Staple #22: The Swimming Suit

by Tanner

It doesn’t matter if you live in a climate that only has a week-long summer, every man needs to own a swimming suit. You take it on vacation, to the beach, camping, or just to the local pool.

It should be an easy purchase, but if you’re not careful you’ll look like the guy who either never left high school or is rocking Lena Dunham-worthy love handles. Here’s how you do it.


Go shorter than you think. One of the keys to dressing well is doing so confidently and intentionally. You’re as close to naked as you should ever be in public when you’re in your swim suit, so confidently wearing something both shorter and smaller is going to make you look larger and communicate that you’re comfortable with the way your nearly naked body looks. Of course, this is even more rewarding when you’ve taken the time to eat right and work out so you have a beach-worthy physique.

Don’t take this to mean I’m an advocate of boxer-brief style trunks, man thongs, or speedos. Moderation is key here. Show some thigh and leave the calf-grazing board shorts to teenagers and wakeboarders.

For all body types you’ll want to stick with classics like flat fronts and minimal or no pockets. You’ll also want to know the difference between swim trunks and board shorts.


Swim trunks have been around since the 1930′s. They’re typically made of cotton, polyester, or nylon and are traditionally shorter. Because many are made with natural materials they will cling more and also dry more slowly. Add to that the fact that they have elastic waist bands and you soon realize that these are made for the skinny or athletic man who doesn’t have any extra body fat he needs to worry about. They are very quickly making a comeback and should be your go-to if you’re well-built and want something that looks casual and relaxing.


Board shorts are a later, sportier iteration of swimwear and are typically made of synthetic materials. This makes them more water-resistant and less likely to cling. Board shorts also are typified by a velcro front and laced waist band. No elastic means they’re much more forgiving on that spare tire you may still be sporting. These are for the larger and/or softer man and those who spend more time engaging in beach-worthy activities that are more physically demanding than reading a book or working on your tan.

Up until recent years board shorts were next to impossible to find any shorter than knee-length. Fortunately clothing companies are aware of the changing tide (heh heh) in menswear and are creating different length options to accommodate preferences and styles.

Regardless of your body type, fit is still king with swimwear as much as anything else. You want shorts that will follow the natural lines of your body without restricting movement. Narrower leg openings and shorter inseams keep everything in proportion and help you look like a grown man.


There’s nothing formal or serious about a swim suit, so this is a great piece of clothing with which you can embrace patterns and styles. That being said, there’s still a difference between dressing like an adult and dressing like a child. So geometric prints, Hawaiian florals, ginghams, or other patterns are great, whereas Sponge Bobs, dragon tattoos, or anything else that tries to either look ironic or tough should be left on the rack at the store.

If you find yourself in the water more than just a couple of times per year, you may want to invest in more than one pair. Whereas those who only see their trunks on vacation or the annual barbecue are fine with a single set.