What’s hot and what’s not in men’s bathing suits? Not much has changed since last year, except styles have gotten a bit shorter and slimmer. That’s not to say Americans have caught up to European styles, but the longer, below-the-knee board short that’s dominated the swimsuit industry for decades not only has “less modest” competition, it, too, has taken it up a notch… the leg length that is.

Authentic board shorts were designed with surfers in mind. Also known as “boardies”, these shorts, whose name is affiliated with the use of a surfboard, stay on under the wildest conditions that surfers and other aquatic athletes encounter. Not only are they durable enough to withstand contact with the surfboard, but they offer double protection through the use of a Velcro fly and a lace-up, cinch tie waistband, in order to ensure they remain in place. Board shorts and their longer leg style are still a favorite among many guys, and for good reason, but it’s still great to have newer options that expose more leg and trim down the bulkiness.

The secret to looking great in any clothing, including swim shorts, is to make sure they fit and suit your body type. Having more options to choose from is a good thing, but along with the choices often comes confusion. The first and most important aspect of selecting an appropriate pair of swim shorts is the “fit”. Unless it’s the all-revealing Speedo, swim shorts should be loose enough to allow comfortable movement while swimming, playing beach volleyball, etc. At the same time, you don’t want them so loose they look like you’re wearing a bag. A simple guideline in determining an appropriate fit is when the fabric can be pulled away from the body; allowing a finger or two’s width between it and your skin – just enough so there’s no binding or confinement of movement. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all swimwear, since some are meant to be form fitting.

Waistband styles vary between solid fabric that requires some sort of tie, button, snap, or Velcro closure to elasticized bands that pull-on, requiring no fasteners. Some styles include both an elastic waistband and cinch tie. I prefer the solid waistband because elastic waistbands gather at the waist and cause a “ballooning” effect. The ballooning occurs because the elastic creates pleats around the waistline and hips, adding girth to the midline, causing us to look heavier… and the beach or pool is not the place to look heavier! Solid waistbands are definitely more slimming. Swim trunks with elastic waistbands basically fit like boxer shorts. Need I say more?

Leg lengths vary from below the knee, like the board short, to a few inches below the crotch. It’s your choice, but certain considerations should be taken into account when choosing the appropriate length: body type and height, physical condition of legs, and activity level when wearing swim shorts. In order to add visual balance, tall men look best with a longer leg length, while shorter guys can avoid looking stumpy with a shorter one. And if you’re doing lots of jumping and running, factor in the “boys”. Make sure there’s enough leg length to contain and keep them from view. Three to four inches above the knee is a very safe length for most everyone; however, it’s really about personal preference.

There are various types of swimwear fabric: primarily cotton, nylon, and polyester. Nylon is clingy, especially when wet, and polyester is slow to dry. Each type of fabric has its pros and cons, but for quick drying, non-clingy, breathable, comfortable manly swim shorts, go for cotton. You’ll probably like the price tag, too.

Swim shorts come in an assortment of colors and patterns. The choice is up to the individual, so go with whatever you like. It’s best to own more than one pair of swim shorts, especially if you’re going on vacation. Diversify your swimwear collection by not only having different colors and patterns, but styles and leg lengths, as well.

One more thing to consider when choosing the perfect pair of swim shorts is where else you’ll be wearing them. Many swim shorts can go from the pool to the sandwich shop, so with so many swimsuits looking like everyday shorts, opt for a versatile pair that can accommodate your needs.

by Aaron Marino

Here’s a lineup of some of this year’s current swimsuits: