Sartorial Love/Hate: Floral Swim Shorts

Men can’t often wear floral patterns and get away with it. An occasion and a place is often needed; ‘holiday’ and ‘Honolulu’ help enormously. One of the best opportunities is when lolling by the pool or tanning on the beach. The informality of such a situation means that ‘flowers’ are scarcely noticed. This is perhaps why so many men, who probably wouldn’t be seen dead in a bright pink shirt or a floral tie, wear Vilebrequin and Vilebrequin-esque swimwear. The sun-drenched beach or pool terrace provide the perfect backdrop for this touch of the exotic; the ‘basement’ for their ‘fantasies.’

There may, however, be a reason for such sartorial subterfuge. Whilst perusing the discounted racks at Zara, I overheard two young men swiping through a rack of shorts, providing a commentary of ridicule and condemnation for each discovery, as though there was a ‘reason’ why this stuff was left over. My ears pricked when I heard them talking about swimwear and, swivelling around, I saw them looking in the mirror, convulsed in hysterics, at a pair of ‘floral’ swimshorts that one of them had placed in the appropriate bodily region – the sort of thing that would be north of £100 in Vilebrequin’s boutiques.

I heard them move on and picked up the object of their ridicule, which were also available in my size, and attempted to fathom what the reason for their mirth was. They weren’t poorly made, and the floral pattern was attractively coloured, subtle and entirely de rigueur. It must be that these shorts appeared, to them, to be ridiculous whereas to me, the happy new owner, they seemed the essence of holiday-chic. Watching the young men leave the store, swiping remarks at the stock which was offered for sale, it was impossible to say what they would have considered a more attractive alternative, as I doubt they were the sort to decry sunbathing or swimming.

Could Bermuda shorts still be the default choice of youth? Were they only prepared to admire design from a brand they loved? Did one of them secretly like them but play along to avoid negative social consequences?

After conversing with several others, I fear the issue is one of maturity – and bravery. The idea of lying on a beach with a lemon yellow linen shirt, blue espadrilles and some floral swimwear seems perfectly natural to me; for some of my acquaintances, the flowers are a step too far. “Stripes and checks” one said “but no flowers. I’d look ridiculous in them.” Another remarked that they are “for old men” and that any young man looks “desperate” in them. Others also puzzled what women would think of a man in a design that looks more at home on their house-dress than the crotch of their boyfriend. “If they were underwear” one ruminated “I could do it. But I’m not jumping into a pool with a lily on my arse.”