The swim short guide

Not all swim shorts are created equal, find your perfect fit

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Illustration: Bennett Atkinson

Do you want to look good naked? Of course you do. Problem is that that’s going to require some sweat, champ. Want to look good when you’re nearly nude? Much easier! But only if you pay attention. 

Because unlike the tight fitting lycra that women stretch across themselves, men’s swimwear is actually quite forgiving if you shop smart. Here’s how to look good when you take your shirt off this summer. 

 Mr Tall

If you’re vertically gifted then you should grab a pair of boardshorts that hit the knee. These will make your body look proportionate and stop your legs from looking too long and skinny. Now the surf short is great if you actually surf, and there’s a reason why high performance 4-way stretch boardies cost what they do. However, if all you’re going to be doing is a bit of beach bats then eschew these for something with a bit of length, fixed waistband and cool-guy print.

Mr Small

There’s no gym that can make you taller, however, if you opt for a pair of tailored mid-thigh trunks it will create the illusion of height by making your legs look longer. The narrower cut and shorter leg looks good, and, if you don’t skip leg day, you'll look great. Not since Ursula Andres exited the water in her white two-piece has a Bond swimsuit made as much of a splash as Daniel Craig’s tight baby blue trunks. Reason being that after slipping into those square-cut and body-hugging shorts you could barely tell the guy had to sit in the front-row of all his class photos.


Mr Big

Chunkier dudes should never resort to wearing a T-shirt in the water. All this does is alert everyone to the fact that you’re insecure about your moobs, which nobody wants to see peeping through wet clinging fabric. Even worse is trying to hide away in the baggiest surf shorts you can find. Instead choose a pair of swim shorts in a solid, dark colour to streamline your silhouette and camouflage flab. Avoid the boardshort’s fixed waistband for something elasticized, which is not only much more comfortable but more forgiving, too. Your unfussy, straight fit trunks cut in a looser fit should hit an inch above the knee. But remember, while these might make you feel unflappable, that’s only if there’s a liner in your shorts, otherwise you run the risk of letting it all hang out.


Mr Slim

Don’t let Muscle Marys kick sand in your face. Nah, not really, nobody has done that since advertisements in the back of 1950s comic books. Still, you can create the illusion of bulk by employing bold prints and bright colours. And remember, besides the perennial Hibiscus prints there are also geometric prints, contrast piping, camouflage, stripes and a host of other styles to choose from. Other tricks to employ include wearing tight fitting low-rise trunks, which will make your legs look bigger, and sporting horizontal stripes, which are always good for bulking. If you’d like to actually celebrate your slenderness then go for a more demure loose fitting pair of short shorts, like the ones recommended for Mr Big, which might just see your boyish silhouette scouted for a European fragrance ad. Or have a nice man on Clifton Third buy you an ice cream.


Mr Euro

Do you look like Chad Le Clos? What, you do? Well unless you’re swimming laps or playing Waterpolo then you still have no business wearing a budgie-smuggler. Are you in your fifties, own a yacht, wear a gold crucifix nestled in your glistening chest hair and have a skin tone best described as leather? The banana-hammock was made for you, friend. Wear it with pride.


Mr Active

If you’re going to spend this summer doing nothing more strenuous than trying to finish Shantaram, then a basic swimsuit will suffice. Fancy a triathlon, long-distance swim, marathon surfing sessions or working the beaches as a lifeguard? Then you’ll need something that doesn’t chafe. Only those who have never suffered the terrible affliction that is Dobies Itch will balk at the price of the modern boardshort. So if you’re going to be living in boardshorts this season then you can’t spend enough money on things like hidden seams, stretch fabric, UV tech fabrications and a little elasticised key holder.

And, remember, trust us on the sunscreen.