sporty style with a drawstring closure and featuring a variety of geometric prints, whereas the 6-inch style is mostly cut in a tailored silhouette in plain pastel hues or contemporary prints.
Onia also uses a variety of stretch fabrics, from nylon to pongee and jacquard, making the entire collection extremely comfortable and very lightweight.
If you yearn for that nostalgic swimwear look of the 1950s when Cary Grant was skipping about the Cote D’Azur then Retromarine NYC will definitely be to your liking. Founded by designer and creative director Juan Jaramillo, this New York-based brand creates timeless swimwear silhouettes using 100% handmade techniques and bias-cut fabrics to ensure the very best comfort and durability. Speaking of fabric, each and every short is treated with an SPF50 UV filter to protect the colours.
With an array of solid and bi-colour tonal styles cut from digitally printed 100% polyester, as well as a cornucopia of slick geometric prints and stripes to choose from, Retromarine NYC has truly nailed the sophisticated swim shorts aesthetic.
Founded by Garrett Neff, Katama Swim takes its name from Katama Bay on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, where Neff would spend summers with family. The aptly-named label takes inspiration from those nostalgic memories, when Neff remembers the preppy athletic swimwear worn by his father, combined with the tailored approach of his grandfather, and his uncle’s military functionality.
Taken together this triumvirate of men have created the aesthetic for Katama Swim, which carefully balances all of the characteristics Neff holds so dear. Cut from 100% polyester for its lightweight and quick-drying properties, you can instantly see the brand’s preppy influences, while there is also a stylish playfulness in its array of fun prints.
Swedish brand Ron Dorff has long been celebrated for its no-nonsense approach to pared-back, minimalistic loungewear so it only follows that it would produce a collection of swimwear that upholds those timeless values. The perennial collection introduces five iconic models that adhere to Dorff’s design tenets: swim briefs, trunks, shorts, Marathon shorts and Urban shorts, all of which are made in quick-drying, light-weight, recycled fabrics with mesh lining.
The briefs are inspired by the cult Brazilian water polo briefs of the early 80s and are cut in an extra-thick but quick-drying Italian-made polyamide for an excellent fit (and maximum tanning area). The trunks meanwhile take on a more European silhouette, referencing the styles worn on the French Riviera in the 70s.
If you prefer something a little less revealing, the recycled polyester swim shorts in vibrant vertical stripes will make for slick holiday companions, or the Urban style of short will suit an athletic physique going to the gym closer to home.
Australia is the land of boardies and budgie smugglers so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country down under produces some excellent luxury swimwear labels.
Commas is one such brand, founded in 2017 by creative director Richard Jarman and already racking up the accolades. The company was selected as the first-ever swimwear brand to represent Australia at Pitti Uomo in 2017; was named the #1 men’s swimwear brand of choice by Vogue Paris; and was recently awarded the 2021 Australian National Designer of the Year alongside the Honourable Mention for Sustainability.
The brand favours a clean and classic silhouette, crafted using the highest-quality fabrics sourced from Europe and Japan (including recycled polyamide). Its prints are where the party is at however, created in-house from original artworks either hand-painted or sketched, before being printed onto linens and textural fabrics. The vertical striped styles are as timeless and sophisticated as swim shorts get.
In the six years since CDLP was founded by Christian Larson and Andreas Palm, the Swedish label has completely shaken up the men’s underwear market thanks to its unique approach to fabrication.
Not satisfied with that meteoric rise, the company decided to launch a swimwear collection of monochromatic shorts and briefs constructed from Econyl, a nylon fibre from Italy made using ocean and landfill waste, including fishing nets, fabric scraps, and carpets.
Now, CDLP produces briefs, trunks, and shorts in a variety of muted block tones typical of the brand’s understated aesthetic.